Thai street food is plentiful, diverse, and the best part: it’s cheap. If you bring the equivalent of a few US dollars with you to hunt for a fresh meal, you’ve brought too much. You’ll run out of carrying room before you run out of money.
Each street vendor has a specialty. If a guy’s got a whole barbecued duck hanging on a display hook, you can bet that the dish he serves contains some variation of barbecued duck. If a woman’s got fried chicken feet on display in her rolling cart, she’s selling either spicy chicken feet soup, chicken feet kebabs or chicken feet with rice.
Unless you speak Thai, you won’t know what she’s serving until you point toward the chicken feet, nod your head, and get handed a heaping portion of her specialty. It’s a niche market. Everyone has a small piece. The smells? Some are funky, most are appetizing, all are pungent. Walking by a pork vendor, the succulent odor of barbecued sow punches you in the face like a cold clock from Babe himself.
For the adventurous foodies out there, Thai street food is a hub for taste and texture experimentation. Every part of an animal is on display for consumption. Animals that you didn’t even know existed are for sale, raw or pre-prepaired. Animal organs you didn’t know were edible are available fried, steamed or barbecued. And for a little extra, you can order your fried chicken gizzards and barbecue pork spare ribs with a side of fresh rice. Cooked insects are for sale in touristy parts of Bangkok, including scorpions on a stick. Delicious!
Don’t forget the ultimate Thai street food perk: price. An average meal will run you about 25-30 baht (less than one USD). That means you can chow down on pretty much whatever you like, whenever you like. If you’re like me, you love to eat. And if you love to eat, then come to Thailand!
In Pua, Nan, where I’m living, the vendors sell the freshest cuisine available. You can’t walk ten feet down either side of the road without being overcome by the sights and smells of fresh Thai street food. When you pass a fruit stand, the aroma of sweet, sun-ripened, bright yellow bananas and mangoes engulfs you. These fruits were all picked from a tree down the road, and they reek of pure heavenliness. When you see a man selling eggs on the street, you’ll spot his hens nearby pecking at the ground.
Hungry, I walk to the market. A street fruit stand intercepts my path. Freshly picked bananas and mangoes. Lots of ’em. I hesitate for a moment, then point at the bananas. The woman behind the stand smiles at me and says something in Thai. I nod. She grabs at the yellow pile of fruit and stuffs more than a dozen bananas in a bag. She hands the bag to me. “Sip baht!” she says. She wants 10 baht (34 US cents) for the bag of bananas. I only wanted one banana, but I got fourteen. I sit down on a bench nearby and pluck a banana out of the bunch. I peel it, take a bite. It’s sinfully sweet. I reflect for a moment. This single banana would’ve costed more than 34 cents in the States. Thai street food: 1, American food: 0.