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Clued-up Bangkok foodies know that the old town, in and around Banglamphu and Rattanakosin Island, is the place to go for some of the Thai capital’s very best street food. And one supremely underrated local fresh market, Nang Loeng, is home to what’s perhaps the very best of the best.
Set in a historic old Bangkok neighbourhood, and itself running for well over a century, this is very much an early bird’s market: Nang Loeng gets going in the early morning and, if you arrive much past lunchtime, all you’ll find are the last few stalls closing up. But if you can pull yourself out of bed on time, then you can expect a dizzying array of fresh goods and prepared foods that will have foodies dizzy from both the variety and quality.
That starts with the large array of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood, much like many fresh markets around Bangkok – but it’s for ready-to-eat Thai dishes that Nang Loeng is particularly renowned. The recently renovated centre of the market is home to a collection of vendors that together make up something of a food court.
Here you’ll find the likes of Khao Gaeng Rattana, famous for their daily changing selection of curries and stir-fries served over rice – including a particularly impressive yum makua pao grilled aubergine salad, and the khao kluk kapi summertime medley of shrimp-pasted-infused rice with mango, onions, omelette, Chinese sausage and more.
Other famous restaurants at the market include Sor Roong Roj for the braised duck noodle soup they’ve been dishing out since 1963 – they’ve since added an intimidating selection of over a hundred other Thai-Chinese dishes – and the summery dish of kao chae, rice in scented iced water with all manner of sweet, savoury and sour toppings, at Yim Heng.
Nang Loeng also has something of a – very deserved – reputation for its classic Thai desserts, and Mae Som Jit, just outside the market itself, is a stall that’s both older and more famous than most. Perhaps the pick of the bunch here are the sticky rice parcels garnished with toppings that range from sankaya egg custard to shredded fish and grated coconut. Khao muk – sweetened sticky rice fermented in moonshine alcohol wrapped in a banana leaf – is worth trying, too.
Though the food is indisputably the star attraction here, the market is also home to a shrine to Chumphon Khet Udomsak, respected as the father of the Thai navy, who once lived in the neighbourhood. The area’s back alleys are worth a wander, as well, home to sights such as Sala Chalerm Thani. This was Thailand’s first cinema, and only closed up for good in 1993. Today, sadly, it’s little more than a warehouse – but its wooden structure is still a stunner from the outside.
For a winning combination of local culture and history with arguably some of Bangkok’s best and most time-honoured market food, Nang Loeng could be your ticket. Getting here involves a 15-minute walk from Democracy Monument; otherwise, Thewet river boat pier is around a 25-minute walk away, while Phaya Thai is the nearest BTS station but is itself a good 10-minute taxi ride away.
Monday to Saturday, from the early morning; Nakhon Sawan Soi 6
Have you been to Nang Loeng market? Let us know in the comments!
All photos by Chris Wotton.