Jun 27 2012

An authentic street food market near Khao San Road

Published by at 7:08 am under Food

Whether it’s pizza by the slice, buckets, tattoos, fake degrees, or enough Chang Beer tank-tops to clothe a binge of backpackers, many things may be purchased on Khao San Road. Real, spicy, authentic Thai food, however, can be tough to find. If you’re tired of the over-priced, Westernised Thai food so often found on and around Khao San, you’ll be glad to know that a footpath market filled with authentic Thai food comes to life everyday, just around the corner.

"I don't care what you say: I'm not moving to Khao San to sell to pad Thai!"

"I don't care what you say: I'm not moving to Khao San to sell pad Thai!"

This row of food stalls a couple of blocks from Khao San on Chakrabongse Road is not a big prepared food market by Bangkok standards — you might check out Yaowarat Road in Chinatown, Or Tor Kor market, or perhaps Bang Nam Phueng or Khlong Suan if seeking a more serious market experience. Yet the general Banglamphu area is renowned for its clutch of good street food, and the Chakrabongse sidewalk market is a fine spot to sample some real Thai flavours if you only have a couple of days in town and don’t want to stray too far from Khao San.

The vendors stretch along Chakrabongse from Khao San to Phra Sumen Road some half kilometre away, lining the footpath adjacent to several old fabric shops and a few hole-in-the-wall grocery stores. Like so many Bangkok footpaths, this one is a tight squeeze in places — be patient and go with the flow.

A sai krob vendor keeping it real.

An Isaan sausage vendor keeping it real.

Between Khao San and Soi Rambutri you’ll mainly find stalls similar to those on Khao San, enticing travellers with their apparently perpetual hot sellers: Bob Marley T-shirts, tie dyed hand bags and cheap sunglasses. Pass Soi Rambutri, however, and the stalls suddenly burst with authentic curries for take away, sai krog (northeastern Thai sour sausage) for munching while you walk, and khanom ping (sticky rice sweets wrapped in banana leaves) for that late night snack.

Also on offer are whole pla tuu (mackerel fish) in stinky, boiling cauldrons; small, mounded hills of homemade nam phrik (chilli paste); and the traditional Thai snack, mieng kam, which features a mix of peanut, dried shrimp, lime, fried coconut, shrimp paste, ginger, chilli and onion, all wrapped up burrito style in wild pepper leaves. Mieng kam is great with a few beers; stinky mackerel, not so much.

Makes for a healthy breakfast.

Makes a healthy breakfast though.

And the best part: the food here costs a fraction of what bland restaurant fare on Khao San goes for. Even if you’re strictly a meat and potatoes type, a walk through the market makes for an easily accessible glimpse of Bangkok food and culture. After snapping a few photos, you can always head back to the burgers, spaghetti and kebabs of Khao San.

Getting here couldn’t be simpler: walk to the west end of Khao San Road, take a right on to the footpath of Chakrabongse Road, and keep walking. Although the stalls closest to Khao San stay open late, most of the authentic sellers further away close up shop around 17:00, opening in the early morning. What do you say — stay up all night and eat stinky mackerel curbside at sunrise?

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