Edible Nonfiction: Today's pick
A Street Meet Food Adventure in Bangkok by Allen McAvoy
It's just past dusk as we round the corner on one of the narrow side streets off Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road and frantically scan the neon-filled, bustling soi for street meat.
My friend is unfazed by the aromatic gauntlet but then he's lived in Bangkok for three years. It's my first night in Bangkok and the seasoned meat, which commingles with stale urine and sour perspiration, assaults my nostrils.
"You're going to love this food," Ian says, excited to share this authentic food experience with me. "Just follow my lead!"
For the uninitiated, "street meat" is meat grilled on carts or at stalls by locals and sold to residents heading home and tourists meandering to the night market.
Following my friend's example, I saunter up to the stall and point at the greasy cast-iron pans grilling chicken or chicken parts; garlic and chilies; and warming basil rice and soy-infused noodles. The rivers of sweat streaming down my forehead do little to extinguish the warmth in my face as I place my order.
"Don't worry; I come here all the time," Ian whispers, trying to alleviate any concern my darting eyes might betray.
I have avoided street meat for thirty-plus years out of suspicion, but before I can change my mind, the vendor graciously hands me my order. Caught, I take the steaming plate into my cupped hands like Oliver Twist.
"Kap kun kap," I say politely, as Ian instructed.
Ian and I sit down on wobbly, plastic chairs. We bake from the heat emanating from the carts nearby but I don't complain; I'm too hungry. Instead, I shovel the mixture quickly into my mouth. My mouth puckers as the warm chilies and tamarind sauce greet my tongue. The meal is the best, coriander-flecked, green-curried, egg-topped, chicken pad thai I've ever eaten.
Allen McAvoy is from Toronto, ON