Everyone loves a market, and residents of Bangkok are no exception. There are “talats” (or market) a plenty in Bangkok and I’m not one to snub my nose at these weekend havens. This weekend I made a trip to Talat Or Tor Kor, a place that I had heard of via word of mouth but never visited. On the surface this seems like just another fresh market to pick up a few items of fruit and vegetables, although dig deeper and you will realise that Or Tor Kor is something far more exciting. Founded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Talat Or Tor Kor (Marketing Association for Farmers) is regarded as the model for fresh markets in Thailand in terms of cleanliness and food quality. Beloved by chefs and locals, Or Tor Kor is rated one of the best “fresh produce” markets in Asia, and is a neatly arranged, sheltered market housing some of Thailand’s finest products and producers. At one end there are a number of fishmongers selling local catch; river fish, shrimp, squid, whelks, crabs and some of the largest river prawns I’ve ever seen (I’m not kidding, many of these beasts measured at least 40cm in length). The opposite end of Or Tor Kor is a food court offering plates of traditional Thai food at reasonable prices. In between are stalls selling fresh fruits (durian in particular due to the season), vegetables, dried goods (fruits, fish and pastes) and a number of vendors dedicated to that art of “khanom” (Thai sweet deserts). On my visit I saw only a handful of other farang, a good sign of authenticity for the produce on offer. I will say the prices are a little higher than I’ve witnessed at other markets, although I put this down to a superior product and not a mark-up due to location or reputation. Certainly worth a morning visit if you’re this end of Bangkok.
Chatuchak (or sometimes referred to as “JJ” by locals and tourists alike) is without doubt the most famous, and popular of the markets in Bangkok. A labyrinth of stalls housing everything from antique furniture, vintage clothes, puppies and household good. Chatuchak is huge, and I defy anyone to not get lost weaving between the lanes of stalls and shopkeepers. A truly fascinating market to dwindle away the hours. Even if you don’t think you need anything you’re almost certainly likely to walk away with at least one item, if not several. Better yet, Chatuchak has food vendors lurking in all corners, and I couldn’t resist the temptation of “itim kati” (coconut ice cream). Young coconuts are split in half, the flesh is scrapped from within and deposited in one half of the husk and then topped with generous amounts of coconut infused ice cream, a splash of sweet condensed milk and a scattering of toasted peanuts. Additional toppings are available, sweetened sticky rice, cubes of jelly, and red beans are all popular, although I prefer to keep it simple with just the coconut flesh, ice cream and peanuts. A satisfying mixture of textures and flavours that also helps to keep Bangkok’s souring temperatures at bay.
Both talats (Chatuchak and Or Tor Kor) are in an area of Bangkok (Ratchathewi District) I rarely find myself venturing to (in fact the markets are opposite one another which make for a convenient weekend trip). So after a morning spent wandering and browsing I took it upon myself to visit a restaurant I’d read about for the Thai staple dish known as “kuay teow reua” (boat noodles). Four stops on the BTS SkyTrain and you will find yourself at the transport hub known as Victory Monument (I think of it as the Vauxhall of Bangkok for those readers familiar with London geography). A short walk from the SkyTrain is Sud Yod Kuay Teow Reua (Boat Noodle Alley), a shanty restaurant serving bowls of delicious noodles. The basic principle here is to eat bowls of noodles until you can eat no more, and at 10 baht (20 pence) a bowl it’s an enjoyable activity to partake in. The menu is fairly short and concise, there are the traditional boat noodle (a dark and savoury pork based broth stewed for hours to intensify flavours) served with a few slices of either pork or beef (maybe a minced pork ball) and some morning glory (popular green vegetable in Thailand). In keeping with tradition these bowls are assembled first with a spoon of pigs blood, topped with noodles (either thin rice noodles, thick rice noodles or glass noodles) and a ladle of the delicious broth. The blood instantly curdles, providing thickness and richness to the already flavoursome broth, the hot broth also serves to flash blanch the noodles. Other options include “yen ta fo” (pink fermented soybean paste), a favourite dish of mine that I have spoken about in previous posts and “tom yum”, a sweet, sour and spicy dish that uses fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and chilli as its core ingredients. If anything it’s worth the trip to Sud Yod Kuay Teow Reua at the busy lunch or dinner service for the sight alone, but a cheeky bowl (or three) of noodles never goes a miss. To find Sud Yod Kuay Teow Reua, take the BTS SkyTrain to Victory Monument, exit towards and descend the stairs by Fashion Mall. From here you will need to continue walking north, through the food market and over a small bridge (crossing the khlong or canal). You will immediately see Sud Yod Kuay Teow Reua on your right hand side. Take a seat and see just how many bowls you can devour.
Talat Or Tor Kor – Kamphaengphet Road, Bangkok (MRT Kamphaeng Phet, Exit 3)
Talat Chatuchak – Kamphaengphet Road, Bangkok (BTS SkyTrain Mo Chit or MRT Chatuchak Park)
Sud Yod Kuay Teow Reua – Located on the road heading towards Phahon Yothin (BTS SkyTrain Victory Monument)