So I get that this is kind of cheating because I'm sneaking in three foods in one. But this is like the holy trinity of Thai streetfood - three simple dishes that complement each other so perfectly it's as if they were made with each other in mind. Gai Yang is grilled chicken, fatty and juicy with crispy sweet skin. Khao Niaow is of course sticky rice, dense and flavourful, great as streetfood because you can eat it with your hands as you walk. And Som Tum is papaya salad made with grated green papaya, lime, fish sauce, peanuts, tomatoes and green beans - made to order, so you can choose how spicy you like it. This is the lunch of your dreams.
Plaa Kapung Neung Manao
There are many, many wonderful ways to eat Plaa - fish - in Thailand, but this is definitely worth a mention. In this dish, the fish is steamed in a marinade made with limes, coriander, chilli and garlic. It's light and refreshing. The fish is super tender. It feels a little healthier than many Thai dishes so it's great if you're feeling like you've overdone it a bit (which is basically all the time, since every meal is so good it's hard not to stuff yourself way past satiety).
The veggie option. I love this mild and flavourful curry with a slightly unfortunate name (although better than anything cooked with green pumpkin, which, since green is 'see kiew' is called 'fuk kiew' - hilarious). It's made with pumpkin that's cooked slowly with coconut milk, turmeric and kaffir lime leaves until it's soft and tender and mushy. It's wholesome and comforting and I could eat it every day.
I haven’t seen this much on the street but our cook at Chai Lai, New, makes it really well. So I’m going to say it’s a thing.
Ok, I'm definitely cheating with this one, too. Interestingly, Thais don't tend to eat dessert that often - something I find hard to understand since there's so many wonderful sweets to be found, of every colour and texture. Some are made with coconut milk and meat, others with young rice powder, and some with egg yolk.
I love them all but you've really got to try these: Khao Lam, sticky rice mixed with coconut milk, poured into bamboo pieces and roasted in the fire; Khanom Krok, tiny coconut pancakes served with sweetcorn or taro; and Sang Kaya Fuk Tong, pumpkin custard. And Nam Khaeng Sai deserves a special mention. When I was little my siblings used to tell me about their horrible experience of eating Ice Kacang in Singapore - it sold itself as 'all your favourite goodies' at the bottom of a big pile of flavoured ice, and they were horrified to find that the 'goodies' were mung beans, sweetcorn and grass jelly. Nam Khaeng Sai is like the Thai version of Ice Kacang but I love it! You fill your bowl with palm toddy, grass jelly, water chestnuts, taro balls, sweetcorn, basil seeds and and green worm things made out of rice flour (I think?), top the assortment with ice and drown the lot in neon sugar syrup and condensed milk. It's amazing, and it makes you feel like a kid again. I also really love Kluai Buat Chii, bananas stewed in coconut milk and served hot. Great in winter.