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Fah Thai Magazine May June 2018

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OVERTURES ARTS & CULTURAL MATTERS SOM TAM OR PAPAYA SALAD CARTS Many people can’t do without the ubiquitous som tam or papaya salad carts. Prepped, sliced and chopped in a rich display are shredded papaya, yardlong beans, cherry tomatoes, and Thai eggplants. They find company with glass jars containing flavourings of dried shrimp, peanuts, and palm sugar. Some carts assemble a minimalist setup of trays for all the ingredients with the key tool: a pestle and mortar, and base flavourings of Thai anchovy or fish sauce, managing to draw in the crowds. The spicy papaya salad carts usually come attached with a barbecue grill for cooking chicken, catfish, and cuts of pork. Another essential feature of this type of cart is a large bucket where packs of steamed sticky rice keep warm. OLD-STYLE COFFEE CARTS The classic brewing method of traditional Thai coffee begins with a large kettle of boiling water, cloth filter bags that strain the brewed liquid, and a metal canister to hold the drink. With this setup, ground coffee gets pressed into a filter bag attached Words Sarita Urupongsa Illustrations Arthit Limpong It’s not a street food scene in Thailand without the iconic presence of food carts! From the early hours of dawn to late night, vendors attach these wheeled workhorses to motorbikes or bicycles, planting themselves at any convenient location: sidewalks, main streets, and small alleys. When hunger pangs or cravings hit, our primer shows you how to spot the right set of wheels. NOODLE CARTS One thing all noodle carts share in common is the round pit of a steaming cauldron where sumptuous broths, stocks and water settle in an eternal rolling boil to blanch noodles, vegetables, and meats. Usually a clear glass box sits atop the side of the cart. Here is your open glass menu, with a bi-level mouth-watering display inside the box. The upper layer is usually reserved for assorted proteins, like beef and pork cuts, BBQ meats, assorted meatballs, fishballs, and wontons. The lower shelf gathers different noodle types: thin rice vermicelli BARBECUE CARTS For office staffers to construction workers – skewered snacks serve as comfort food. Pork, chicken, giblets, or Northern-style sausages to grilled bananas or corn are their best friends as immediate stomach fillers. The smoke from the grills is absorbed by an embedded exhaust hood, which later spreads the tantalising smell further afield. to wide ones, egg noodles, bean sheet noodles and even instant noodles within easy reach. Some vendors take pride in the already rich, flavourful taste of their broth while other places season for you. Not to worry though, as every noodle cart comes with its own set of seasonings and condiments to cater the dish to your own taste. There’s always a seat for you as most places provide foldable tables and bright plastic chairs for their customers to enjoy the vibe of street-side dining. HAWKERS Our special mention includes hawkers on foot who offer a form of commerce long familiar in Thai society. The authentic tradition has sellers carrying a woven basket that perches on both ends of a slim wood plank and balanced on a shoulder. In the baskets are usually ready-made snacks which customers can grab easily for easy consumption on the sidewalk or for takeaway. Popular items include sticky rice with sweetened pork or shredded pork, a spicy fermented pork salad, cooked eggs, steamed peanuts, and Thai desserts packed in bags or banana leaves of local delicacies from different parts of the country. Some hawkers even include handmade products crafted from local natural materials; such as wicker and other wood products. to an aluminium loop with handle. With a firm grip, the vendor pours boiling water on coffee grounds and waits for it to filter all the way through. To sweeten the rich, dark coffee – sugar, condensed milk, and evaporated milk serve as key options for both hot and iced old school coffee. This type of cart not only offers the aromatic traditional coffee and tea, but also other choices such as an iced pink milk for sweet enjoyment or Nom Yen (sala syrup mixed with condensed milk), or the more familiar cocoa drink or lime soda. Some vendors have modern equipment for espresso drinks thereby providing a longer drink menu. Expect your drink to be served classic style: in plastic tumblers encased in a bag with a handle for sipping enjoyment while commuting. At breakfast time, some places even offer warm toast with butter and sprinkled sugar in addition to coffee. 32 33