My friend Pam is from Thailand and every month, she hosts a Thai food cooking lesson in her home. Her dishes keep my memories of the daily Bangkok food tours I took vivid. Pam has taught me to make yummy dishes like chicken satay with peanut sauce and my favorite entrée, pad Thai.
Touring Bangkok With a Friend
The 2015 Thailand trip holds many memories. It happened because I attended a business meeting and this led me on a journey through Thailand’s Loei Province. I extended my stay a few extra days. This turned into daily Bangkok food tours with my childhood friend J.P.
He worked and lived in the kingdom’s capital and volunteered to share his knowledge of the city and the culture. It was a nice surprise learning he worked in the hotel office building I had my meeting.
For two decades I have traveled solo, big cities still intimidate me, especially when it comes to dining alone. Oftentimes, if I do not book a food tour or meet up with other travelers, I either, end up at an American fast food restaurant or the local grocery store. (Pro tip: stay away from durian cookies.) I welcomed J.P.’s invitation.
Tasting Thailand with Personalized Bangkok Food Tours
J.P. put together my own daily Bangkok food tours. One day we explored the Chatuchak Weekend Market. We browsed aisles of stuff including colorful, owl-shaped coin purses; iced coconuts with sweet coconut water were ready for tapping; and cute baby bunnies wearing dresses. I eat with my eyes and nose and upon seeing ears of corn, chicken ass, and satay roasting over dancing flames, I knew I was in foodie paradise.
Out of all the options, I went with the pad Thai. I watched with curiosity as a woman created my dish. Mismatched bowls surrounded her and each held something different. She added ingredients as bean sprouts, shrimp, and a sauce, into the wok, stirring and moving the wok over a blue flame to create a culinary masterpiece. Sure, pad Thai is probably as common in Thailand as McDonald’s hamburger in the U.S., but it was deliciously memorable.
Quest for Crunchy Crickets
Not hip to street food, my friend gave into my quest for something peculiar. Insects. Specifically, roasted crickets. He added this to one of my customized Bangkok food tours and the crunchy critters were not as easy to find, or they just weren’t something on my friend’s radar. We found them at a cart along the Chao Phraya River.
The vendor was stunned when I asked to buy a bag of edible insects, rather than snapping photos of the buggy buffet. Before me was an assortment of crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, worms, and cocoons. Unable to choose just one species, I ordered a little of everything and topped it all with ground black pepper and a sweet, thick sauce. I’m told it was probably Maggi Seasoning Sauce.
Bugs are not on my daily menu, at least not intentionally, and I was a little squeamish popping them into my mouth. The vendor showed me how to properly eat a grasshopper, which is kind of like eating crawfish. Kind of. Pull off the legs and suck the meat out then eat the grasshopper body in one gulp.
Spoiler: insects do not taste like chicken.
Here in the Southeastern United States we have boiled peanuts. In Thailand, they have roasted insects. Both are packed with protein and both are acquired tastes. Yet, both are part of the local culture.
Eating Beyond the Streets in Bangkok
The other Bangkok food tours my friend planned included more modern eating venues. We found a variety of delicious eats at the Central Embassy, a fabulous shopping mall, and K Village, an open-air mall.
Not everyone has a J.P. working in Thailand and planning their personalized tours for them. But, there are locals who can lead you on a delicious food tour. I cannot guarantee roasted grasshoppers will be included on your tour, but you can personalize it the way you want.
So, which do you prefer? Roasted crickets or pad Thai?