Sukhumvit Soi 38, Bangkok
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Probably the most famous stall in Sukhumvit Soi 38's nightly street food market, Pad Thai Fire Look dishes out delectable pad Thai and other quick-fried noodle dishes that attract a wide mix of locals, expats and travellers. The name only makes sense once you’ve seen the chef in action.
An understandably grumpy older woman takes orders in front of a cart that displays the day’s raw meats, seafood, veggies and noodles. She then shouts to the head cook, Mr Dum, who creates each noodle dish in a sizzling, super-heated wok. Fireballs and plumes of smoke burst into the steamy air as the chef works the flames like a sculpture chiseling his masterpiece. The street kitchen is set at the far end of a narrow alley that shoots off of the already narrow side street. It’s filled with other vendors and dented green or yellow steel tables that are pushed into a covered area that feels like the entrance to a parking garage. Fluorescent lights set the mood.
There’s little rhyme or reason to the ordering system; customers do what they can to catch the woman’s attention and then wait for her to yell out their order when its finished. A server wanders through the tables, trying her best to tidy up while keeping track of who ordered what. Drinks come from a separate stall, but the server will run them if you ask. It gets very busy and orders sometimes slip through the cracks, so don’t be afraid to assert yourself. Pad Thai with seafood (talay) is among Fire Look’s most popular selections. The rice noodles are sauteed to a golden brown with bits of dried shrimp, sugar, fish sauce, green onion, bean sprouts, an egg, fresh shrimp, squid and firm tofu cubes. The secret is the intense heat that brings all of these flavours to life while keeping oiliness to a minimum. The carefully balanced creation is finished with chunks of fresh crab meat and sour mango (both unexpected touches) along with fresh banana flower, lime and gingko leaves. Chillies can be added for some kick.
Along with vegetarian, chicken and glass-noodle pad Thai, Fire Look’s other noodle offerings include a fantastic kee mao, pad see-ew and Thai-style sauteed macaroni. The rich and savoury dishes are complemented by delicious mango and sticky rice and Thai-iced-tea or coffee from neighbouring stalls. If you manage to save room, the rest of Soi 38 brims with countless other goodies. Fire Look has a basic menu in Thai, English and Japanese, with each hefty dish fetching between 35 and 60 baht. To reach pad Thai bliss, catch the BTS skytrain to Thong Lo station and take the stairs at exit 4 — you’ll see and smell the market before reaching the footpath. After entering Soi 38, take an immediate right into the tightly packed side alley, and you’ll see the billowing flames all the way at the dead end.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 6th May, 2014.