Food, Fun and the Flavors of Thailand

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Street food in Thailand
Thailand, the land of pristine beaches and scrumptious food stalls

How it all began

A trip usually begins with ‘Let us go to ..’ and we plan, make arrangements and take off. 

No, stop! For a regular Bengali, any travel and especially if it’s out of India takes meticulous planning and replanning and further planning well after the tickets are done. The last 5 days are always a mad rush to get the hotels booked, procure the currency and pack the suitcases. This rush can drive all gentility out of the Bengali soul and create never ending disagreements with anyone who happens to be in the vicinity. 

So, my partner and I began our journey to the land of many adventurous dreams with every intention of enjoying each minute of our 4 days trip. Let me introduce who we are, I, a multi-talented jack of many trades who work as an L&D professional and my other bickering half, a banker with all intentions of getting a healthy ROI (return of investment) from every planned trip (now you can imagine how the trip would proceed). 

Shortly after the pandemic, we landed at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok at half past midnight and as expected after the visa protocols the airport did seem rather quiet and bereft of the usual bustle. After a short ‘agree to disagree’ moment with my partner about how all the travel bloggers had suggested that one should take a bus to Pattaya as it was more economical, we boarded a cab as the buses apparently do not begin their trips before 6:30 am. The YouTube vloggers and their shortcuts! 

View from the hotel room at Pattaya

The linguistic hurdles in a foreign land

With our rich inheritance from the colonial past, we have become a stickler for perfection in English grammar (not pronunciation), but Thailand is a friendly country where nice people have scant respect for the usage of grammar in English. It is strictly a language to communicate in and you do not need to be a Nobel laureate in Literature to converse with people in any of the Southeast Asian countries or for that matter even in India. But we Bengalis never let go of our right to grammar, so my partner slept off after a number of attempts to converse fruitfully with the cab driver in Queen’s English. I chatted quite merrily with the driver during the drive to Pattaya. I was duly informed by him of the many facets of Thailand. The conversation ended with how the Chinese e-vehicles were taking over Elon Musk’s much advertised attempt at selling them one. Our journey finally ended with the arrival in our hotel and a fantastic room with an ocean view. This entire communication took place without the interference of the mighty grammar in the language. Voila!

Food- a culture in Siam

While talking to the staff at the hotel’s front desk, I was deeply inquisitive about what pleases the palate of tourists in Thailand. In a land of exotic cuisines and seafood (with significant influence from Indian flavors) you cannot just think of tourist spots and nightlife excitement. The friendly host was all too eager to educate me on their long history of Thai food. Like India, Thailand has a culture of bonding over food. So, in any social occasion or family event, food plays a significant role. It is a planned affair and meals are executed in great detail. Thai meals would have five flavors- spicy, salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. Sounds familiar? 

Street food stall selling seafood salads.
 

The meals would have different meat and fish as main dishes and then noodles with a soup dish. The soup would be customized according to the diner’s choice. The dessert would be mainly sweets made of rice and fruits with sweet fruit jelly or syrups like Mangoes with sticky rice and coconut milk. But what has the most variety, are the starters of various crisp fried food or baked and salted meat or fish dishes. Later while exploring Thai street food, I just lost count of how many varieties we tried. The problem with ROI travelers like my partner is they are more fixated on visiting the usual touristy spots for a share and compare session back home, whereas I was all agog and looking forward to a sumptuous food tour with friendly people all around. 

Thai street food– bombardment on taste buds

Thailand and the saga of street food is a different story altogether. Our journey began in Pattaya and ended in Chatuchak Market in Bangkok. The luscious aroma of street food is almost everywhere. The street in front of the Night Market, seaside roads and the beaches and the famous Jomtien beach was a walk on the paths of food heaven. Apart from the fantastic breakfast at the hotel, our first ‘playsafe’ meal however was at a South Indian Restaurant, thanks to my austere partner. I was about to walk with the flag of liberation when he acceded to my request of exploring the street foods as we are on a holiday after all. Oh, the struggles of a liberated foodie! 

Salted fish stall

And lo and behold, this is what we explored

The journey began with the fruit carts and amazing fresh pineapples, mangoes, mangosteen, rambutan, durian, papaya, dragon fruit, custard apple, rose apples and pomelos seem to be everywhere in the colorful food carts. The Mangoes and pineapples we had there were juicy and succulent and quite different from the Indian varieties. The way these were diced and were put in a packet was a visual wonder. We avoided the fried food carts till we reached Jomtien Night Market.

