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Thai Street Food, Bangkok, Thailand, tasted on December 4, 2005  While there are many high end and high quality restaurants and food experiences to search for on this planet, perhaps the most reliable quality food experience in the world is street food. Of course there are exceptions, and some countries are better than others, but in general I believe this. Street food is most of the world's answer to fast food and there are several reasons why it's often your best bet for something great to eat. Mostly it's because quality is about focus and street food vendors have no choice but to focus. The space limitations alone require it. They also help force the street food vendor to restock with fresh ingredients each day. And in much of Asia the street food is a local tradition and authentic. It doesn't get much better than that.

After that type of introduction you'd think that I'd have a seriously detailed survey of Bangkok street food. You'd be wrong. But only because I suck. I think it would have taken me weeks to really get even a shallow but semi-complete view of the street food experience. Instead you'll get a super basic (and incomplete) intro as well as a decent number of pictures of what I was able to find in my few days in Bangkok.

Some random tidbits in no particular order:

  • There are three main places for street food (you'd think there would be only one - the street) in Bangkok. They are 1) the street (even late into the night), 2) food courts in malls (or entire malls), and 3) the huge outdoor markets (like the Chatachuk weekend market).
  • The malls are a good place to get your bearings. The food is excellent (again unlike food courts in North America) and it's a controlled environment in which
  • The food is incredibly cheap. For some reason the malls have these systems where you have to buy the mall food scrip. If you have any leftover you just turn it back in for cash. Their not making money on the exchange rate so I guess they think it's easier to pay with their coupons.
  • The food is incredibly good. And there are tons of options. I especially enjoyed everything that was deep fried. And in many cases everything was deep fried.
  • Did I mentioned the deep-fried bacon-wrapped hot dogs?
  • Fish balls are woefully underrated. In Asia they know how to make fish balls. Chewy, spongy, smooth, and super savory. Some days I felt I could go through about a hundred of them.
  • They had these little mini chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry donuts. I don't know why I was surprised to see them, but I was. That said, they were super delicious. Why does miniaturization always make things more adorable?

Bottom line, if you're lucky enough to be in Bangkok, Thailand, or just about anywhere in Asia, I highly recommend you sample early and often as you pass one food stand after another. You pretty much can't go wrong.

 

 

It doesn't have anything really to do with street food. But I love the soda variations I find around the world. What the hell is Pepsi Latte?

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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