One of the most exciting ways to eat in Phuket
Day or night, you will see them everywhere. Along the beach front, the roadside, the markets and at any major event. The Hawker stalls (some permanent, some temporary) sell an incredible range of food from fruit to spicy salads. These vendor stalls may be treated warily by some visitors because of hygiene fears, but many visitors find that what is on offer is deliciously satisfying, and incredibly good value. Some of the foods offered by such vendors are not available in standard restaurants or food outlets, and offer your only chance to sample some really unique tastes, and if Thai people can tuck in with gusto – why can’t everybody else? From these stalls you can get a variety of foods that include Thai, Malay, Indian and Chinese.
The simplest of vendors carry their wares in balancing rattan baskets slung on a pole, which is carried across the back. From these vendors you can buy grilled bananas, sweet potato or corn, grilled eggs (still in their shell), steamed groundnuts or corn, BBQ chicken, satay, meatballs on skewers, garlic sausage, sticky rice mixed with banana and shredded coconut or red beans wrapped in banana leaves. Some even have a tiny hotplate for grilling tiny coconut puddings! You’ll see the vendors bobbing down the street dodging the crowds, or squatting on the sidewalk waiting for customers to approach, or just simply having a rest.
The next step up in sophistication is the mobile vendor selling wares from a stainless steel cart with wheels, pulled or pushed along the road. You can find a great range of natural ice creams. The cart is equipped with a stainless steel container packed with dry ice to keep the ice-cream icy cold. Often you’ll hear them coming before you actually see them as they often have a small cow bell attached to their stall to attract customer’s attention. Flavours include the favourite – coconut ice-cream, sometimes decorated with corn, red bean and coloured noodles made from yam paste. You can also get taro flavoured ice-cream, and the Thai’s extreme favourite – durian. Sold as small blocks set on paddle pop sticks, or scooped into little cups and then garnished with such toppings as dried crushed peanuts and lashings of condensed milk. Some stalls offer ice-cream in a bread sandwich with a choice of toppings.
Freshly cut fruit is also widely sold by vendors who walk the streets pulling their stall along looking for customers. The fruit is packed in ice behind glass to keep it cold and fresh. You choose you piece and the vendor will whip out his cutting board and knife and chop it into easy bite size pieces, pop it into a bag along with a skewer as your eating utensil. You will be offered a little bag filled with sugar and chilli mix – the Thai’s like to dip their fresh fruit into this for a little extra bite!
Also from mobile vendors you will find dry squid, banana pancakes made from flour and egg (cooked on a hot plate, spread with condensed milk, stacked, and then cut into wedges), smaller pancakes spread with coconut cream and topped with shredded coconut and bright orange strings made from egg yolks. There’s deep fried banana, taro and sweet potato, cool desserts made from a mixture of corn, red beans, yam paste noodles, coconut milk or sweet cordial and topped with shaved ice, deep fried spring rolls, deep fried chicken and pork, Chinese flour dumplings with sweet or savoury fillings, pork, chicken or beef satay grilled on a charcoal and served with peanut sauce and marinated vegetables.
The most sophisticated of vendors have stalls attached to a motorbike. They usually have a favourite spot to settle down in for the day or night, where they place a few small plastic or wooden chairs and tables around so that customers can sit and eat on the side of the street. Depending on the food, the stall might be equipped with a charcoal grill, hot plate and preparation area, with all the ingredients either hanging down from the top, or stacked around the sides protected by Perspex walls. Serving more than just snacks, these stalls can provide substantial meals and attract dozens of customers at busy times of the day.
Often you will come across clusters of such vendors – each offering something different, so that the customer can pick and choose from a variety of stalls and have a veritable feast for 40-50 Baht. You might find the following being sold – egg or rice noodle soup, with or without broth, containing beef, chicken, pork, or fish balls, ground beef or seafood, vegetables or tofu; fried noodles with chicken, seafood or pork, vegetables and egg; Thai style sukiyaki; fried vegetables with or without tofu or meat; glutinous rice with chicken and broth; red pork or duck with rice; stewed pork with pickles and greens and boiled egg on rice; northeastern Thai food such as papaya salad, mango salad, warm chicken , beef or pork salad, grilled pork or beef accompanied by sticky rice; Biriyani chicken with soup; mango and sticky rice; fruit shakes; and much much more.