The young chef spilled a ladle of whipped egg into the smoking hot pan, quickly threw the noodles on top and within seconds had produced a perfect parcel of Pad Thai in omelette wrapping. A waiter whisked the plate away just as the young chef produced another perfect dish. Our group stood in awe for 10 minutes straight, as our sweet guide stood in line to get us a table. I don’t think any of us had seen something quite so efficient before, and all done with a cheeky smile at our ogling faces.
There is something very special about visiting restaurants famed as the first to offer such and such a dish, and that is never more true than when it is the unofficial favourite of a country reknowned for its cuisine. That place in Bangkok is Pad Thai Thip Samai, the third stop on the Bangkok Street Eats by Tuk Tuk tour and one ingredient in a recipe for food tour glory.
The first vital ingredient had been a wander down one of the city’s many food streets to try a diverse range of street snacks. We’d tried various meats and fish BBQ-ed on a stick, adorably tiny pancakes full of savoury, coconut seasoning and a donut to rival even the freshest Krispy Kreme. All of this without a tourist or souvenir shop in sight. It set the pace for the rest of the night; we would be eating local in the most local areas our guide could find.
An oft-forgotten addition to food tours is a digestion break but this tour has them at exactly the right moments. After our street snack indulgence, we hopped in our Tuk Tuk to race along the city’s back alleys and through a local wet market, fast enough to catch only the faintest whiff of stinky durian. This was a really unique touch, to take the tuk tuk past the street vendors rather than wander through a hot and sticky covered market with full stomachs.
Our destination was Wat Pho, one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Bangkok. Luckily for us, it was 9pm by the time we arrived and there wasn’t another soul in sight. We couldn’t step inside the temples or visit the reclining Buddha, but we got to admire the stupas glistening against the night sky. As we were leaving, another large tour group arrived. So the nighttime viewing is not a total secret but our guide had timed it perfectly for us to feel like it was exclusive.
The icing on the cake, if you’ll excuse the switch in metaphor, was climbing up rickety stairs in a back alley restaurant to see those same golden stupas from above. We sat in a beautiful rooftop bar, with a drink in hand, soaking in the beauty of Wat Pho on one side and the Chao Praya river flowing on the other. With a final takeaway dessert of rice-cakes, it was the perfect way to end the evening. We were full, of both food and the secret beauty of Bangkok at night.
What do you think makes a perfect food tour? Let us know in the comments below and you can take a look at more Bangkok food tours here.