Part of what makes Thailand so appealing to expats is Thai cuisine. And it used to be that you could sample it on the cheap through the country’s world-famous street food scene, which for so long has been lauded for its portability and its flavourful offerings. Sadly, a ban on street food beginning in 2014 debilitated a once booming street food scene, with vendors forced out of the sidewalks where they used to serve some of the most scrumptious yet affordable dishes this side of the world.
This decision to clear Thailand’s sidewalks and walkways didn’t necessarily ‘kill’ the country’s street food scene, but its impact is far-reaching, having caused a loss of livelihood for many and reduced profits for others. It also means that street food, so accessible everywhere once upon a time, is now a bit more difficult to get, and just a tad pricier as opposed to many years ago. But at least there is a silver lining: You can recreate the street food experience right in the comforts of your home! And the guide below will outline exactly how you can do that.
Get the right kitchen tools and equipment
First things first, make sure you have the kitchen tools and equipment commonly used in making Thai street food. In particular, you’ll need a wok, as it is vital to Thai cooking—and in Asian cooking as a whole. That said, the best woks are seasoned cast iron or carbon steel ones, which means they have been warmed, cooled down, and oiled so that dust won’t accumulate on the surface.
You’ll also need a mortar and pestle, preferably granite, as you will use it to make different kinds of pastes, like chili paste and green curry paste. An alternative would be to use a food processor or blender, though you’ll be sacrificing flavour if you go that route. That’s because pounding herbs and spices in a mortar lets you extract every bit of flavour, thereby making them more flavourful as compared to cutting them into tiny pieces using a food processor.
Another thing you will need is a rice cooker, as some Thai street foods like Khao Kha Moo and Moo Ping are served with rice. The former – pork cooked in soy sauce, sugar, and spices until juicy and tender – is served with ordinary white rice. The latter – grilled pork skewers – often comes with sticky rice. So, it goes without saying that you will need a good rice cooker if you want to try these kinds of street food.
Fortunately, the best rice cookers nowadays make cooking rice a breeze. They are also innovative and incredibly multifunctional, with features that are beyond what meets the eye. For instance, there is a keep warm function that will keep your food warm, but not burnt, for hours. There is also a steam option, which is perfect for prepping vegetables—key staples in some Thai street food such as Pad See Ew and Som Tam.
Finally, it would be great if you had a grill, as that means you can prepare all-time favourites, like Thai Chicken Satay and Sai Ooah. You can also use it for family barbecues, get-togethers, and special occasions, where you can cook Thai style barbecue.
Try these recipes
With your equipment on hand, you’re now ready to cook some awesome Thai street food. Here are three recipes to get you started:
Pad See Ew
CREDIT: stu_spivack via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons License (No changes were made to the image.)
Pad See Ew is basically just fried noodles prepared with soy sauce. You’ll need sen yai, or Thai flat rice noodles (300 grams), your choice of chicken, beef or pork (200 grams), Chinese broccoli, garlic, an egg, light and dark sweet soy sauce, and some sugar.
Now, heat the wok and add some oil. Once the oil is hot, sauté the garlic and then stir-fry the meat. Toss in the rice noodles, along with the Chinese broccoli plus 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, ½ tablespoon of dark soy sauce, and ½ teaspoon of sugar. Stir and cook the noodles for a minute or two, adding some oil when they get dry. Then, push everything to one side of the wok and crack open an egg on the empty side. Scramble the egg before mixing it with the rice noodles and meat. Fry for another 30−45 seconds and your Pad See Ew is ready to serve!
Kao Niew Ma Muang
CREDIT: Dennis Wong via Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons License [No changes were made to the image.]
Kao Niew Ma Muang is tasty treat of sliced mangoes served with sticky rice and coconut cream syrup. For this dish, you’ll need ripe mangoes, rice, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Start by cooking the rice, making sure that you wash it 5−6 times to get rid of the extra starch. Then, set your rice cooker to the sticky rice option. At the same time, make the coconut syrup by heating the coconut milk, sugar and salt over medium-low heat.
Add the coconut syrup into the cooking rice in two batches, with the second batch coming after you have stirred the rice. Once the rice is cooked, set the rice cooker on warm mode and make the coconut sauce by heating coconut milk in a saucepan and adding cornstarch liquid. Whisk and let cook for a minute or two. Your Kao Niew Ma Muang is now ready!
CREDIT: Ayara Thai via Pinterest [No changes were made to the image.]
Moo Ping is actually just pork barbecue skewers. But they are made with lean meat that makes them more flavourful and satisfying, especially with the sticky rice served with them. For this street food, you’ll need 500 grams of boneless pork shoulder cut into strips, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of caster sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, and 125 mL coconut cream
For Moo Ping, the key is marinating the pork at least overnight. So, create the marinade by combining all non-pork ingredients into a bowl and adding about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Place the pork into the marinade and set aside. The next day, put the pork on bamboo skewers, grill, and then enjoy!
Of course, good food is better enjoyed with loved ones or familiar faces, and that is often the case when people make their way to Thailand’s food vendors. So, prepare the food as best you can, then eat and share them with your family (and friends when get-togethers are okay again). In this way, you’ll be able to truly recapture the Thai street food experience—but in the comfort of your home.