Later in the week, Tawn and I had a second opportunity to visit with Jason and Daniel, taking them to see a Thai market. Wet markets (in other words, those that sell meat and produce) are often one of the best ways to get a really good look at the culture of a place you are visiting. We chose the modern, clean, and convenient to get to Marketing Organization for Farmers market, known by its Thai initials “Or Tor Gor”.
Or Tor Gor market is located across the street from the Chatuchak (“JJ”) Weekend Market, immediately outside exit 3 of the Kamphaeng Phet subway station and a short walk from the Mo Chit Skytrain station. It is open every day of the year and remains busy until the afternoon, so unlike some markets that are most active at the crack of dawn, you can catch a few winks and still see Or Tor Gor in action.
Here are some of the sights we saw:
There are loads of fruit and vegetable vendors, selling both locally grown and imported varieties. Even though it is a few months before the height of the mango season, many vendors had a large selection of fragrant “Flower Water” mangoes.
Dried fruit is an excellent way to bring a taste of your trip home with you. Here, Jason and Daniel consider the different offerings including mango (lighter yellow) and papaya (orange).
Curries are one of the staples of Thai cuisine, but even most Thais who cook at home will rarely go to the trouble to grind their own curry paste. (Although I would like to try and make my own curry paste one of these days.) Instead, they purchase freshly made curry paste from the local market, available in many varieties. Tell the vendor what kind of curry you want to make and she’ll tell you what vegetables, herbs, and meats you need to buy and in what quantities.
This market also has a significant cooked food section so you can buy your meal here and when you return home all you have to do is make some rice. This vendor is selling curries. By my count, approximately twenty different types of curry! Some use the same type of curry paste but are varied by protein and whether or not they use coconut milk. If you’ve ever tried a “jungle curry” at your local Thai restaurant, that is a curry made without coconut milk.
Lots of snacky items available, too. Here, Tawn and Daniel discuss the different flavors of shrimp chips available for purchase. You can buy these cooked (as you see here) or in small uncooked discs that you fry in oil at home. I can’t imagine the benefit of frying them yourself so much better to buy them precooked.
Thailand is home to inexpensive, high-quality seafood and Or Tor Gor market is a good place to buy it. Above is a tray of small crabs, the type which are brined then crushed and added to one variety of som tam – green papaya salad.
Fresh scallops are another plentiful item. When buying them in the US, I’m used to seeing only the white adductor muscle and not the attached roe. Here they are sold still in the shell with all the bits still attached.
Another popular sea food item is the giant river prawn. These beasts usually have a body about nine inches in length (not including the antennae) and are perfect for grilling. Here, a vendor stacks prawns for display.
Or Tor Gor market also has several flower vendors, including some who specialize in garlands. These hand-made flower arrangements are used for worship, placing them on Buddha statues and at shrines, as well as for honoring elders, guests, teachers, and other people of respect.
This type of garland is especially fragrant. It will last for several days and each evening the room will smell of jasmine.
Another prepared food vendor sells stir-fries and other dishes that are eaten with rice. Thus their Thai name, gap khao, which means “with rice”. In the steamer in the foreground of the picture is an interesting dish called hor mok. It is made with a mixture of flaked fish and red curry, steamed in a leaf cup until it has a mousse like texture, then topped with some coconut cream. Tawn made this for me on one of his first trips to San Francisco after we met, making do with the ingredients he could find at the time.
For our breakfast (it was going on 11:00) we settled on four dishes with rice. From the lower right, clockwise: green curry with fish cake, bitter eggplant and basil; pork belly and boiled eggs in soy sauce; eggplant fried in ground pork and basil; and pumpkin served with scrambled egg. Very tasty.
Finally, after two days of trying we succeeded in getting a picture of the four of us together. This one was taken by a young lady who was sitting at the adjacent table waiting for her food to be delivered. Not only does it show you our handsome mugs but you can also get a good idea of what the market looks like with many of the prepared food vendors in the background.
Again, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to finally meet Jason and Daniel in person and a treat to be able to spend some time with them while they were in town. Hopefully, the next time we meet it will be in Tokyo!
Happy new year to all of you!