This post is dedicated to the one and only B. Schizzle because upon hearing about this tour she inquired if I had the pleasure of eating any "sperm sack." I did not have that pleasure. This one is for you, Schizz.
Location: Bangkok, April 24th
The Yaowarat food tour! Yes! This Chinatown tour was awesome. And before we get to the eats, let's learn, shall we? (Or let me record this so I remember...) Yaowarat is the district that in the late 1700s the Chinese community living in Bangkok relocated to. Most say that it has resisted a lot of the urbanization of the city which results in a very authentic experience. At night, after the shops close around 5 or so, the district takes on new life with food stalls springing to life, joining others that are there during the day. It is bright, vibrant and immediately brought back memories of scenes from The Hangover II.
Street food in Bangkok is EVERYWHERE. In front of a 7-11, on a corner, on a curb, out of a van, on a side car of a motorbike like the one Angela Lansbury zipped around in, in Bedknobs + Broomsticks. EVERYWHERE. Most items cost about $1.50 USD to eat. This means that if you have the iron stomach for it - you can come to Bangkok and literally have to try to eat $10 of food a day. You eat at low tables/stools on the street or, there is take away. If you get take away, they'll give it to you in a plastic bag and if a drink, there will just be a straw tied with a rubber band at the top. Sort of amazing.
So, the food tour. It was operated by none other than the appropriately named Bangkok Food Tours. It was an international group - eight of us in total who met - a couple on their honeymoon from DC, a pair of Ozzies living in Manila, young guy from Tokyo and a couple from outside of London.
STOP 1: YENTA FO. A red soup made from tomatoes and seasoned with fish sauce, this dish features ground fish molded into balls, tofu and flat noodles. The man cooking was a second generation operator of this food cart and only served people from 6-10 every night. Some excellent office hours. This dish costs 40 baht, about $1.30 USD.
STOP 2: CANTON HOUSE FOR DUMPLINGS. I love a good dumpling, who doesn't? These happen to also have green dough. I forget the name, but apparently a plant is what colors the dough among other items, like ice cream or deserts, that end up being green in Thailand.
First up, a classic shrimp shumai but what's exciting is that rather than only having vinegar sauce, you have the Thai "trifecta" of chili, ginger and lime hot sauce, which is heaven. Second, there was a righteous pork dumpling but rather than a smooth wrapper, it was wrapped in the equivalent of angel hair pasta. I don't know where this has been or why it has been hiding from me, but it seemed to be a way to have the meat portion be larger, without breaking the wrapper. It was more of a meatball size, if you will. Thumbs up.
This place had over thirty kinds of dumplings and the little ladies in the back made them fresh to order. You might need to wait a bit as they make them for you, but it is worth it.
STOP 3: A CLEANSING HERBAL TEA. So, we roll up to this joint and I see a small, older man walk in, take a cup from one of the many caddies, SLAM it, pay and roll out. Then, I'm handed the same tea he was drinking and all I can say is WHOA. It is a mixture of herbs that I'm sure no one reading these words can imagine and I could not get it down. It was like a musky, licorice camp fire. But, I did try. The guilt though when I slowly poured my tea into the street sewer, with the tea maker (whose family has been at this for generations and has a picture with the KING in his shop) looking on... the guilt!
STOP 4: LEK & RUT SEAFOOD. We sat indoors next to laundry baskets of cockles that were still moving. With lots of other people sitting on the sidewalk, fish was moving out of the kitchen so fast it made me question how many people were working back there.
Here we sat, with a fork and a spoon - the classic cutlery combo as you are meant to pile and press your food into your spoon with your fork and then use your spoon to create the perfect bite. Then came a spicy oyster salad with tons of garlic, lime and chili, shrimp in a curry like mash, like grits and then spicy water chestnuts with lemon grass and chili. The water chestnuts were more like a bean and spicy.
STOP 5: CRISPY PORK PEPPER SOUP AT GWAY JAP OUAN POCHANA. Now, this is apparently a classic for Chinatown and this particular station has been written up countless of times. This soup is without question fresh. A woman chops 3x fried pork at her cart but the real question is... what else do you want in your soup?
Your options include the rest of the pig. Heart, liver, tongue, intestine and stomach. What goes in the peppery broth in addition to the crispy pork, is up to you. The price is still 50-60B, that's $1.60-$2.00.
I don't really have an opinion on organs, I've never really had them outside of pate or Chicago's Girl & The Goat's pig face. The talk at my table at this moment, though, was priceless. The Australians had fond memories of their mothers feeding them fried lamb brains that were crispy on the outside and mushy on the inside. There was also a lot of chatter about using what are essentially blood clots as a source of protein, throwing them into flour and frying them to ultimately be added to a soup. Also, use of sliced gizzard in lieu of sandwich meat when in a pinch. The foodie convo was at a real high but I, with no knowledge of fried brain or testicles, was batting low.
But, I'm here, so, what .. am I going to choose to NOT have the organ feast? I ordered every bit. And the verdict? A pig's heart tastes like dark meat from a turkey. The tongue sort of gave way in my mouth, not horrible but if you look at your own tongue, it obviously has ridges and texture --- which is odd to eat. Stomach and intestine? No. No. I was death gripping my own leg. It is like a thick shiitake mushroom that is nearly impossible to cut, let alone chew. Rubber. A tire. No. And the liver? Gamey. But, I found fine. Gold star for Meade! Am I Andrew Zimmern yet?
Overall, an awesome dish with crispy pork, noodles and organs if you want them. Oink.
STOP 6: KANOM BUENG. Crepe, or pancake stations are everywhere in Thailand. These specifically look like mini tacos. The dough is thick and made from rice - it is brown and looks almost like Kashi was ground up to make it. You can get almost any mix of things in them but for desert, the go to was egg paste topped with coconut. It was a hit with the group but not my favorite. I do not get down with the scent of overcooked, ripe eggs.
STOP 7: BUA LOY NAM KHING. Ginger soup with tapioca balls that hold black sesame inside - which taste like peanut butter. Amazing. For my buckeye fans out there, its as if one of those were put into a savory soup. A combo that was interesting. Apparently as the bars close, this is a go-to cart to satisfy those late night cravings.
If you can, go do this! It was awesome, it brings out the adventurous eaters and if you are really looking to eat some wild stuff, they can point you in the right direction. Also, tours with the obscure stuff exist too (that's for you, Schizz + Boogie).