Courtesy of theCOMMONS
Courtesy of theCOMMONS
theCOMMONS, a new gathering place for good casual food in Bangkok
As the Thai government moves to shutter the capital’s iconic street markets, vendors are taking their talents to new heights and new spaces.
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Known for its street food and vendor-lined streets, Bangkok is a kinetic fever dream of flavors, sights, and smells. At every turn, chili-scented alleyways lead to unexpected markets filled with promises of fermented sausages and punishingly spicy papaya salads. Scents of lemongrass and galangal cling to the sultry air and mingle with the vapors of wok-fried noodles. Breathing can be a heady experience.
Or at least, it used to be. On April 18, Bangkok officials announced that, in an effort to clean up the streets and create more space for cars to pass, street vendors on vital walkways would be forced to close up shop or relocate to designated zones by the end of the year. The order is the most severe of a series of restrictive measures enacted by Thailand’s ruling military junta, which has been cracking down on street food since it seized control of the country in 2014. The recent shuttering of Soi 38—a famed hub of food stalls on Sukhumvit Street—is a loss for tourists looking for an authentic taste of Bangkok but also a blow to locals who relied on the vendors for an inexpensive nightly meal.
With the gritty market street scenes swept away, visitors to Bangkok are taking refuge in a far more contained—if not sterilized—gustatory experience that happens indoors. In the city’s air-conditioned malls, food courts may become a haven for vendors as the streets become an increasingly more hostile place to run a business.Siam Paragon, for instance, an upscale mega mall in central Bangkok, the massive ground floor is like an epicurean Epcot Center. Stroll through the food court and you’ll make your way past Eastern and Western options, such as French macarons, Peking duck, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and fried giant squid. You’ll even stumble upon a fully functioning taco truck where you can purchase nachos, carne asada fries, or “Paragon Tacos.” Feeling disoriented? Helpful street signs next to the taco truck indicate that you are (in spirit, at least) smack dab in the middle of San Francisco’s Mission District—Valencia Street is only 500 feet away! At another turn, you’ll find that Dominique Ansel’s cronut—the pastry hybrid heard around the world—has reverberated across the globe and turned up in the form of “the craffle,” a croissant and waffle amalgam stuffed with white chocolate, spinach, or ham and cheese.
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