Of all the things I miss about my travels through South East Asia, although the many coach journeys being subjected to Korean pop music and the driver’s Jackie Chan attitude to road safety will never make that list, are the hours spent in night food markets.
A particular favourite was in the border town of Trat, in Thailand. It’s not a pretty town, although it has its charms, and is more a place to stop-off before catching a ferry to one of the islands off the coast. However, its night market is fantastic and it’s where I had the best hot soup I have ever tasted.
I knew the soup would be good, even though it did look like bits of crackers floating in slightly greasy water, because of the queue of customers waiting for empty bowls to be returned and washed so they could get their fill. As I sat down with my fellow travellers, a father at the adjacent table put his baby over his shoulder so he could lean over and inspect what we had chosen to eat. He gave us the thumbs up sign when he realised we had all picked from the soup man.
All I can say is that it had the most extraordinary flavour, of fish and meat at the same time with an after-kick of spice that gradually built up so that your mouth was on fire but in a most pleasant way. We also managed to eat our way through bags of local treats, such as these biscuits that look like fried eggs but just tasted of sugar!
It’s not just the food I miss, but the atmosphere too with all the pretty lights and families sat round teasing one another over several dishes. It felt a very civilised way to eat, in the company of friends and family. And it was good food at an affordable price.
I’ve sort of found my little piece of South East Asia in Dalston. Every Friday night Street Feast takes place in the shell of an industrial building just off Dalston Lane. Instead of cute Thai children running around, it’s hipsters covered in tattoos their mums hate and a high percentage of what appeared to be young, middle-class girls slamming shots, presumably before they marry middle management and move to Chiswick. As well as the people-watching opportunities, entertainment comes in the form of a DJ and a bar!
There are at least a dozen food stalls offering a delicious and diverse selection of grub, from pulled pork sandwiches to vegetarian thali and gorgeous ice-creams to top it all off with.
I had a jerk chicken wrap and the fella had a Thai chicken burger with a beetroot and mango side salad. I don’t have an image of the food because it was so appetising I completely forgot to take any pictures, too busy chowing my way through it.
There’s only one thing to have following a very spicy meal, and that’s a refreshing sorbet. Although, our good intentions of just having the watermelon ice went out the window once we spotted the chocolate ice-cream.
Those who do not live in London always think it’s a very cold and lonely place, but I find the opposite. Even though I like to take the Michael out of the “look at me I’m so wacky and cool in a uniform way” patrons of East London, I’ve found the locals are always up for a chat. Especially if you bump into them while attempting to take the same photograph!