Our main priority when booking our accommodation for our last week in Asia was to make sure that we were close to good street food. Luckily for us our last destination was Bangkok so we headed to the Sukhumvit area and took up residence in a guesthouse just around the corner from Soi 38. We had heard from several reliable sources that the street food in this area would ensure that we left Asia in style!
Street food has been something that we have thoroughly enjoyed everywhere in Asia, from Singapore to Krabi, and we wanted to make sure that in our final few days we made the most of what was on offer to get our fill before leaving the continent.
Soi 38 differed from a lot of other street food locations we visited on our trip in the way that the vendors were set up. They were still all creating masterpieces from a one burner stove and a wok but as well as having the mandatory plastic tables and chairs strewn around their individual stalls there were also small food courts. Upon entering these fabled abodes we took a seat and then partook in the Sukhumvit Soi 38 street food Olympics!
Let the games commence!
Your backside is the starter pistol and as it hits the plastic stool this is the cue for the street vendor Olympians to spring into action in the 1st event of the evening, the 5 metre sprint. They race from their individual stalls holding their menu cards and before you can blink you are surrounded by 6 different vendors all placing their menus in front of you and informing you why you should order from them. This is hilarious and a somewhat surprising and surreal experience the first time it happens. However, this is merely a warm up for the 2nd event of the games which is the menu card deal.
This is a game of strategy for the street food Olympians. If they get to you too quickly and put their menu in front of you, then the next vendor will simply put their menu on top of the first one, hiding it and making it redundant. It is like witnessing magicians with oversize menus cards – now you see it, now you don’t!!! On the other hand, if they are too slow to get their menu in front of you they risk you making your choice before they have even had a chance to woo you with their wares. It is a far more strategic game and more complicated than we first realised, but excellent pre-meal entertainment.
The 3rd event is the waiting game, where the vendors simply all stand around you patiently waiting for you to decide what you want and who will win your custom like in some surreal beauty pageant. This can last rather a long time due to the huge choice on offer, but eventually….. congratulations Mr shrimp cake man you have come a respectable 3rd we will take a plate of your delectable shrimp cakes. 2nd place goes to the lovely Lemon Shake lady, 2 of your finest lemon shakes please! Drum roll……. and the winner is Hokien Chicken Rice man, we will consume two of your superb chicken rice please. The vendors you haven’t ordered from quietly take their menus away with a smile and move on to the next potential customers in the hope of having more luck with them.
Now for the 4th event in the Soi 38 food court Olympics, the speed challenge. Which vendor can get your food to you in the quickest possible time! This is always a brilliant event, the Olympians rush back to their stations to prepare their masterpieces – woks are fired up, blenders filled with ice whir into action and there is just a general buzz of anticipation. Somehow your food is in front of you before you can blink, how is it even possible to create something so superb so quickly? These people are street food ninjas from another dimension!
As the food arrives, you pay the competitors their prize money, 50 baht to lovely lemon shake lady, 70 baht to Mr shrimp cake man, and chicken rice man takes away 100 baht. So that’s both our meals sorted for 220 baht (£5) and the Soi 38 street food Olympics is all over in under 10 minutes. All that is left is for us to do is sit back and enjoy the food and start talking about what we will eat on our next visit! Oh yes, and we might just venture across the road to the stall selling the deep fried ice cream as it would be rude not to have dessert.
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