- Terminal 21, Soi Sukhumvit 19, Wattana, Bangkok www.terminal21.co.th
- Mango Tango, Siam Square, Soi 5, Bangkok www.mymangotango.com
As we get out of the airport and feel the hot, windy temperature of Bangkok, we fall in love. It’s 11.30 pm and, although we’re tired after our flight, the phosphorescent taxi line that parades up and down the streets enlivens our mood.
Even though the Skytrain public transportation is extremely efficient, modern and punctual, Bangkok is a car town. Taxis are so cheap that if you’re too hot to tackle it on foot, they’re the best way to navigate this maze.
Our base in the city, Four Points Sheraton Hotel, is awesome. Iron embroideries and blue garnishments decorate our room, where a sliding wooden door opens up the view on a large, lush bathtub. A few hours later, when we get up and shift the curtains, we realize we have a gorgeous view over the city’s roofs, connected to each other by threads of hanging dry clothes. From the roof top swimming pool, the sight is even more beautiful: an endless row of skyscrapers that glistens in the air heavy with mist.
After several refills of Bircher Muesli and the freshest exotic fruit at our hotel breakfast buffet, we are redy to hit the street and sightsee the city.
Unnfortunately, just ten minutes after we leave our hotel, Terminal 21, a super modern mall with a whole story dedicated to Thai specialties, happens to be on our way. We pull into this gateway to our first authentic Bangkok gastronomic experience and for at least a couple hours, we get stuck at Pier21 Food Terminal.
We start from the Gourmet Market, which not only boosts an incredibly vast selection of dried fruit (from Longan to Pomelo and Sakura Plum), but it’s also provided with stands where they squeeze tropical fruits such as Durian, Dragon Fruit or Lychee and serve fresh juices. We try the Coconut Water, bottled fresh every morning with whole chunks of fruit inside, and a shot of wheat grass.
The Food Court is truly overwhelming. 80% of the items displayed are something we have never seen before: pastries with the most disparate colors, unknown ingredients, unusual shapes. Steamed Bread in Coconut Soup, Taro Baloons and Red Bean Crepes are just some of the strange items on the menu.
Our first stop is at Sant’Etoile Bakery. Their Blueberry Pastry looks exactly like the delicious Cream Cheese Blueberry Cake we tried at 85 Degrees, an Asian Bakery that has just one location in the US at Irvine, CA. The warm sweet bun we got there was phenomenal. If this is the original version of that one, it should be at least as good. When we cut our pastry in half though, we are disappointed: “Where is the filling!?” The inside is sadly empty: there’s just a fluffy dough that leaves us upset and longing for indulgence . We abandon it and move forward.
We try Kiki Saru, little pancacke dough bites shaped like bees and filled with piping hot egg custard. Their intense taste of yolk is softened by the hint of vanilla emitted by their creamy center. It’s good, but we wouldn’t go back for a second one.
The shop next door, Via Ton Ton, sells something that almost looks the same. As soon as we get closer to compare, we realize it’s a Sweet Potato confection! We immediately get one and this time our treat it’s actually amazing.
A sweet, little handful of flavor with a slightly rubbery but dry consistency that recalls the starchiness of a potato puree. Delicious!!
We keep on walking, but the variety of food is so overwhelming that we end up sharing a pretty basic Chicken Stick sauteed in Lychee sauce. It’s ok. Nothing to write home about.
The too many and odd options, together with the fact that we can’t understand any of the explanations we are given, confuse us and, at the end of our tour, our eys are fed, but our mouth are still ravenous.
It seems impossible to be hungry in this kind of Meccah of food, but we actually are and we move our pace to get out, looking for some nourishment.
We thrust our way through the crowd of the vibrant streets markets, where the locals, aimed to nothing but commerce, improvise themselves as vendors offering flowers bracelets, clothes, fake designer bags and the most incredible and weird varieties of food.
Bargaining with them is a must. Who’s bluffing? Who’ll give up for first? The customers, who pretend they can’t afford to spend that one extra dollar, or the vendors, that attempt to be unmovable but are ready to run after you proposing their ultimate discount. We make pretty good deals: costume jewles, t-shirts, exotic fashioned ornaments. Haggling over hundreds Bath (local currency) is fun, until you realize that what for you is just part of the folklore, for them is what makes their life different.
We try to get out of the “shopping district”. The incredibly hot air and the stink that comes from the many fish balls carts are unbearable. It’s almost 5 pm, and all we have had is a juice on the street with Oriental Pear, Apple and Carrot. Good and refreshing, but definitely not enough.
Fortunately, during our wonderings, we run itno Mango Tango, a coffee shop specialized in mango based desserts. Not to make any mistakes, we order the combination platter, making sure we try not only the traditional Mango Sticky Rice, but also the Mango Sherbet, and the Mango Iced Pudding. Among the three, tradion wins through. The rice dressing is lusciuos, velvety, richly moistured with coconut milk cream. We finally get what we were looking for!
This dessert is so good that, for a while, we debate about getting a second one. “We should take advantage of the fact we’re in Thailand and stuff ourselves with this amazing Thai dish…” While we’re expressing this insight, a plan takes shape in our mind: Why don’t we try as many Mango and Sticky Rice as we can and compile our personal chart of deliciousness?
…To be continued.