Every Monday and Thursday, small time merchants gather at an empty lot across the street from Bangkok Metropolitan Water Authority to sell anything from soup to nuts, literally. The western style supermarket are booming in Bangkok while the outskirt communities like this one enjoys an open air market. Fresh vegetables are less than 20% the price of big supermarkets. The price and the variety of fresh and cooked food draw people to this market. For me, it is an adventure being there.
Ingredients for popular Thai dishes in the US like red curry and pad Thai noodles are less prominent at this market. Instead, ingredients like fish, fresh vegetables and sauce for real day-to-day Thai meals, like nam prig, are abundant. Locals come here for their fish whether it be live, fried, grilled, dried or pickled.
You would be surprised at the different types of fresh vegetables that are available. While in the US, most leafy vegetable are either some lettuce or kale variant, here it seems like here you can almost eat any green leaves. They just don't taste like vegetables. Some are tart. Some are nutty. Some have wonderful scents. There must have been about 30 different varieties there. Some of these leaves can even be tough to find in the supermarket in Bangkok but are more common in the provinces. They come in bundles of about a pound and you can buy 4 bundles for 10 baht (US$0.25). You don't have to be rich to eat luxuriously here.
I saw this guy with a bamboo container full of live chickens, a pail of boiling water, some cleaned chickens and a bowl of blood. It didn't take much to guess that the guy was offering chickens freshly killed on demand. In Thailand, it is still a fact of life when you buy a chicken that someone has to kill it. In the US, your chicken comes in a clean white foam tray and you get no sense of the predation.
Younger customers were not neglected here. A guy with a table full of red, green and white caramel was busy making candy that was more artistic than I have ever seen. Using only a little gas stove, a small paddle, a knife and scissors, I watched him make fishing monkeys, dancing elephants, a parakeet and even wonder woman, each in about 30 seconds. How much for you to own one of these works of art? 5 baht (Jan 2011 - US$0.18).
Life gets a little more exotic as well. Silk worms, grasshoppers, water bugs and other bugs that I could not identify are deep fried and ready to be munched like potato chips. Water bugs are not new to me because its wonderful scent adds that extra zing to many nam prigs. The deep fried water bugs are crispy on the outside and nutty on the inside. (Umm um! "Behold, the power of fleas") Other fried bugs will have to wait for my next trip.
On my way out of the market, past the locals haggling with the knife salesman and the 99 baht shirts (US$2.50), I took a few last pictures of the kids who had been trailing me the whole time and grabbed a Thai tea for the trip home.