This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Food poisoning, the Bangkok street food way…
After spending the past 12 hours hugging a toilet and worse, you could say that I have an up close and personal perspective on Bangkok’s street food.
And the irony? The food poisoning was totally down to researching for a review of Bangkok’s Top 50 Street Food Stalls. You see, I don’t often eat at street stalls. Due to my dietary preferences (no rice, no noodles, no sugar) what typically gets sold at streets stalls doesn’t fit.
But, skimming through the delectable choices listed in their top 50, I managed to dog-ear enough pages to warrant a review of the book. Thing is, I didn’t make it to any of the Bangkok food stalls listed. To start my research, I opted for a street stall closer to home. It was a bad choice (in more ways than one).
Heath Concerns: Many visitors to Thailand shy away from street food because of the looming spectre of ‘curry tummy’. Although some stalls deserve cautious treatment, most offer the same level of hygiene as closed-door restaurants in Bangkok, and all street food stalls are periodically tested by city authorities for cleanliness.
I would like to add to their warning. Whatever you do, don’t take street food home to enjoy on another day especially if it includes meat (pork, fish, beef, whatever). In the fun of the moment (partying with guests) I’d forgotten that sage advice given years ago. And after suffering, to be sure, I won’t forget it again.
Mind you, if you are leery of eating on the streets of Bangkok, then this disclaimer should impress you no end (and actually, I couldn’t think of a better selling point for a book on Thai street food):
You can be sure that only ‘clean’ food stalls with no history of hygiene issue are included in this guide.
I won’t be eating on the street again real soon but when I do, I’ll use Bangkok’s Top 50 Street Food Stalls as my guide. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta… run…
20 thoughts on “Bangkok’s Top 50 Street Food Stalls. Food Poisoning. Bleeeech.”
Heads-up, there’s a new book out.
Bangkok Glutton’s “Thailand’s Best Street Food”.
I wish him the best.
Carol, I’ve had various strengths of food poisoning. Most are just loose bowels (and sometimes it’s needed).
Whan, I love the idea of food stalls. And the reason I got sick could have been one of two things or a combo. I’ll never really know for sure. I just don’t want a repeat 🙂
Sorry to hear that you got food poisoning from food stall. I think food stall is an attractive point of Thai culture, as you can see that even rich people buy street food. Surely, you could get ท้องเสีย if you selected to buy the food which was not freshly cooked. Thai people always buy the food from the stalls they trust as well, for example, the food is covered or there is no fly around the stall. Anyway, I got poisoning food twice, because I bought food and kept it in stuffy place. Perhaps it’s not only if the food is clean or not that made you got ill, but please realize that the weather might be a factor making you got diarrhea, even the food is clean.
The only time I’ve ever had a touch of food poisoning in LOS is from food I purchased at the Supermarket. They typically leave the prepared food out without refrigeration. I’ve never had a problem with street food. I certainly don’t have a strong stomach, and have contracted terrible food poisoning elsewhere – a bout in Manila springs to mind.
Hi Danyelle and Brian. I’m sure my area has decent street food as it’s a Thai (mostly) suburb and no vendor would last long if their food wasn’t good. But… there is a real possibility the fish we ate was bacterial laden due to the floods… not sure. I’ve had food poisoning plenty of times before and it’s always gone within 24 hours. Not this time.
I eat at street stalls all the time and never have a problem, and I wouldn’t consider myself to have a strong stomach. I have got sick a couple of times eating at cheap tourist restaurants. I suspect the food was old and they thought they wouldn’t see me again. But street stalls, my thoughts are that Thais don’t have stomachs that are much different to farangs, and people never return to a place where they got sick, so if a stall is popular you can be fairly sure it’s ok, and also that the turnover is high so the food will be fresh.
I do eat street foods but I’ll just make sure that the environment is clean and the food is clean. Sorry to hear about happen to you in eating street foods.
Snap, we do have less bacteria in our systems (hence the fragile tummies) but our life expectancy is longer too so I’m happy with that. My stomach is generally hardy though. Even if I do get sick it’s generally a 24 hour deal and I’m right as rain. I can usually go from sick to bacon or sausage and eggs no prob. But not this time.
There is no way I’d touch pork sausages in roadside stalls. Pork anything. I will eat BBQ pork necks in Issan restaurants (so I’m not that fussy + I know great Issan eateries). But stalls are out for me.
“fresh mussel” I can just imagine! One of my friends is allergic to shellfish and there’s more in regular Thai food than you’d expect (no washing of utensils between dishes). We’d be on a road trip and she’d order something ‘safe’ but 15 minutes later… oooops. Made for interesting trips.
