The food venders in Thailand are merchants, business people who bring their products to market sometimes in carts and sometimes in baskets attached to shoulder poles. The venders sit on street corners, and I don’t know if they have a regular location in a market place but I often saw them move when the foot traffic started to thin out. The venders who carry their foodstuff in baskets also bring along little stools or they sit on their haunches for hours.
You can purchase fresh fruit or you can have a fruit juice prepared while you wait. Oranges are a popular item and the venders can be seen squeezing the fruit making glass after glass of the bright orange drink.
Noodles are big seller in the street food scene. They can be served with meat or without, a spice sauce added or left plain.
Though I didn’t get a shot of the soups, they were a popular item. In Thailand they don’t use the plastic containers that we use here in the States for our fast food, but instead the soup is ladled into a plastic bag and a rubber band is wound tightly around the opening. The bags are bulbous, filled half way with soup and half air and when the soup is carried down the street it reminded me of someone carrying a bag of tropical fish home from the pet store. In fact, much of the street food was served in plastic bags; noodles, rice and saucy meat dishes were all treated the same. There were some Styrofoam containers, but I mostly saw the plastic bags used for the take-away food.
Much of the cooking is done on the spot. In one market we saw a young woman working with a green glutinous dough. She dipped one hand into a large bowl of the pastel colored batter and smeared a perfect circle onto a griddle. Her other hand worked a spatula lifting and turning the thin pancakes and then removing them to cool on a tray. Another woman took the pancakes and ran them through a machine that cut them into thin noodles.
We tasted roasted worms one day. Now this was something that I’d never thought I’d do, but the time was right and I took a couple crunchy fellows and popped them into my mouth. Surprisingly they were quite tasty, with an initial buttery flavor. The longer I chewed though the more bland they became and the crunch turned to a dry texture that felt like I had a bit of fish scales in my mouth. But they sell these culinary delights by the pound in the food stores and in the street markets.
The most interesting and tasty food for me was the sticky rice cooked in bamboo. Unfortunately I did not get a good photograph of this operation but I got my share of the food. Glutinous rice is soaked in water overnight and then drained. Coconut milk then replaces the water that was removed. Some variation to this dish is the addition of mung beans but most of the time the rice and coconut milk is sufficient.
Bamboo poles are cut and the thick sides are skived so that only a thin layer of the wood remains. The rice is then stuffed into the bamboo and roasted over hot coals for at least three hours, turning frequently to keep from scorching the rice. When eating the rice the top of the bamboo pole is scored to allow for the wood to be easily peeled. The bamboo adds great flavor to the rice and keeps the food at a nice temperature throughout the day. The bamboo serves as a container as well as a lunch basket for farmers when they work the rice fields or tend to their buffalo herds.
I doubt that I’ll ever be so ambition and make this sticky rice in bamboo, but it is certainly up there on my list of culinary delights.