08 June 2013

The Macabre and the Delicious - Lunch in Bangkok

The Thai Colonel - Colonel San Ha.

Bangkok is a city that vibrates with energy, and you all know that I just lurve the "City of Angels." Whenever I get the chance, I extend my inevitable layovers to and from South Asia in order to make what would be a 3 hour pain in the ass a lovely short vacation.

This time around I was leaving Nepal, and my heart and mind were filled with conflicting, bittersweet emotions. I was planning to connect in Bangkok without leaving the airport, but news that one of my BFFs, Ben Newcombe, and my good pal Loren were going to be in the city made me rethink my flight plan and schedule my tenth - TENTH - visit to Krung Thep.
What better to remedy this confusing sludge of anxiety, nostalgia, financial panic and heartsickness than, you guessed it - one night in Bangkok?

Turns out - nothing. Nothing could be better than Thai street food, that is! I made a pact to the boys and to myself that I would only consume cheap local food for the 24 hours - and it was a promise I made good on.


We spent my one night in town drinking buckets, dancing and attending a ladyboy show, finishing up at 2am with some delicious streetside chicken rice. For my one full day, I wanted to visit some of the more bizarre attractions in the city, things I had always put off for "next time" on every other visit. 

After a breakfast of pork noodle soup, we paid a visit to the Jim Thompson House, a meticulously preserved Thai teak house once owned by the American architect and designer. He is said to have saved the dying Thai silk industry in the '50s - until he vanished without a trace in Malaysia and was never heard from again. The house is stylish, creatively designed and slightly subversive - I loved it. 

 A long line up at the chicken and som tam stall - the busiest in the food court.

We built up quite an appetite and needed to have a hearty lunch before heading to the macabre Siriraj Medical Museum (so. many. dead. babies. in. jars.) and the sinisterly stuck-in-time Nightingale Olympic Department Store (although, in retrospect, an empty stomach at the medical museum would not have been such a bad thing). Loren led the charge to a side street Thai food court he had visited earlier in the week, promising cheap, delicious local street eats.

The food court is located in a covered alley in Siam Square, and despite the hoards of farang tourists in the nearby vicinity, we were the only non-Thais in the place. Ben and Loren opted for some choices from the smorgasbord of curries, meats and stir fries, but something a little different caught my eye - fried chicken and som tam.

Who can take a rainbow, spinkle it with glee - the Som Tam Man can!

Just the previous evening, a new pal had been telling me about a famous joint near Lumpini Park that only sells delicious, crispy fried chicken and som tam, a papaya salad that is said to be one of the spiciest Thai dishes. I was intrigued by the combination, and here it was, fortuitously right in front of me. 

An older gentleman was mixing what I recognized as the fiery salad with a big mortar and pestle, and I gestured that I would like one of the same.  I also pointed to a skewer jabbed through two fried chicken breasts and watched as he prepared my plates in a flurry of chillies, peanuts, dried shrimp and fish sauce.

I don't understand the point of life without Thai street food. WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT?

Less than a minute later I was taking my seat with two delicious, complementary plates in front of me - all for 60 baht (2 dollars).

The fried chicken was crispy, salty and juicy, each piece dipped in a sweet soy sauce mixed with a hint of cilantro. The rich, salty umami flavour of the chicken and sauce was perfectly matched with the sour and spicy som tam, the fishiness of the tiny shrimps and fish sauce helping to cut through the oiliness of the chicken. 

Initially I exclaimed that I had "enough food for two people!", but I licked my fingers, dug in and plowed through both plates. I finished my lunch with the perfect feeling - rather than stuffed silly and filled with remorse, I was glowing and happy, having eaten the perfect amount.

It was a wonderful night - and day - in Bangkok, aided by a wonderful lunch. I had a happy feeling in my tummy and a spring in my step... 
 ....that is, until all of the deformed babies in formaldehyde and mummified criminals.

Some things, like chicken and som tam, are simply just a better combination than others. 

Being a "good eater" is a lovely compliment, Violet - for a baby.