Yaowarat: Two hungry souls’ search for food.
Sunday is guilt-free day. It’s when my mum and I decide to make an exception to our never-ending diet and fill our tummies with whatever we want to eat… and what better place to start than at the heart of a foodie’s paradise.
One word when I think of Yaowarat? Food. Good old local street food. The kinds that are enjoyed by the side walk fragranced by hot air and car fumes, seasoned and broiled by sweaty and (usually) grumpy faced cooks. The complete taste of Bangkok’s very own China town. Today, because of the ongoing Gin Je Festival in Bangkok, Yaowarat is flooded by a sea of hungry vegans. The streets that are usually emptied during midday are lined up with food carts and restaurants selling non-diary and faux-meat products. Theoretically, “non-dairy” and “faux-meat” are two words that sound as unappetizing as it could possibly get. Who would have thought that these meat analogues, which are comprised of tofu, soy protein and mushroom, could work its magic and taste just like pork and chicken meat?
5 minutes into our arrival and I’m already in desperate need to fill up my empty stomach. My mum and I end up buying mixed vegetable fried rice dumpling from one of the food tents in front of our first stop, the Dragon temple, for a quick bite. Honestly, I don’t think anything fried could pretty much go wrong, the outer layer of the dumpling is crisp and chewy from the rice flour and even though the portion of the filling is meager, it still tastes pretty good. Other options nearby are golden fried noodles with bamboo shoot, carrots and Chinese kale (ราดหน้า) or red bean and black sesame Purée (ถั่วแดง/เผือก กวน) for dessert.
As we move on to our next destination, my black hole of a stomach isn’t yet satisfied. Luckily, we come upon a small restaurant within the Old Market, called Hong Kong Noodles, that is pretty packed and so we assume that it’s well worth trying. When we’re seated, my mum orders the Chinese rice noodle with tofu, shitake mushroom and coriander (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวหลอด) as well as the mushroom fried in sweet sauce and white sesame (เห็ดสวรรค์). A fine piece of advice? Do not order the mushroom. You’ll end up sucking on your fingers and eating every last piece left on the plate. I couldn’t put down my chopsticks. It’s that good and addicting.
Our food adventure isn’t even close to ending. The old market is filled with stalls selling fresh fish, crab and shrimp. There’re also small restaurants, with names that precedes its exact location, constantly packed with hungry customers. Common dishes sold are noodles with fish, shrimp or pork balls, dumplings and steamed buns. There’re also shops selling all kinds of dried fruits and others selling fried proteins for vegetarian that pile up like heaps of copper colored pinballs.
Walking out of the narrow street of the Old Market is like walking out of a food cave. My eyes need to momentarily readjust to the flash of sunlight. Outside, many trolleys are selling pomegranate juice as well as roasted chestnuts. These trolleys are in such abundance that I think it’s pretty much the symbolic icon of Yaowarat. At noon, mum and I are still in our search for something to nibble. We settle at one of the restaurants by the main street, selling vegetarian side dishes served with jasmine rice and vegetarian noodles. We order Guay Jub (ก๋วยจั๊บ) to share, which is simply rice noodles, rolled in cylindrical form served in dark clear soup with tofu and coriander. To spice up the dish, I add some hot chili flakes and a tinge of vinegar. Da yum! Extra seasoning makes such a difference!
As we’re getting full and strolling along the street aimlessly, stopping occasionally to buy some tofu or shrimp balls back home for dad, I have a sudden craving for something sweet. Besides, an eating trip is not complete without a little dessert to clear the palate. In the end, we settle at a small shop called Singapore Pochana, which serves pretty much the best Cendol (ลอดช่อง)- a green rice noodle dessert, serves with jackfruit and coconut cream- around the area.
After slurping the very last drop of the coconut cream, I think I’m all set to survive without a meal for at least a day or two. My stomach feels so friggin tight and I’ve to resist every temptation to secretly unbutton my pants. However, the success of today’s spontaneous food adventure prompt me to keep finding more days in a week to splurge and spoil my appetite. After all everyone needs their own sweet escape once in a while 🙂