As the rainy season begins, this city unfairly limits you in your lunch options, in a will-it/won’t-it rainy day conundrum
There is something in the pursuit of lunch—something special, unique, therapeutic. It’s key in the balance of the working day, the splinter between morning and afternoon, and we all await for its arrival with ravenous anticipation. Especially in Bangkok.
Lunch in this city is an event. People’s days are built around it; the pleasure, the decisions, the business, the mechanics of street food that soothes and calms. As I mentioned in last month’s column, lunch in the seething masses of a street food market in Bangkok is a life-and-death drama, something I’m struggling to adjust to. All of the choices and elbow-to-elbow ordering, the rude reserving of tables with nondescript lanyards. But I can’t ignore it. I can’t cancel lunch.
In Thailand the rainy season (May till October) unfairly limits you, forcing you to narrow your dining options in one of the world’s great food cities. The strident, violent, monsoonal weather could strike anytime. I’ve discovered that I can’t venture out too far for fear of a downpour or being struck by lightning. There’s no warning or build-up either, the weather going from 38-degrees to sodden linen trousers in a matter of seconds.
Only last week, I had my grilled pork skewers in a little plastic carrier bag, a side order of diced mango too, and the heavens opened—lightning tearing through the sky. So many of my culinary adventures have been across the river, or in the village-like lanes throughout Sathorn and Sukhumvit, but with such temperamental, sub-tropical weather, I’m forced to run for cover, scrutinizing my surroundings for dining options.
It’s not as though I’m never prepared. How can you be? What good is an umbrella or packet-poncho when the pelting rain—sharp and excruciating—hammers against my exposed cheeks like diamond daggers. But still, amongst all of the temperamental weather, the city sparkles.
Like Hooters waitresses, Bangkok looks best when wet. The pavements shimmer and are empty of people. The minor dip in temperature is a welcome relief, too. Garbage isn’t cooking in the mid-afternoon melt, causing a wave of stench and rotting meats to drift through windows, discarded fish bones and rotting chicken feet mingling with days-old trash. I still see the rats though.
Locally, I’m discovering new culinary finds. There’s the excellent black coffee and Korean chicken wings (in a GaJa Black marinade) at GaJa & Ga Beans on Naradhiwas Soi 4, and the Khao Kaa Moo (pork trotters with rice) from a stall in Naradhiwas Soi 6. Otherwise, it’s packet-noodle soups from the market around the corner, standing within a sheltered crowd with other dripping wet diners, a soggy farang trapped in the wrong place.
I can’t change the weather so I must embrace it. The rain has helped me discover new, closer-to-home street stalls. In fact, I find myself rather enjoying an unexpected downpour, splashing in the puddles. Not in a let’s-dance Gene Kelly kind of way, but it has awoken a latent, childlike sense of wonder in me, one in which food plays a vital role and lunch remains the most important marker of my day.