Tag Archives: Bangkok

Thai Street Food: Papaya Salad

A recent (and very unscientific) survey taken via Twitter by Epic Asia Travel asked subscribers: What is your favorite Thai street food?  A seemingly simple questions, but in actuality, this query is very, very difficult to answer.  Why?  Because there are so many kinds of street food in Thailand that you could probably eat a different dish everyday for the rest of your life and still never have tried everything.  There’s an abundance of street meats on a stick, fruits, hot and spicy soups, fried vegetables, glutinous sweets and tangy juice drinks.  One of the greatest pleasures about traveling in Thailand is the street food, which is why this questions is really not so easy to answer.

Despite the depth of possible answers to this query, the overwhelming answer to the best street food in Thailand was: Som Tam, also known as spicy green papaya salad.  Respondents to this question sure do know what they’re talking about because spicy green papaya salad is truly fresh and incredibly delicious.  Vendors usually charge anywhere between 20-40 Baht for a heaping pile of freshly shredded green papaya pounded with spices, palm sugar, chilis, lime juice, shrimp and a number of other zesty ingredients.

Som Tam can be eaten alone for a quick and healthy snack on the go, or it can accompany a larger meal.  Traditionally (especially in the Isan

A Thai street vendor crushes the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle to make Som Tam. (Photo Credit: Ans)

region), Som Tam is eaten with sticky rice, BBQ chicken and some spicy chili sauce.  When ordered from a street-side cart, the vendor whips it up fresh on the spot.  The green papaya is shredded and all the ingredients go into a large mortar.  With the pestle the vendor pounds the many flavors together until it forms one delicious mound of papaya salad.  After the dish is plated, the vendor usually sprinkles the Som Tam with a heavy dose of crushed peanuts to add extra flavor and texture.

All street vendors who sell Som Tam in Thailand have their own recipe and they all differ slightly from one another.  Despite their differences, most have several of the same key ingredients including: shredded green papaya, cut cherry tomatoes, fresh green beans, lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, peanuts, dried

Some of the indredients for spicy papaya salad. (Photo Credit: WordRidden).

shrimp, whole chilis, shrimp paste and garlic.  Some papaya salad vendors add dried shrimp and some add whole crabs (shells and all) to add flavor and texture to the mix.

Check out this video below to see a Som Tam vendor in action:

Thailand’s Lady Boys

It’s the witching hour in Thailand.  It’s around 10 p.m., right when the night life starts pumping, the Beer Chang flows freely and the country’s signature sticky, sexy heat bears down on merry revelers, preparing for the night ahead.  Neon signs buzz and blink and the waitress brings another round of drinks.  From down the soi, a lithe young woman walks towards the bar.

Someone comments, “Wow!  Look at her!”

It’s true.  Look at her is right.  Her skin is the perfect tone of brown, her arms are toned and lean.  She has long, silky black hair that cascades down her back and she’s wearing an impossibly tight pink mini-dress that not many people in the world could pull off.  Her cleavage bursts from her dress top and the strappy white stilettos fit her feet like gloves.  The woman looks at men seated at the bars with a cloyingly sweet, flirtatious gaze.

She walks closer.  That skin!  That hair!  She looks like a model.  She comes closer still.  Wait a minute… What’s that on her throat?  Is that…. Really?… An adam’s apple?

It's a man... It's a woman? It's a lady boy!

It turns out that in fact, this beautiful, gorgeous, model-of-a-woman is in fact not a woman an at.  She’s a man.  She is a Thai lady boy.

Lady boys in Thailand, also known as Kathoey, cannot be defined with one definition.  Some lady boys have had sex changes to become women, some have simply had breast implants to impersonate women, and some simply dress like women (but continue to have all the requisite male body parts attached).  It’s not uncommon to see a group of lady boys out on the town in places like Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok.  The tall-tale continuously floats around: the foreigner who had a steamy night out with a gorgeous Thai woman, took her back to his room only to find out that, in fact, she’s one of the infamous Kathoeys.

Whether this is true or not, lady boys are an integral part of the Thailand experience.  Lady boys can be seen in bars, flirting with men, dancing in cabaret shows and performing in various events.  Many foreigners are fascinating by this group of people: not exactly men and not exactly women.  The Kathoey subculture is especially fascinating because of their acceptance by other members of Thai society.  Despite the conservative country, lady boys are very open about their sexuality and have no problem flaunting their fake breasts or their smooth nether regions.  The Buddhist religion is often credited as the reason for the acceptance of sub-groups like lady boys in Thailand.

Many people have seen drag queens in their own home country, but Thailand’s lady boys are a special breed because of their seamless beauty and charm.  The smaller stature and fit bodies of Thai males makes those that choose to become lady boys seem even more convincing: a good majority of Kathoey’s are very beautiful and convincing women.

To experience Kathoey culture for yourself, some good places to meet them are Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok.  For a real show, buy a ticket to a lady boy cabaret: a show where kathoeys sing and dance in amazing costumes.  For a more up close and personal understanding of lady boys, have a night out on the town and see if you can spot the beautiful women who is actually a man.  Strike up a conversation and fall under their flirtatious charms!

At a Kathoey Cabaret Show in Koh Tao, Thailand.

At a Cabaret Show.

Lady Boy in Chiang Mai. (Photo: www.flickr.com/photos/martinamor/476495698/)