Last night I threw Whiskey at it – it worked brilliantly. I’ll continue on with the second lot of antibiotics but I’ll place my trust in Lagavulin!
Russ, I’ve eaten this particular fish many times (especially in the past year) so I thought I was ok. People often buy it to eat later (but later in the day, not the next day). I’m still wondering if the floods had anything to do with it though…
Cat, sorry to hear about your tummy upset. It reminds me of my time in Thai class, learning the word ท้องเสีย and our teacher commenting that farang stomachs are fragile compared to khon Thai’s.
I don’t know about the rule of eating only hot food, as Travis advises…I’ve seen freshly cooked sausages and meat balls sold at night, that through the day were stewing in plastic bags, hanging in the blazing sun for hours.
We did eat as some food stalls, but usually those that were frequented by many locals and that other foreigners had recommended…not sure if that’s any guarantee either.
If it makes you feel any better, know that I haven’t touched a fresh mussel in over 30 years, bad, bad memories.
I agree with your idea that we should exercise a lot of caution especially when we eat streetfood. It is fun to each those affordable treats, but it is not worth it if we end up with food-borne diseases.
Hi Travis. A Thai friend just mentioned that some farms are still suffering from the recent floods. And that there just might be bacteria collecting in fish. I haven’t eaten local fish for that reason – so what WAS I thinking?
Onion pie? That’s a new one on me. The man of the house loves his steak and kidney pies so we have an emergency stash in the freezer. They are for those times when I don’t want to cook and he doesn’t want to eat out or call for delivery. Perfect.
Lol… I don’t know how to say ba**ard in Thai. But I’ll ask.
Today is another queasy day for me. I tried a heavier breakfast (losing too much weight on white foods) and I’m now regretting it. Lunch is back to plain yogurt.
When I used to live in Thailand, my rule was to only eat HOT food(I don’t mean spicy.) This means the food had to be freshly cooked. If it wasn’t, then I wouldn’t eat it. In two years of living there, I only had a bug once, it lasted a week though!
Catherine – I survived the jacket potatoes. I had them with a minced beef and onion pie I bought in Ban Dung. Whilst there yesterday I discovered a shop crammed full of freezers topped up with all kinds of Thai frozen foods and bingo there was one with farang tucker in it. The pie was 80 baht and tasted lovely. And the beauty is, Ban Dung is only 32 clicks from Wi’s village.
I wonder how you say in Thai ‘You fat ba**ard, who ate all the pies’.
Martyn, I do eat Thai food, just not from street stalls. Truthfully, I was tired of getting my emotions sucked into Thai politics so I thought I’d get a little bit adventurous, but in a different direction. Hmmm… next?
I envy you your jacket potatoes. I’m still on white food but meals so far are mostly based around yogurt and badly poached eggs.
Catherine – It’s kind of rare I eat from street stalls but when I do I usually have the comfort of knowing my stomach’s been sterilized by a good swallow of beer.
The big plus with street stalls is you can see the hygene standards first hand. Restaurants aren’t usually so open to public view. At the end of the day Lady Luck plays her part too.
I’m about to have a couple of jacket potatoes that have got more craters in them than the moon. He who dares!
Get well soon.
Talen, no matter how this shakes out, I’m absolutely on for your fav 4 cat restaurant. Junk yard, bomb shelter, and all 🙂
How long is this supposed to be going on, anyway? The tummy is still miserable. I don’t often get sick either which is why, when the man started his run (ten hours before me), I didn’t take antibiotics. Besides, I only had a wee fish cheek while he had the entire side (pretty much half a fish). Bleeech.
Are you getting a feeling of “poor me” ? lol… Yeah, I’m being pathetic.
cat, so sorry to hear you got some bad mojo from the food stalls…I’ve really only gotten sick once and that was at an open air restaurant. I eat from food stalls all the time and I am selective about the stalls but most are clean and the food is stored well.
“and all street food stalls are periodically tested by city authorities for cleanliness.”
Yeah, right…more like the man comes along now and again to have his palm greased with free food and baht…
“You can be sure that only ‘clean’ food stalls with no history of hygiene issue are included in this guide.”
That’s one incredibly unbelievable statement…
Feel better cat and one day I will take you to my favorite 4 cat restaurant…the decor is junk yard meets bomb shelter but the food is ooh lala.
@WomenLearnThai Food poisoning: อาหารเป็นพิษ /aa-hăan bpen pít/ … Actual experience is a sure way to learn new vocabulary … not always fun, but sure.