At first sight, Bangkok is an incomprehensible, sprawling metropolis of some 8 million, a chaotic capital of dust, humidity and tuk-tuk driven traffic made for daredevils. However, once you look beyond the obvious distractions, Bangkok has a uniquely astonishing beauty and grace.
In the early morning, see the wet and humid mist lift from the Chao Phraya River; revealing the golden spiralling towers of the Grand Palace and the many other temples glistening across the horizon. Look close to hand and you’ll see the little details that present life here with a deep spiritual significance: the shopkeepers who put lit incense sticks and food oblations in front of their shops’ little statue of Buddha; the craftsmen working on the roadsides, carving little intricate figurines of spiritual icons; diligent vendors in the markets with their family’s behind them learning the family business; the immensely agile street cooks preparing intoxicating Pad Thai; and monks carefully preparing the temples, like Wat Arun, for the day ahead.
Bangkok was always destined to be even grander and more exuberant than the older capital it replaced, the Ancient UNESCO city of Ayutthaya. Since its creation, the city has seen major development and has had to build upon its ageing khlongs (canals) but it’s clear the river still sets the pace of this enchanting city. A tour on a hired long-tail boat splashing through the water is often the fastest and cheapest way to move around. Navigating along the river has more of an air of authenticity about it too, waving at the locals as they pass by, always with broad smiles on their faces (and a boat full of ingredients!).
While the temples and palaces alone are enough to fill a week, for me, Bangkok was all about getting a real feel for the city’s past and its extraordinary foodie culture. Taking a journey through Thon Buri, through its narrow canals, you witness an impervious maze of sounds and sights. I spent half a day alone walking through one of the markets, the huge Chatuchak Weekend Market, where you can buy literally anything. I tried crispy fried chicken feet, chilli-infused crunchy calamari, Som Tom Salad (known as ‘hot smash’ because of its flavours) and Mango Lassi – if you have a sweet tooth then you’ll love this fruit and honey yoghurt smoothie.
But venturing slightly out of the city to the floating market at Damnoen Saduak, just 2 hours south of the city – is where I saw the real joy and zeal of Thais buying and selling their freshly-grown and cooked wares from their curious boats. You get the real sense that the market is a deeply peaceful and spiritual texture of life, permeating everyone who takes part, something I have never witnessed in any other country I’ve visited. I could try to describe the sheer vibrancy and smells of the food but you should definitely witness this for yourself; words do not do it justice.
After spending just minutes in the market, I realised that Thai cooking has to be sweet, salty, sour and spicy, from one of the many cooks who liked to have a chat – if one of these flavours is ever missing, then the cook simply throws it out. It’s not worthy to be eaten. As such, Thai food is characterised by the use of coconut milk, chillies, nam plah (fish sauce) and lemongrass – embodying all of the necessary characteristics. It’s then that I realised the great amount of care that each cook takes over their dishes, it’s not just a natural culinary skill to them – it’s their integrity.
As I made my way through the street stalls and floating kitchens, you realise just how much you can treat your taste buds for so little Baht. Cheap, fresh, local food, like flavoursome chicken satay (skewered meat), is just an arm’s width away. I learnt to choose the busiest stalls, as the food there is likely to be freshly cooked, it’s here that I had the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring. It was so delicious; I had to have seconds knowing that I’d not come back for a while (sadly) and the best part, the cook let me have it for free! Incredible.
That’s not to say food is all there is on offer here, you can also buy local handicrafts, ornaments, clothes, fabrics and spices or visit the many Buddhist temples in the area, such as the iconic Phra Pathom Chedi, featuring the world’s tallest stupa. If you want a closer look, you can hire a boat, moor up and observe the temple. Be sure to take off your shoes and if you want to do it like the locals, you’re welcome to light an incense stick as a sign of respect.
Upon leaving Thailand, this floating market has always been my most treasured travel memory and its flavours are what I’ve been trying to re-create since, unfortunately to no avail. But coming pretty close is GLORIOUS! Soup’s dairy-free Sunny Thai Chicken.
When I’m heating this up at home or at work, I immediately reminisce about that day walking over innately carved wooden bridges, staring at the abundant colours of each fruit and vegetable beneath me loaded into each boat. The aroma from the chilli, fish sauce and coconut catapult me straight back into those streets, with that same recognisable spice-laden tinge. All this flavoursome soup needs is a hint of Sandalwood (not that you’d put this into food!), to add to its ginger, lime and lemongrass and it’d be the perfect antidote for my Thai wanderlust. This soup undoubtedly does the street chefs of Bangkok proud – bold but not overpowering.
I prefer my soup fresh off the hob or from the microwave, piping hot, meaning I can do that little blow on each spoonful to cool it down. For this soup, in particular, it made sense to add some extra spice with a few chilli flakes (glutton for punishment!) and add a few Thai fish crackers on the side.
What I love about GLORIOUS! Soups are that they’re excellent for spreading over two days – hot or cold. With non-leaky lids and already in a microwaveable tub, they’re ideal if you’d rather imagine yourself being anywhere but your desk! You’re free to re-live your foodie adventure day after day.
GLORIOUS! are an adventurous bunch. They source fresh ingredients, unearth authentic recipes and bring us bold flavours from around the world. With each flavour, or as they call it ‘Adventure’, they seek to bring countries to life, with soups packed full of genuine character and bold flavours.
They’re honest, innovative and exceed expectations. GLORIOUS!’ philosophy is simple – be adventurous through food and deliver a new experience with every mouthful. Because of this they’ve won a lot of awards, not just for their ingenious offering but also their unquestionable quality.
How do they do it, I hear you ask? A very talented team of chefs who have worked in top restaurants across the country, perfecting their flavours for years at a time – and it really shows.
You can pick your Sunny Thai Chicken meal soup up from all major supermarkets, including but not limited to Ocado, ASDA, Budgens and Sainsbury’s.
If you don’t fancy the flavours of Thailand, never fear, not only are there the regular GLORIOUS! flavours available to choose from, there’s also their SkinnyLicious offering too, ideal if you’re looking for a low-calorie but substantial treat. Let’s face it, I’m going to need these after Christmas!
This post was written in collaboration with GLORIOUS! Soups.