Late afternoon is never a good time for the nose to venture into the markets of Bangkok. Odours accost you from every table, leaping catfish, skinned goose heads, giant frogs ribbiting for their freedom. Buy a turtle so that someone else doesn’t eat it, then release it to generate good karma. Carefully navigate over the silvery slippery liquid fishy run-off, flip-flops are not a sufficient barrier. Yet the more you are repulsed, the deeper you delve into the alleyways and polychrome packed stalls of this fascinating place. Bangkok’s markets are much like the fruit durian, they smell foul but taste amazing.
At first glance, mangosteen could be Frankenstein fruit but open up the spongy aubergine hued casing and allow the flesh within to burst over your tongue with a tangy and sweet juice like no other. The hairy lychee, rambutan is a similar affair, looks like it could be an alien’s offspring but tastes like nectar. Longan ain’t pretty either with it’s bruised potato shaded skin but inside is a small fruit so luscious that in this heat, is soul-quenching when served cool, straight from the fridge.
A mountain of watermelons, a molehill of sculpted shrimp paste, the biggest pork scratchings I’ve ever laid eyes on. Silks, leathers, flying squirrels cooped up in a cage. Candy coloured coconut desserts, wafer-thin pancakes stuffed with a tangerine tinted egg mixture that could be grated carrots it’s so bright. Salty and crisp dried squid, sweet and spicy crab cakes, noodles galore. Horsehair candyfloss wrapped up in a jade green pancake known as “roti saimai” and the juicy giant prawns of Thailand’s old capital, Ayutthaya. Then there’s durian, the king of fruits, exquisite to taste but cat litter to smell. It is dense with nutrition, handled only with thick gloves and illegal on public transport – passengers stared and shifted away from us one by one in disgust… but how else were we supposed to get it home?
HOW TO MAKE LAAB MOO, THAI PORK SALAD
Laab moo is a traditional dish from Northern Thailand eaten almost every lunch by those who love it. It is satsifying served with crunchy cabbage, lettuce and cool cucumber, sometimes with an egg on top. The combination of sweet, spicy and sour is so addictive that you can’t help but keep coming back for more.
- 500g minced pork
- 2 tbsp uncooked rice (for roasting)
- 1 green chilli, halved
- 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
- 5 chopped Spring Onions
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- The juice of 2 limes
- A handful of fresh thai basil
- A handful of fresh mint
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
Dry roast the rice on a frying pan until golden and then grind it up into a fine powder.
Fry the garlic, green chilli and spring onions in peanut oil for 2 minutes and then add the pork.
Once the pork has browned, add the fish sauce, chilli flakes, ginger and palm sugar and stir for 3 minutes.
Take off the heat, pour in your lime juice and scatter over the fresh herbs.
Thank you to Charlie and Bee for being the most hospitable hosts, Waew for teaching us genuine Thai cooking, Dwight AKA Bangkok Fatty for showing us around and to Alex from Vietnamese and More for his genius home-cooked food and medicinal “Butterfly pea” blue tea.