plates don’t stay full for long in Bangkok!
As travellers, Richie and I are devoted to cheap eats. Eat cheap, eat local! In Bangkok, where food is fresh, bountiful, varied and tasty, it’s hardly a difficult motto to live by. Nor does it require a spirit of self-sacrifice. By eating the food that locals eat, where locals eat it, we’ve saved ourselves loads of money and disappointment.
On average, Richie and I get by in Thailand on about 200Baht ($6.50) p/person p/day for food: that’s three light meals a day, one or two cold beverages, a sweet treat AND some fresh fruit.
So, dive into the closest alley, market and cafeteria with us and kick up your culinary heels as we take you into the world of Bangkok eats and drinks for under $2.
Eating cheap with the Lonely Planet
If you’re feeling dubious about eating local or trying something new, the Lonely Planet (or other trusted guide book) is a good place to start. In general, we find their suggestions useful and reliable. In Bangkok we put the Planet to the test by eating out at two of the restaurants/stalls recommended in the 2012 14th edition. Here’s what we reckon:
- Khrua Phornlamai; Th Plaeng Nam (Chinatown) for pàt kêe mow (wide rice noodles fried with seafood, chillies and Thai basil). Cost: 60B/$1.90.
pàt kêe mow (wide rice noodles fried with seafood, chillies and Thai basil)
The lowdown: This Chinatown street stall consists of little more than a few woks, a trestle table covered with bowls of fresh ingredients and a handful of plastic tables and chairs.
The pàt kêe mow arrived quickly on sizzling plates. Despite our request that the dishes be prepared ‘Thai hot’ they arrived with only a hint of fire. In order to achieve the required heat factor, we added fresh and dried chilli from the pots on the table, which included the ubiquitous fish sauce, sugar and vinegar.
There was a good amount of seafood in the dish, mostly prawns and squid. The wide rice noodles were not as chewy as perhaps they could have been. The dish was a bit flaccid and lacked the clarity of flavour I’ve come to expect in Thailand. Still, it was an enjoyable and filling meal, the basil was yummy and the location ideal. A perfect place to to sit and soak up the bustling atmosphere of Chinatow. Experience: 3/5 (In Richie’s opinion: 4/5).
blow! It’s hot!
- Thip Samai; 313 Th Mahachai; 5:30pm-1:30am closed alternate wednesdays, for pat tai (fried rice noodles with egg, shrimp and peanuts). Cost: 70Baht/$2.20.
pat tai perfection
Okay, we broke the budget on this one. But it was worth it! When we arrived at Thip Samai at 5:20pm after a hot greasy stroll from Wat Pho, the queue was out the door and down the road. The theatrics in the outdoors kitchen made the time pass quickly: 12 busy staff with woks rocking, flames jumping and food flying. In no time at all we were sitting inside eating. The place was spotlessly clean and the wait staff friendly and polite.
wok ‘n’ roll, the busy kitchen at Thip Samai
Out of the 3 dishes on offer we opted for the pat tai served in a crepe-thin layer of omlette.
The experience took my appreciation of pat tai to a whole new level. Each thread of noodle was separate, al dente and elegantly coated in flavour. We were liberal with the chopped peanuts, basil, bean sprouts, fresh chilli and lime (delivered fresh to your table when you order). No messing about!
Every mouthful a pleasure: the crisp crunch of the raw sprouts, the silky wholesomeness of the omelette, the pungency of the spring onion and the nuttiness of the roasted peanut. A full and memorable taste experience. Two days later, we were back for more! Experience: 5/5.
You won’t find the following options in ‘the book’ but we found them ourselves and reckon they’re just as worthy of inclusion.
- Moo satay (pork satay skewers with peanut sauce) at Nothaburi Market. Cost: 40B/$1.30
moo satay on our very own plastic plate