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Our Thai Honeymoon: Eating at the Markets

Posted in Our Thai Honeymoon: Eating at the Markets on August 4, 2010 by jaydel818

My husband and I have watched enough Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain to know that local markets are where it’s at when you want the real experience of eating in another country.

When we announced our honeymoon destination, my dad dutifully DVRed the Phuket episode of Bizarre Foods, and Rich and I pinky-swore that we would consummate our marriage by eating fried grasshoppers together.

On our first Saturday evening in Phuket, we rented motorbikes with our friends Dominique and Briano (fellow honeymooners and the only other Americans we met on our trip) and drove to Phuket’s biggest market, Jatujak Market. With over 1,000 stalls, families and denim-clad teenagers packed into this this open-air as a Saturday night outing.

Our first snacks were sweet taro-filled pancakes served hot off the griddle.

Hot pancakes with a sweet, taro center

The average market snack is around 20 Baht (or 60 cents), so it’s pretty easy to pig out for under $5.  To the right of the taro pancakes were these bright red chicken puffs.  The taste was something like Thai barbeque (heavy on soy sauce, fish sauce, lemongrass, garlic) with a consistency between “spongy” and “puffed rice.”

Me eating chicken "puffs"

Our next stop was a stall with assorted, cooked, skewered seafood, which the proprietor would throw over the open flame upon order to give it a little heat and smokiness.

Skewered seafood over an open grill

Rich tried a squid skewer, basically a series of tentacles, which was a bit tough but flavorful.

Squid skewers

Behind the tentacle skewers were skewered whole baby squids (right) and white, salted fish ball skewers (left).

For 10 Baht (about 30 cents), I bought an icy cup of coconut water with chewy, delicious shavings of coconut flesh.  The woman at the stall sold a variety of fresh fruit-soaked quaffs.

Icy Cold Coconut Water

The fruit stands were always fun.  In season were rambutan (left), mangonsteen (middle), and longan (right).  For more details on what these fruits tasted like, see my Exotic Fruit blog post (coming soon).

Fruit stand

We also checked out the “Every Chicken Part You Can Imagine Dipped in Batter and Fried” stand.  As mentioned in my Best of Thai Cuisine post, this part of the world is considerably less squeamish about eating all parts of the chicken.  Fortunately, so is my husband.  We walked away with a clear plastic baggie of crisp, salty chicken skin for 10 Baht, although the fried chicken feet (middle tray) were pretty tempting.

Fried Chicken Parts Galore (puts KFC to shame)

Also available: crisp skewers of potato puffs, a colorful variety of steamed shumai dumplings, halal kabobs and meat/fish skewers often sold by Muslim women in headscarves, and jackfruit.  I had never seen jackfruit in anything but a can.  It has a bumpy, green exterior that looks like durian (blog post on Durian coming soon), but it tastes waaaaay better.  The fruit is cut open and lots of little yellow jackfruit “bulbs” are culled from inside.

Potato Puff Crisps

Assorted shumai dumplings

Halal kabobs and meat skewers

Jackfruit

Market vendors pulling jackfruit from the husk

Some other delicacies we encountered:

Pickled treats

Thai chilis (Watch out! They'll get ya!)

Fried fish cakes (spicy, oily, and delicious)

Hard boiled duck eggs

Squid/seafood soup (sold pretty much everywhere despite outside temperatures in the 90s)

One of my favorite treats came from a stall where a man was pressing pure sugar cane stalks to extract bright yellow, sugary goodness.  Several bottles were already prepared, and customers could purchase a large bottle, a small bottle, or a taste poured over ice into a clear plastic bag.

Sugar Cane Press to extract the sweet juice

Large and medium-sized sugar cane drinks

Small-sized sugar cane juice served in a plastic baggie

More cheap eats:

Get crabs here!

More Crabs

Quail Eggs

Sweet and Savory Dumplings

Oysters

Scallops

Horseshoe Crab (might as well just gnaw on your shoe)

Fried dough balls in wax paper cones

Mmmmmm... duck

Assorted pad thai and fried rice noodles

Dragonfruit (like a white, less-sweet kiwi)

Assorted gummies, sugared jellies, and cakes

My last two treats for the evening were a fried rice ball (alarmingly and unexpectedly waaaaaay too spicy for me)

Not my grandma's rice ball

and a treat that the vendors couldn’t explain to me in English other than “sweet.”  The round ball to the right that looks like cantaloupe was definitely a honeyed taro of some sort.  It was soaked in sugary syrup, chewy, gummy, and absolutely delicious.  The stringy business in the middle that looks like butternut squash was soaked in the same syrup and tasted remotely like eggs (maybe some kind of noodle?).  The logs on the right, which look like mini sausages, were also syrup-soaked but much starchier than the taro.

The mysterious sweet treat

I’m not going to lie.  This much fried food definitely took a toll on my stomach, making for a not-so pleasant boat trip to Phang Nga the following day.  However, the variety and flavors were great.

The only miss? No grasshoppers to be found.

Sorry, Andrew Zimmern.  Maybe next time…   🙂

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