By Laura Garcia
The cotton candy skies and twinkling white lights add a touch of magic and romance as you meander through the market under the brightly coloured flags of Thailand. The beachside music rides in on an ever so gentle breeze, bringing with it the heavenly smells of a land beloved for its cuisine. The Lamai Sunday Night Market is an epic feast of the senses, where the streets are lined with ambrosial delights and more, shall we say, traditional delicacies, just waiting to be discovered–if you dare.
Crispy, and apparently, quite tasty, a selection of crickets, grasshoppers, silkworms, and water bugs, are lined up on silver trays and scooped into clear plastic bags and presented with a wooden skewer for your convenience. This is truly traditional cuisine; a delight to some, and a nightmare to others. In a country where funds are often scarce, and insects are aplenty, this is a tradition born out of necessity and reflective of the resourcefulness of the people. It is, however, for those with enough courage, a pretty darn tasty treat.
Cooked in a specially designed pan, these wheat flour-based balls are typically filled with diced or minced octopus. At the SLNM, however, you can take your pick of shrimp, crab, bacon or squid. Their crispy outer layer is browned to perfection, creating a crispy treat. Pop them in your mouth and let their smooth savoury innards entice your taste buds. I know they look too tempting to wait, but before you try them, do yourself a favour and take some pictures for Instagram while letting them cool, you’ll want to show off these beauties.
On the Grill
Grilled fish, squid, or crocodile— some simple but good stuff with just enough char to bring some tasty crunch. You’ve probably heard it tastes like chicken. Crocodile actually has the taste of fish with the texture and firmness somewhere between chicken and pork. Although light in taste, it reflects the flavours given when cooking and pays them forward tenfold with each and every bite. Unless you’re a veggie (and maybe even if you are), I suggest giving it a try–at the very least, you’ll be able to say that you did.
Pad Thai is considered a classic, and a world-renowned favourite. This should, arguably, not be on this list as it’s available quite literally, everywhere. However, near the back of the market, is a small stand with two of the most polite, sweetest souls, cooking to order. For 50 baht (about $1.70 USD), I had the pleasure of watching a master at his craft fry up what was to be the best seafood Pad Thai I have ever had–and I’ve had my share of Pad Thai. Find him, and you will be glad you did.
Coconut ice cream is yet another Thai classic found all around the globe. But on a beautiful evening, on a beautiful island, you eat coconut ice cream. Opt for a fresh coconut bowl for an extra 20 baht, the copra “the meat of the coconut” is shaved into the bowl and then filled with butter-soft and perfectly sweetened ice cream, and topped with whole nuts. I suggest you take it down to the beach and soak everything in and while enjoying a slight reprieve from the crowds.
Other notables to keep an eye out and save room in your tummy for include Khanom Krok Khai Nok Krata (fried quail eggs), Gai Tod (fried chicken best served with fried garlic and chilli sauce) and Roti Gluay (fried banana pancakes). And if you still have room, or simply can’t say no, there’s, a colourful selection of curries, a resplendent showcase of sushi variations, mini tacos, and pancakes. Save your appetite and arrive hungry; the choices combined with eastern prices are irresistible.
There are but a few experiences that are more distinctively Thai than standing in a night market, watching street performers dance and tempt fate with fire, while savouring one of the many sumptuous snacks. Anthony Bourdain captures the essence perfectly, “I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters, or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure.”
So grab some cash, bring your courage and head to the LSNM for an unforgettable night and a memorable culinary adventure. This is a tale you will tell your children.