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Thai Food To Go

Michael Babcock, June 26th, 2010

One of the best parts about Thailand is the ready availability of street food. And one of the best parts about Thai street food is that you can get anything you want “to go.” There’s such a wide availability of delicious-looking fresh food at reasonable prices that I sometimes wonder why Thai people ever cook at home. (See Kasma’s Delights of Thai Street Food.)

Pork Satay

Pork Satay "to go"

The usual method of packaging food to go is to simply put the  hot food into a plastic bags and to seal it up with a rubber band.

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Satay To Go

Satay, ready to carry home

Our first picture shows pork satay from Talaat Sahmrong (Sahmrong Market) in Samut Prakahn (just north of Bangkok). The satay, bagged when it’s piping hot from the grill, has it’s own bag. If a dish requires condiments or side dishes, it’s no problem: they each get their own little plastic bag. In this case there’s a separate bag for the fiery, hot dipping sauce, one for the cucumber salad and one for the vinegar dressing for the cucumber salad. So here there are four plastic bags in all, which are then put in a fifth bag for carrying. Most vendors will have the smaller bags prepared in advance. In this case the vendor only had to bag the satay, wrap it with a rubber band (see below) and toss the other three smaller bags into the carry bag.

Rubber Band To Go

Rubber banded to go package

For another example of a dish with condiments packaged up in plastic bags, see Michael’s blog Street Food Congee (Jook, or Johk).

Plastic bags to go are nearly universally sealed with rubber bands. The only exception I’ve seen was a time last year when we received some Thai salt and pepper (prik nahm bplah) in a zip lock bag. There’s a picture on our blog entry on Thai Salt & Pepper. Rubber bands are the far superior method: I’ve never seen them leak whereas the zip locked prik nahm bplah leaked all over.

A word is certainly in order on these rubber-banded bags. It’s startling how quickly a vendor will twist the rubber band multiple times and then secure it in some mysterious fashion that creates a seal so tight that there’s nary a leak. Twist, twist, twist, done. It’s a matter of seconds, or less. It can also be startling how difficult some of these bags are to un-band! If you don’t believe me, check out some of the posts at this Nation (an English newspaper in Thailand) Forum on Those Freaking Rubber Bands. I also found a video on how it’s done (Thailand Survival Skills: Dealing with Rubber Bands); I’ve never been able to unwind them as easily is this video shows!

Sticky Rice and Mango

Sticky Rice and Mango, to go

Another option for to go food is a styrofoam container. I’ll include a couple of pictures here; the first one is from our blog on Thong Lo Mangos (and Sticky Rice). In this case, the sweet coconut cream sauce is placed in a rubber-banded plastic bag, to be poured over the sticky rice only when you are ready to eat. Our favorite duck noodle shop (Thong Lo Duck Noodles) also uses a combination of styrofoam, in this case for roasted duck, with the accoutrements of two kinds of sauces and pickles in the plastic bags. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen styrofoam containers from a street food vendor: these seem to come from store fronts, who have more space for styrofoam containers (which take up far more room than a plastic bag).

Roast Duck To Go

Roast duck and accoutrements


Written by Michael Babcock, June 2010

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2 Responses to “Thai Food To Go”

  1. […] This vendor does a pretty good business of selling the item to go, as well. Here we see a Thai schoolgirl picking up her lunch in a convenient plastic bag. (See our post on Thai Food To Go.) […]

  2. larry says:

    Back in the early 1970’s when I was a young soldier stationed in Bangkok, they used banana leaves to wrap the food as the plastic bag wasn’t yet around. Other times they would used discarded papers to wrap the food – early recycling at its finest.

    It didn’t matter what it was wrapped in, it was cheap and delicious.

Leave a Reply to larry