Thai people really like to eat. A lot! Few streets don’t have at least one food vendor with a cart parked at the corner and the food courts and restaurants are busy late into the night. And when they aren’t eating breakfast, lunch or dinner, many of them are snacking. I myself am a constant grazer and for those of you who love to snack, here are some of the popular items you might find at the supermarket or streetside.
7 Elevens and Family Marts are ubiquitous in Bangkok, and potato chips take up most of one aisle. Sounds a bit boring and familiar, but consider the flavors: Barbecued Pork, Shrimp, Cuttlefish, Octopus, Spicy Crab. Or even some very Thai recipes such as Tom Yum Koong and Laab. Even the Pringles bend toward the tastes of the Thai market with Grilled Shrimp, Soft-shell Crab and Seaweed varieties to name a few.
Fried banana chips (kluay charb) are nice but then you can also find dried jack fruit chips and even the notorious durian. Durian chips (turian tod) aren’t nearly as odiferous as the fresh fruit and might be your gateway to liking the stuff. Or not.
Watermelon seeds: Why spit them out when you can roast them and eat them as a snack?
Nothing says snack hour like dried squid. It comes in a bag at the store but in the street it’s fun to watch the vendor squish it back and forth through a couple of grooved rollers.
Some assembly is required with Mieng Kham. Vendors pack up the snack kit for you in a plastic bag: pieces of ginger, limes, shallots, roasted peanuts, dried shrimp, roasted shredded coconut, and of course chopped up Thai chilies. Make a little cup out of a betel leaf and insert these ingredients then add a sauce made with palm sugar, fish sauce, galangal, shallots and roasted coconut in a bit of water. Open mouth, insert the whole thing.
And perhaps the most exotic snack of them all….
Quite popular with Thais from the North and Northeast of Thailand, various fried insects and bamboo worms aren’t going to show up at Tesco Lotus, but a street cart or two may be lurking around. You might think this is Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern’s territory, but I’ve even seen the beetles kept in a refrigerator in a nice traditional restaurant in the province of Krabi. They were to be made into a paste. It was the first time a restaurateur ever proudly showed me the bugs in his kitchen.
Grasshoppers and bamboo worms are fried and might not be as bad as you think. Be sure to peel the shell off the beetles though. I’m sure the vendor will be happy to show you how.
Or you might want to stick with Grilled Shrimp Pringles.