Bangkok Street Food Adventures
I’ve tried a lot of street food during my time in Thailand, starting in Bangkok. Eating my way through Pad Thai to Pad See Ew to some unknown noodle soup served by local street food vendors missing any English menu description. Pad Thai and Pad See Ew were my safe go-to options, though I soon learned that being able to pronounce “vegetarian” (and ideally being able to explain that it means no meat at all) in Thai is of great help as well.
My biggest street food adventure I experienced at Chinatown on a Friday night though. Walking through alleyways and food cart packed streets, I had already experienced a wide variety of Thai dessert items (coconut custard cups, a pandan leaf drink, and mixed thai dessert - red kidney beans, black jelly, water chestnut, and corn with crushed ice), feeling pretty stuffed, when I walked past a queue that didn’t seem to lead anywhere specific.
It was growing longer and longer, with primarily Asians queueing up. I asked one group of friends what they were queuing for. After a bit of stumbling and trying to think of what to say, I got “bread” as an answer. A bit surprised that there was such a long queue for bread in Chinatown (Yaowarat Rd), I went and asked another group of girls further back in the queue. Again, I got “bread” as an answer, before they showed me a picture on their phone of what looked like bread-like filled doughnuts. As I joined the queue, curious of what these sweet buns were all about, the queue kept growing and growing.
As I was waiting in line I googled “Bread Chinatown Bangkok”, and found a thread on Tripadvisor talking about THE famous Yaowarat bread in front of Government Saving Bank. This is exactly where I was. Those posts on Tripadvisor started with “I finally got my hands on THE Yarowat bread”, “I want what they want” (very representative of why I was queuing), and “the most famous street food toast”. It really did seem like it was famous. I just wished I hadn’t filled up with all the other sweets before, especially since I wasn’t craving any more sugar, quite the opposite. I felt like cleaning out my system. Nevertheless, I figured it would be worth the wait and gave it a shot.
As we were queuing a guy walked around and handed out sheets of paper to fill in your order. A few people in the queue got one and seemed pretty happy about it. And from there on everything happened very quickly, too quickly for me to understand what was happening to me.
The queue moved in lightning speed, people were all over the place, more sheets were being handed out. I filled in my order, someone dropped it in a tray for me, then there were people all over the place, no queue anymore whatsoever. Just a crazy crowd in front of a hot barbeque grill.
In all the chaos I still had my camera out, with the lens hood on. Of course, right there and then, squeezed in between all the people, it came off. It dropped, and not just dropped, but right into the sewer. I could see it tumble, was watching it fall, and as if in slow motion sliding down in between the bars. I somehow managed to bend down squeezed in between the crowd, somehow managed to stick my arm down through the bars and pick up my lens hood from the sewer. With an arm and hand wet and full of dirt, I then managed to emerge from the crowd and find a bit of space to clean myself up with my second to last tissue, and some disinfectant (luckily I had some with me!).
Once that was done I tried to get some more shots of the crowd and the people preparing the buns. Everything was happening so quickly. Buns were being passed around, other people stuffed them in lightning speed with all the flavourings on offer, numbers were being shouted out via a megaphone. Numbers I didn’t understand. I wasn’t sure anymore where to go and what was happening to me.
I asked someone what number they were shouting out, apparently it was only 5 or 6. Mine was 50. I got out of the crowd, hot and sweaty by now, seeking a much needed cool breeze of air. Again, I asked the person next to me for the current number, she said 40. So I squeezed back into the crowd, asking for the number again. Now it was 30. Nevertheless, I waited, and finally, 40 hot and sweaty minutes later, I received my order.
3 buns filled to the brim with hot and dripping chocolate, milky custard, and butter. I got out as fast as my packed surroundings allowed, and found a spot on the sidewalk. I tried all three flavours, chocolate was definitely my favourite. It was the only one I actually finished. They tasted sugary sweet, soft on the inside, hot and crispy on the outside.
Melted Chocolate, milk sauce and all of it was dripping down my fingers and hands, I had sticky chocolate all over my mouth. Now the real adventure began - how would I manage to clean up my all-over sticky hands and chocolatey face?
Trying to touch as little as somehow possible, I got out my last tissue, trying not to touch anything else, opened the water bottle I had with me, and cleaned myself up as best as I could. Wow. That was done. What an adventure, all for some sticky, sweet, hot, rich, chocolatey, sugar coma inducing bread goodness. It was worth it, if only for the adventure.
And then I decided to go for a little quiet walk, countering the inevitable sugar come. As I was walking, I came past a stall of one single lady quietly preparing buns, toasting them over the grill, with no single soul around. If I hadn’t been stuffed already, I would have ordered one, if only to see if it would taste just the same as the “famous Yaowarat bread” and if all the craziness of the original bun place could be avoided.
Perhaps toasted chocolate bread can be had in peace after all.