Views #1512 | Intermediate 5

Street Food

Natalie talks about street food in Thailand.

Todd: So, Natalie, you were saying that you are a foodie.

Natalie: I'm a huge foodie.

Todd: And you are now in Bangkok, and Bangkok is famous for its street stall food, but that's changing.

Natalie: It is, so this is probably 70% of the reason why I moved to Bangkok because of the street food. So, yeah, the street food scene is changing. It seems like they're trying to take the model that's similar to the hawker centers in Singapore, so the hawker centers is basically where all of the street food carts that used to be on the corner of a street - what we call in Thai a soi - they've been moved into one big center, so almost like a deli center. I think it's in an effort to keep things clean, and to just have a hub where you get all of your food. It's easier for tourists. So that's happening a lot. There are pockets of areas in Bangkok where you can still get amazing street food on the street. Particularly in the business districts, like Silom. I think they will struggle to get their street food vendors off the streets because it is so convenient for people. When they leave work, it's right near the elevated sky train that we talked about earlier. People can just grab some noodles ... it's under a dollar ... get their dinner. Or perhaps they get their food to take away and then they go home. And these places are always really busy. There's usually a line to get in one of these street food places. They have little seats, little plastic chairs outside, and little metal tables, so you can eat there, but it is on the street, so there are areas now where you can get amazing street food, but it's not on the street anymore. It's in one of these small hawker-like centers.

Todd: Yeah, that's too bad because I ate street food going way back to 25 years ago, when I first moved here, and it's just the best. I never got sick eating street food for all my years. It's always clean and safe, and one of the things I really like about the street stall vendors that people don't talk about is that they're always really nice, and I have a theory about this. The people that own the street stalls, often, that's their own small little business, so they're the one that's in control of it, and I think mentally, they're just happier people. Rather than if you go in some restaurant, the service can be quite poor because that person is kind of in servitude. They're not really in control of their little economic endeavor. So I love the street stall people, because they're just so positive.

Natalie: Yeah, it does feel more entrepreneurial. And these guys ... something that I love about the street food as well, just while we're on the topic, is you walk down the street in Bangkok and there are all kinds of noises and there's color everywhere ... all the cars, the taxis, are super colorful; they're really famous for that ... but then you'll smell something. You will smell something being grilled, or you'll smell som tum ... this is where they have the pestle and mortar and they're mixing up papaya and salad and garlic, and ... the smell of fried garlic ... if you wanna sell something, just blast the smell of fried garlic out. You will get people in. And that's one of the things that I love about the street food here. And as you say, it is really cheap. And the thing is is these people have most likely been preparing this food since the night before. There is a huge misconception about street food being dirty, and obviously, of course there are gonna be places that have dirty street food and might make you sick, but the chances are, these people have been preparing these ingredients at home and then they've brought them into their street food cart and they're selling them all day, so they really care about what they're selling. And people go back time and time again. I can say that because I do, and I wouldn't go back if these people didn't make amazing food.

Todd: Yeah, and if people were sick, right, then they would lose their business.

Natalie: Yeah.

Todd: You know, it's almost illogical, because when people think that, "Oh, the street food is dirty," you can see the kitchen. You literally are sitting next to the cook in the kitchen. You can see everything they're doing right in front of you. Whereas in a restaurant, you have no idea what goes on in the kitchen.

Natalie: Yeah. So I can give you some advice for street food. Don't be scared of street food. Try it. But there are a couple of things that you can do to make it a little bit safer. If you're getting something that's grilled ... so we have something here called mu ping, which is pork, and it has a kind of sauce on the top of it, it's like coconut and spices, it's delicious ... and you'll get it for 10 baht. But sometimes it'll be sat out, and it might've been out for a while, so maybe you're worried about dirt on it or bacteria growing on it or flies getting on it or something like that. The grill is usually on the cart, so ask the street food vendor ... or just pick it up yourself and put it back on the grill. So that will ... the flames will kill off any bacteria that's on there. Just put it on there for a couple of minutes ... as long as you need to be happy ... and then you can eat it and it will be roasting hot, but you can be assured that there's nothing in it.

Todd: And they often do that themselves.

Natalie: Yeah.

Todd: Even if you don't ask. I've always wondered if they'll just flop it back on there really fast. Another thing that I love that they do in Thailand, too, is if you go to ... it's similar to the street food ... it's the hole-in-the-wall place where literally it's like a room with no door, and it's kind of an outdoor restaurant, and they have the hot water bucket, and you dip your spoon and fork in the hot water bucket. It's the most brilliant idea. It's something that almost restaurants should do, you know what I mean?

Natalie: Yeah, it's ingenious.

Todd: Yeah, I love that. It's like, "Okay, let's just sterilize it real fast."

Natalie: Yeah, so the idea is that the water's usually hot or boiling, so it will kill any bacteria that's on it. If you go to a street food place and perhaps they don't have that but they do have a table and chairs set up ... you get a box, usually, like a rectangular metal box ... and that has your chopsticks in it, or it has your spoon in it, or your knife and ... eh, we don't use knives in Thailand. It would be a spoon and a fork. Just use a napkin, wipe it down before you use it. They will have cleaned it before. I've never had any issue. But if you're not sure, just wipe it down with a napkin. There are always napkins.

Todd: Yeah, it's so clever.

Learn vocabulary from the lesson!

foodie

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I'm a huge foodie.

A foodie is a person who really enjoys particular foods and studies the characteristics of certain foods. Notice the following:

  1. My dad is a foodie. He travels to countries just to eat.
  2. She's a foodie. She's knows a lot about various cuisines.

pestle and mortar

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They have the pestle and mortar and they're mixing up papaya and salad

A pestle is a heavy tool used to crush food. A mortar is a heavy bowl used contain the crushed items. Notice the following:

  1. Pharmacists use a pestle and mortar to mix drugs.
  2. They use a pestle and mortar to crush the spices.

servitude

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That person is kind of in servitude.

When you are in servitude, you work under the power of another person. Notice the following:

  1. Immigrants without documents often work in servitude.
  2. He worked in servitude for his boss all his life.

economic endeavor

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They're not really in control of their little economic endeavor.

An economic endeavor is a business venture. Notice the following:

  1. She was very successful in her economic endeavor.
  2. He told me all about his latest economic endeavor.

roasting hot

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It will be roasting hot,

Here, roasting hot means very hot. The opposite is freezing cold. Notice the following:

  1. My city is roasting hot in summer and freezing cold in winter.
  2. This coffee is roasting hot. I need to let it cool a bit.

hole-in-the-wall

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It's a little hole-in-the-wall place

A hole-in-the-wall is a small, basic restaurant, often with no front door or wall. Notice the following:

  1. I always eat tacos at this great little hole-in-the wall.
  2. We had dinner at this great hole-in-the-wall that served great Indian curry.
Answer the following questions about the interview.

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