Jomtien Night Market, Pattaya
The Night Market at Jomtien Beach is a splendor for all five senses. There are numerous stalls, and it almost looks like a huge buffet spread where the price tags are mentioned in every counter. So, we began with the fruit stalls and then the meat stalls, rice stalls, boat stalls, salad stalls, sandwich stalls, pancake crispies stalls, sweet stalls, sauces stalls, pasta and noodles, kebabs stalls, the ice creams and shakes stalls and of course the small bar adjacent to deep fried savories stalls. I can go on and on, but it is better if you check out the pictures of the royal spread I am talking about. For the next two days we had our evening snacks and packed dinner from these stalls. The price range of the food dishes was from 10 Baht (1 baht=2.44 Indian rupees) to 200 Bahts. 
Salad stall at Jomtien

What you get in Jomtien is all the varieties of dishes available in Pattaya under one roof. But to my partner’s utter worry, we could not find any Indian food stalls. He had to settle for the delicious salads and sandwiches and praised them too. That is the magic of Siam.

 

The islands of wonder- Koh Larn

Thailand has 1430 islands, and one needs to pick the best one to visit if you are there for a short trip. So, for us Koh Larn was the choice which we decided to visit from Pattaya. My partner’s knowledge gathered from all the erudite vloggers came in handy. There are two options to visit the islands. Speedboats which charge 1500 Baht and reach the island in 15 minutes and ferry rides which are slower, more popular and charge only 30 Baht for a 30 minute ride to the island. We chose to take the ferry.

Beaches at Koh Larn

 Koh Larn has 6 beaches, which are amazingly beautiful– Samae, Tawaen, Tien, Nual, Tong Lang, Sangwan and Tayaiy. The water has all shades of turquoise and blue and the sand is a pristine white. The island also has motorcycle taxis and Songthaews– small 10-seater auto taxis if one wishes to tour all the beaches. All the beaches have food shanties and they offer refreshing cocktails and mocktails and the food platters include noodles to crisp fries and a curious ensemble of delicious seafood. The island food tour demands a separate travel story but I will now take your leave with a short yet wonderful recipe of one of my favorite savories from the night market of Jomtien.

Aquamarine waterfront, Pattaya.

Thai Roti or Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • Sifted refined white flour- 6 tbsp

  • Egg- 1 

  • Condensed milk- 2 tbsp

  • Butter- 50 gm/4 tbsp (Sunflower oil)

  • Sugar- 2 tsp

  • Salt- 1 tsp

For the filling:

  • Banana or Mangoes – finely chopped 
  • Chocolate sauce/caramel sauce/fruit syrups/Strawberry syrup/
  • Salt sprinkles and whatever else you would like to fill up the pancakes with for a tasty bite.

 

Mix all the ingredients together and knead them into a soft dough. Brush the dough lightly with oil and leave it covered with a wet piece of cloth or in a closed box for 20 minutes. After twenty minutes take it out and knead it well again and then cut the dough into five equal portions. Knead them into a ball shape and roll them on a flat surface into a square or round shape. The trick is to stretch the edges and make the roti or the pancake as thin as possible. Remember to oil the surface and the rolling pin well. Take a large frying pan and put 3 tsp oil in it and heat it. Place the roti on the pan. Fry it till it is crisp. Fold it into a square shape and turn it over till both the sides are crisp. For the filling you can use any seasonal fruits (banana, mangoes, or any sweet non pulpy juicy fruits). Chop the fruit and lay it evenly on the pancake and add any sauces that you prefer like chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, butter sauce, condensed milk syrup or any fruity syrup. Fold the pancake into half and serve it hot. The first bite is simply divine. 

So, my Pattaya food venture ends with this recipe. I will share more in the coming series. Happy Travelling and love life! 

All images used in this article are from the author’s personal collection.

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2 Responses

  1. fantastic narration…I’ve visited Thailand twice, I wish I had the benefit, of reading such a write-up before my visit..

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed reading the travel blog of Mohua Roy…She has such a fun,free flowing and effortless writing style…Relived my time spent in Thailand 🙂

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