Note: The official Thai spelling for this market is Or Tor Kor. This, unfortunately, leads most westerners to the wrong pronunciation. Aw Taw Kaw is closer to correct for pronouncing but less recognized; so I’ve used both interchangeably here.
(Click on an image to see a larger version.)
The one place where I sometimes order Pad Thai for myself is at a stand at Or Tor Kor (or Aw Taw Kaw) Market (Talaat Or Tor Kor, in Thai) in Bangkok, which also happens to be one of our favorite markets in Thailand. Although Or Tor Kor is considered “high end” and the prices are higher than at other markets, the selection of food and the presentation makes it worth the extra few baht. I still find it very reasonable by United States standards. Our collection of Thailand market photos contains many pictures of this Aw Taw Kaw Market.
Or Tor Kor market is very near to the well-known Chatuchak Weekend Market. You can get there via the MRT subway – get off at the Kamphaengpetch Road station. The first picture above shows the outside of the market from the street. If you go on a weekend, you can also enjoy Chatuchak, with it’s estimated 8,000 vendors selling any and everything you can imagine. We usually go to Or Tor Kor on a weekday because it can get very crowded indeed on a weekend.
If you’re going to Aw Taw Kaw, eat lightly beforehand. As you browse the aisles you’ll see pre-cooked food such as grilled prawns, satay, sour sausage, shrimp cakes as well as numerous kanom (snacks) such as sticky rice and kanom krok (rice pancakes) and it will be hard to resist grazing. There are, however, numerous food stalls that cook food to order in the back of the market and many of them are worth a taste.
The stand with the delicious Pad Thai is back in the eating area towards the outside edge of the market. The third picture shows the stand with the stall number (11/40) visible in the background. I actually had taken and delivered pictures of the woman making the dish many times before I actually ordered the dish, though Kasma had been ordering it for her trip members for many years.
Most Pad Thai recipes call for egg, usually (as in Kasma’s Pad Thai recipe) scrambled lightly. This woman’s adds eggs in a different way – she uses them to make a covering for the noodles in the center, sort of a Pad Thai omelette, if you will. Kasma tells me that this presentation is relatively common in Thailand, particularly when Pad Thai is served in a restaurant. In fact, there are as many different Pad Thai recipes as there are cooks. (Kasma’s article on The Spirit of Thai Cooking talks a bit about how Thai dishes can vary a great deal depending on the cook.) It’s served (as you can see to the left) with a banana blossom, some scallions (underneath), fresh bean sprouts and a lime. The lime is squeezed over the noodles and the fresh ingredients are eaten along with it.
As you can see, once you open up noodles it looks very delicious indeed. It bears little resemblance to some of the Pad Thai noodles you find in the states – it is savory and tasty and completely without Ketchup!
For more information about the origins of Pad Thai, check out Kasma’s Pad Thai Notes and Pointers.
One other dish that the same woman makes is an mussel omelette. It is also very tasty (see picture below).
Note: When asking for directions or taking a cab to Or Tor Kor, be sure to refer to it as Dtalaht Aw Taw Kaw – the usual spelling is talaat, meaning market, but dtalaht is closer to the actual sound in Thai. (See our Note on Thai Spelling & Pronunciation.)
If you are taking a cab, make sure that the driver takes you to the correct market. There is also an Aw Taw Kaw Market (Dtalaat Aw Taw Kaw) on Sukhumvit Soi 105 (Soi Lasalle, pronounced Soi “La-sahn”) – it is not as interesting a market.
Written by Michael Babcock, April 2009.