While Khao Lak had more of a quiet beach town vibe over the busy resort vibe of Phuket, we had a hard time finding street food. Our trip to one of the markets turned out to be a bust and our dinner at “must eat” “local” restaurant was just okay. After we realized this, we stuck to eating at our hotel’s restaurant where the food was fresh, decently priced, and tasty.
Oddly enough, Khao Lak seemed to be travel hotspot for Europeans, in particular, German tourists. We found many Italian restaurants and even a really nice European grocery store, but where were all the real Thai food street vendors hiding?
One evening, we noticed a few food carts parked outside of the convenience store near our resort. There were absolutely no tourists (not that we ever saw many anyway), only a bunch of locals pulling up, buying food from the carts to go, and driving off. We staked out the parking lot watching people come and go before deciding that the food must be good if locals were eating it.
notice the food cart is attached to the side of her motorcycle
Thai Green Papaya Salad
We worked up the courage to try some green papaya salad just as the food vendor was packing up for the night. The vendor quickly unpacked her supplies and then pulled all kinds of ingredients out of plastic tubs. She added tomatoes, green papaya, green beans, bean sprouts, lime, fish sauce, and chili sauce to a deep wooden bowl and mixed it all together. I think the dish cost us less than 50 cents.
Green papaya salad (som tum) is one of my most favorite Thai dishes. Topped with chili sauce and roasted peanuts, it’s the perfect blend of salty, crunchy, sweet, tangy, and spicy.
Verdict: hands down the best green papaya salad we have ever eaten. It was so fresh and the flavors so intense that our minds were pretty much blown. HOW WAS THIS ONLY 50 cents? Once we finished, we eyed the vendor from our car window, contemplating seconds. Unfortunately for us, this time she had really packed up her things and was getting ready to leave. Damn. I will forever be on the hunt for a green papaya salad as good as what we ate that night.
Street Food on Bang Niang Road
Buoyed by our amazing street cart culinary experience, we drove on the main road into town. To our surprise, we found quite a few street food vendors! Score! Most of the vendors were set up outside of the European market, which had a few picnic tables set up outside for eating.
We ordered a plate of freshly made crispy fried spring rolls, topped with sweet and sour chili sauce, and served with a bean sprout side salad. Yum.
Khao Lak Banana Pancake
To finish off our three-course street food meal, we ordered a Khao Lak banana cake. While I’m a huge Nutella crepe fan, I decided to mix it up a little bit this time around. Imagine a crepe stuffed with fresh bananas and young coconut meat, cooked to crispy perfection, and topped with sweetened condensed milk. Once again, delicious. I still dream of those crispy crepes.
The grand total for our gourmet street food meal? Less than $5.
Besides being cheap and delicious, I really loved meeting the vendors. Or, I should say, I really loved Sly interacting with the vendors while I lurked in the shadows, pointing and mumbling at what I wanted to eat. The people we met that night always had such huge smiles on their faces. Maybe the food tasted so good because they put so much love and care into it?
It was probably a good thing the vendors closed shop pretty early because we could have stayed there all night, gorging on papaya salad, fried spring rolls, and banana pancakes.
We to our hotel’s thatch-roofed beach bar for a nightcap and watched the full moon play peek-a-boo with the palm trees. One of the friendly beach pups came by to say hello and to get a few scratches behind her ears. A warm, tropical breeze, made the candles at our table flicker while the waves crashing gently against the shoreline. Thai street food followed by drinks on a deserted beach. Talk about a perfect night.