Nothing can beat the company of fish cookies, papaya salad and sticky rice with mango. That’s why I love Thai food markets so much. Last year I fell in love with a food market in Chiang Mai, North Thailand: Talat Thanin. Tropical fruit in abundance, huge bowls with red, green and yellow curries, stir-fries with mussels and the funky stuff this market is famous for. Such as small pancakes – in Dutch: poffertjes – filled with squid and mayonnaise on top. The highlight of my visit to this market/Chiang Mai was my encounter with sai ua or Chiang Mai sausage. Minced pork meat, garlic, red chilli peppers, lemongrass, galangal (a kind of ginger). Three words: very well seasoned. This grilled sausage is the king of all Asian sausages. Two weeks ago I traced his royal highness at the Thai Food Café in Amsterdam, the relaxed, friendly and affordable enterprise of two Thai street food aficionados: Céderick and Steven. The sausage is less spicy than the original one, but is very, very tasty. It’s made according to the recipe they got from a Chiang Mai butcher. The appetizer is served with tomato chutney and tastes even better with Singha beer on the side.
Thai Food Café
Chiang Mai sausage, one portion, €4.00
Oranje Vrijstaatkade 66, East
+31 (0) 20 233 53 64
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 11am-1am, Friday-Saturday 11am-3am, Sunday 11am-1am
Meet Billy! He’s the cute man in the kitchen. The one who chops and stir-fries with a smile. He used to be the cook of Little Thai Prince in Chinatown, but three years ago he opened his own restaurant and takeaway: Billy Thai. It’s hugely popular and this is why: excellent food, friendly service, a cosy decor. Orchids on the windowsill, candlelight, pictures of King Bhumibol, Queen Sirikit and our royal couple on the walls. Have a seat in Billy’s living room, inhale the scent of stir-fried basil, ginger and garlic and let him spoil you with a mix of duck, ginger and mushrooms, king prawns in garlic and pepper sauce or thalee samrod, prawns, squid and fish in a spicy, sweet-and-sour sauce. Get yourself a soup too: tom yam koeng. It has all the hot (red chillies) and sour (lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal) flavours you’d expect and much more. Love the prawns, coriander leaves and mushrooms with a bite. This soup brings back happy memories of the first time I had it. Bangkok, 1996, a food stall near Khao San Road. It was hot and humid, singer-starlet Sabrina sang Boys, Boys, Boys, the soup set my senses on fire. Love at first sight.
Billy Thai Tom yam koeng, one, €6.00
Prinsengracht 358, City Centre
+31 (0) 20 330 42 20
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 4pm-11pm