Since early 2015, Noey and Peter of Instagram’s Vietnomnom have explored the very best of Vietnam’s food, and wandered to neighboring countries for tasty fare further afield. In a series documenting the very best eats in the region, we teamed up with them for Asian Food Adventures to discover the top dishes and treats in our destinations – all with the help of their yummy Instagram food feed!
We whiz around, forward, veer left, right, around left, right again. We fly by flowers of every single colour, fruits and vegetables that look like strange planets and the aliens that inhabit them, and tween girls lining up to get trendy neon bracelets. We soar around motorbikes, bicycles, tour buses, cars, and pedestrians as we slide from side to side, front to back. It’s better than any amusement park ride.
The street food adventure around the bustling Bangkok began only moments ago. The hot Bangkok sun has set and workers are piling off of the ultra-modern MRT trains in droves. Day vendors are packing up their market stalls and night vendors are just getting started. Backpackers stumble onto overnight buses as we pass Khao-san Road.
This isn’t just any adventure, though. It’s a very special kind of adventure – and probably my favorite kind of adventure. It’s a food adventure!
We spent the entire morning feasting our way through Bangkok’s Chinatown, had some R&R time at the hotel in the afternoon – by now, we’re ready for our next bout of gluttony, since four hours is plenty of time to get hungry again. Although we begged our tour guide, Na, for hints about that evening’s fare, she smirked and giggled and told us we’d have to patiently wait and see. No expectations. All surprises.
First stop: Skewers on Skewers
We dismount the tuk tuk, immediately taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of the street market that surrounds us. It’s loud. Music blares from stalls and shops as sellers and buyers negotiate prices. Meat sizzles on grills behind every stand. The air is smoky in a delicious way, with Thai spices wafting from the grill tops as vendors turn over skewer after skewer.
We want to try them all, and our mouths gape as we scan the rows and piles of skewered meat; we point from stick to stick, trying to decipher each one’s contents. Squid? Octopus? Eel? Fish ball? Pork?
A bit to our initial disappointment, Na picks out one skewer for each of us to try; she knows what’s safe for our Western tummies, after all. Upon first bite, though, all disappointment fades. It’s a juicy, sweet, spicy and oh so tender pork meatball (bottom left in the above picture), oozing new bursts of flavour with every nibble. A great start to the evening.
Next stop: We Will, We Will Roti You
We sample some other bites as we weave our way through the first night market. A fried ball of dough here, a candied piece of fruit there. Then it’s back on board the tuk tuk, zooming through yellow lights and flying around crowded corners. The tuk tuk brakes in front of a small, unassuming restaurant. Backlit by bluish fluorescent lighting and with nothing but a small sign in front — “Roti-Mataba” it says —we’re not sure what to expect as we approach one of the neon green tables.
Luckily, we don’t have to think for long, because Na points to about a million things on the menu and soon a tray arrives, brimming with red and orange sauces and flat breads and iced teas. The famous restaurant serves up an assortment of Thai-Muslim dishes, including buttery roti, traditional Massaman curry, and mataba, a stuffed pancake dripping with condensed milk.
We dip, drip, and stuff our faces through the spread of food in front of us. Our mouths burn so good and the only noises we make are ones of total finger licking satisfaction.
Onward. The tuk tuk continues to fly every which way, whizzing down colourfully illuminated city streets. We stop to enjoy a Chang Beer on an enchanting rooftop overlooking the Chao Phraya River, a quiet respite from the insanity below. In a market, we pet small furry animals (rabbits and hamsters and squirrels, oh my!), which are being peddled to impulsive teenagers. We sample mango sticky rice and candies — and, yes, bugs.
Last stop: Pad Thai
What better way to end a food tour than with a romantic picnic under the full moon? More specifically, what better way to end a food tour of Bangkok than with a romantic Pad Thai picnic at a peacefully lit up ancient temple under the full moon?
We procure the Pad Thai from the famous Pad Thai Thip Samai, but we ask for it to-go — we’ve got a picnic to get to! We scurry away with the paper-wrapped Pad Thai, race to the tuk tuk, and off we scoot to Wat Pho, an ancient Buddhist temple in the heart of Bangkok. By day, Wat Pho is a glistening complex of jewel-flecked golden spires, meticulously-carved stone mounds, and stunning elaborately-tiled floors. It’s also home to the Reclining Buddha and a still-active Buddhist monastery, as well as famous for its history as a training place for Thai massage and meditation.
But by night, its spires glow white and yellow, its grounds are bare but for a few wandering (and picnicking) travelers, and its air is calm, peaceful, and quiet.
The moon glows overhead as we eagerly unwrap our packages of Pad Thai. We take turns holding the greasy, noodle-containing paper as we crowd around, picking at the noodles, nuts, fish, and vegetables with chopsticks. The noodles are light yet luscious, a heavenly explosion of flavours and textures. We’re so full at this point, but why stop now? We know the tour is coming to an end, and we may as well relish every last bite.
It was a wonderful, wild, and incredibly delicious way to spend a night in Bangkok. If I could ride a tuk tuk as my main mode of transit, I absolutely would. For now, though, I’m back in Hanoi, and riding around on a motorbike isn’t so bad. Besides, it gives me ample time to day dream about my next food adventure.
Ready to explore Bangkok’s best nighttime street eats by tuk tuk? Follow in Noey and Peter’s footsteps, and set off on the Bangkok Food Tour by Tuk-Tuk! Make it a part of your Thailand culinary tour for a special culinary twist on the highlights holiday!