Eating your way through Bangkok's Chinatown
Eating your way through Bangkok's Chinatown
By Tommy Walker
We sent one of our writers, Tommy Walker, on an Urban Adventure across Bangkok's Chinatown.
Tommy tells us here his adventures eating his way through various local street delights!
It has been said that one of the main reasons Thailand is now such a huge tourist destination is because of the simple, complex, exotic and mouth-watering food options that are on offer. From local Asian delights to western favourites, Thailand has it all covered. Taking a food tour in Thailand completely makes sense, and as long as you can be flexible with what you eat, well you will really be in for a treat.
I signed up for Urban Adventures ‘Food Discovery Tour’ that was to be through the bustling streets of Bangkok’s, Chinatown. With so much on offer I couldn’t wait to become a food connoisseur for the day. It was one of those days that I just decided to let go and try as much as possible.
I had a very light breakfast before commencing the tour at 3pm. This gave me enough time to build up an appetite for the day, and completely embrace the different flavours my tastebuds would endure that afternoon.
Before the feast
After meeting our tour guide, Pam, who was Thai, we all headed to the Golden Buddha before we stuffed our faces. We took in its presence, authenticity and history before heading for our first meal.
Milk Roti’s were on offer for our first snack. By the street side, we had a choice of banana or egg. A sweet start, freshly made by the street cook, covered in milk and sugar. Cooked like a pancake in less than a minute, we devoured it in even quicker time. A perfect treat, and although we began with this meal, it would be better to walk home with after your dinner.
Chinese Tea was next up and it was a fascinating experience. We drank this in one of the two traditional China teahouses remaining in Chinatown. Rustic, old-fashioned, smoky and cosy, the setting was perfect. At one point, I kept thinking we had to say our pleases and thank you’s in Mandaarin. We could have, but we were in Thailand still! The local tea was like a dull green tea, which was ideal to refresh with. Added in a milky ice coffee, and I was getting both effects of tea and coffee! My head went a little dizzy from the natural caffeine. Still, that’s just me.
Next up we decided to go ‘off the beaten path’ a little bit. I persuaded our guide Pam to take a right down a dingy alley with some signs just to check it out. We went through where ‘tourists don’t go’ according to Pam. We ended up on Padlingdoa Street, or nicknamed ‘Texas Street’ because of a Texas styled restaurant right bang in the middle of it. Who’d have thought?
Tao Huay Namkhing (Ginger Soup)
Quite a peculiar dish that is a traditional in Chinese culture. No meat, but soybeans with a nip of ginger spice and crunchy croutons shaped like tubes to go with. The locals loved it! It doesn’t look the most appealing dish, but actually had more flavour than expected. A light meal, and according to the hand gestures of some of the customers as they pointed there finger to their heads quickly whilst looking at us in encouragement, it makes the brain more intelligent!
Freshly made on the street with a choice of shrimp or sea bass. I went for sea bass and this was my favourite dish of the day. A great snack, lots of taste and all the sauces to go with you would expect. The food sellers were husband and wife and were making these fried treats. As she battered with breadcrumbs the fresh seafood and he fried for the finish, our curiosity and delight created a small crowd, or queue to see what were chomping on. People bring people when it comes to food, and this was certainly the case here!
Pennyworth Green Juice As we walked through old Chinatown, we were refreshed with some green juice that Pam seemed to really love. I’m a sucker for a green juice, so I downed mine, it was hot and I knew it’d be good for me. There was a queue and the pourer just seemed to be endlessly serving cups and straws with the green goodness inside. That is good to see!
Pork Skewers Technically leaving the typical hustle and bustle of downtown Chinatown, we headed over to the Flower Market before heading on a taxi boat to end the tour. We decide to end the food part by nibbling on some pork skewers. Simply off the grill, they were tastier than I had imagined. By this point, I was full to the brim, but the taste actually built up a tiny bit of my appetite up again.
All in all, it was a great afternoon to authentically see in the insides of Chinatown and what food flavours were on offer. Our guide, Pam was absolutely great and a real hard worker. She explained everything clearly and really wanted us to enjoy the experience. We visited places you may not stumble on without knowing where they were, in particular the traditional Chinese tea house. Not only that, knowing what food would be okay or not was refreshing, as it isn’t always certain in places in Asia whether your own judgement will make you sick or not. That is why taking a food tour like this one should absolutely be #1 on your list when visiting countries with great food reputations like Thailand. It allows you to experience as much as possible under great local and expert guidance.
So we ate...but what else did we see?
Although this trip was predominately about discovering food, there were some places we visited in between. As mentioned we visited the Golden Buddha, but we also got to see a traditional way of shaving facial hair, on the street. Men and women were getting trimmed using old-fashioned methods, which gave a great insight to dated Chinese practices. We took the public riverboat home, crammed with people but great views of either side of Bangkok as we looked down Chao Phraya River.