Eating My Way Around a Thai Floating Market
For incurable wanderlusing foodies, Thailand is #1 on the bucket list.
As both a culture vulture and edible explorer, I truly believe the best way to expand your mind and understand another culture is to get off the beaten path and eat with the locals.
So when my best friend James announced his move back to his motherland, I quickly began plotting my edible adventure to Thailand. Three months into his residency, my husband and I endured the 22 hour flight to the other side of the world, and landed in Bangkok with starry eyes and empty stomachs.
After tasting our way around the city — the maze-like “JJ” open-air city market and endless sidewalk food stalls — we were hungry for more.
Where to eat next???
Lucky for us, we were escorted by James’ cousin, nicknamed “Gun”, a lifelong resident and self-proclaimed Thai food enthusiast, who had the perfect answer to our riddle.
Jumping into her car, she drove us nearly 2 hours outside the traffic-frenzied city to the ultimate Thai food paradise.
Amphawa Floating Market
Amphawa is an authentic floating market, popular among day-tripping Bangkokians, but far far away from the sucker-clusters, our term for large cattle-like tour groups. Thai people are expert snackers and have a passion for nibbling all day, and we were grateful to have our local friends to guide us through a meandering feast along the canal.
The main draw at Amphawa is seafood freshly-grilled on Thai longtail boats below and served directly from boat-to-table via pole.
Note to self: we could really use one of these delivery poles at Dragon Bowl.
An iconic dish at this floating market is “Pla-too”, which is kuning fish in bamboo baskets. Thais believe pla-too is best here because fishermen catch them with nets and the fish don’t die of shock. Every December, a 10-day festival is held in pla-too’s honor where they use the dish to cook over 50 dishes.
Strange Little Bites.
Part of the fun is tasting something new, even if you’re not exactly sure what it is. I admit, some of these were lost in translation, but I dove in fork first anyway.
I was even brave enough to try durian, an alien-like exotic fruit that even Bizarre Food’s host Andrew Zimmern couldn’t stomach. Armored in a spiky King Koopa shell, you’ll need a machete to access the fruit inside, which reeks of rotten eggs, but tastes oddly like strawberry icecream. The smell is so pungent that Thai law prohibits eating durian in public areas and hotel rooms.
OK vegetarian friends, it’s time to look the other way.
The winner of my oddly yummy award goes to blood soup. If you can be open-minded enough to get past the name and idea of raw blood and congealed blood floaters, you’ll be rewarded with an intense, rich and pleasant taste that you’ll dream about for years to come. It’s not what you’d expect. Really.
Sweet, Sweet Paradise.
Thai people have a sweet tooth, and if you love coconut and fruit as much as I do, you’re in for a real treat. There are plenty of coconut goodies to choose from, whether jellied, fried, candied or iced.
The juicy pomelos were a whole different breed than what we grow in the States. Like an orange, but without all the chewy parts, it was pure citrus heaven.
Our snackable adventure to the Amphawa Floating Market was truly an insight into Thai food culture. We got to see, experience and taste real, authentic Thailand. In the Land of Smiles, Thai cuisine is a sense of pride, a national treasure, and an important part of social interactions. If you ever find yourself in Bangkok, consider a visit to Amphawa for a feast of the eyes and appetite, straight out of the pages of National Geographic.
What’s the most interesting Thai dish you’ve tried?