Dizzy in Bangkok

Everyone, including so many of you, wrote to say that I had to have the street food and I’d never planned to do otherwise.  Everywhere you turn, people are cooking — every corner, every alley, every little piece of blacktop there’s food, food that draws you in with its pungent aromas, with its fresh look and even with its sounds.  The streets may be painfully noisy, but you can still hear the sounds of foods cooking in a wok.
Wok on the street

Early Tuesday morning, when I still couldn’t be sure exactly where I was, Mari Uyehara, who moved to Bangkok three months ago and writes the incredibly interesting blog, Fedification, took me to Bak Khlong Talat, the largest flower market in Bangkok.

Orchids at the flower mkt

And while there certainly were more orchids than I could ever imagine seeing in one place, the food section of the market was equally enormous.  And because no one should ever go to the market on an empty stomach, we stopped at Mari’s favorite souplady’s stall for breakfast.

Breakfast at the market

You’ve got to love a country in which you can start the day with spicy fishball noodle soup and a plate of the freshest sprouts, cilantro and chiles to toss into it.

There was just too, too much to see and learn about and I haven’t processed it all — will I ever? — but here are a few highlights.

Pumpkins — since I have them on my brain, it was great to be greeted by a truck full of them
Pumpkin truck 
 They’re often turned into sweets, sometimes wedges are cooked in syrup and sometimes you find them just like this
Pumpkin dessert 
Stuffed and topped with what I think are sweet egg yolk strands.
The vegetables in the market were remarkable and so were the people who sold them.  When a vendor saw me looking at her beautiful galangal, she pulled Mari and me closer and tore open kaffir lime leaves for us to smell, and lemongrass and baby ginger and the galangal, too.
Mari and vegetable vendor 
And she sent Mari home with a few samples of everything.
Then there was the woman who was just setting up her stall for the day, but when she saw that I was interested in one of her greens and curious because they were new to me, she opened the package immediately.  Here she is with the greens — they’re morning glories, which are often used in salads and stir fries.
Morning glories 
Among the market’s ready-to-go products, was this beautiful bundle, the Thai equivalent of a French bouquet garni
Trinity of flavors 
 It’s a packet of galangal, kaffir lime and lemongrass and it can make just about anything taste good.
We walked and walked and ogled and ogled and I kept pinching myself to prove that I was really there.  And going to lunch at Chote Chitr (recommended by my friend Nick Malgieri) was just the icing on the cake.  We had their famous mee krob
Mee krob at chote chitr
which was crispy and sweet and finished with bits of citrus zest.  And a spicy fish tripe salad that we all loved
Fried spicy fish tripe salad 
 In fact, I can’t think of anything I didn’t love that day.  Maybe that’s what made me dizzy.
More — especially about the fabulous Thai sweets I sampled — the next time I can get a computer and a connection.

Dorie Greenspan