Guide to Krabi Night Market
A whirl of lights and colours, a heady mixture of sweet, spicy and savoury aromas,
and the competing calls of the stall holders inviting customers to sample their wares
greet me as I arrive again at the Krabi Night market, probably my favourite place to eat in Krabi.
The rich purple of the mangosteens and vibrant red of the rambutans, just coming into season, and the entreaties of the flowers sellers, tempt me to linger, but first I have to complete my mission. If I don’t hurry, the sticky rice and mango, undoubtedly the
pinnacle of Thai culinary achievement, will be sold out, leaving me desolate, and desertless.
Tonight I’m in luck. I buy a plate of perfectly ripe mango slices, gleaming sticky rice topped with crunchy soy beans, and a serving of rich coconut cream sweetened with palm sugar, and with great self control manage to save it for later.
Instead, I make a stop at the “tot mun pla” stall. The ladies here are busy at their huge vat of boiling oil, frying batch after batch of
traditional Thai fish cakes and also a local variety; pellet shaped rather than flat and laced with curry paste and coconut, these
crunchy treats have become an addiction I am helpless to resist
The variety of street food on sale at the market is bewildering. A favourite of mine is
“hoi tot” or mussel omelette. Plump orange sea mussels are shelled and coated in a batter made from sticky rice powder, then dropped onto a sizzling griddle. Next the cook drops on an egg straight from the shell, and uses two iron spatula to mix and turn the ingredients, drizzling them with shiny, hot oil till the mussels are crisp and evenly coated. Finally, a generous handful of fresh bean shoots are heated through and placed on the plate as a bed for the mussels. Sprinkled with black pepper, spring onions and chopped coriander, and eaten with sweet chilli sauce, it is hard to pass up; but I walk on.
At the same stall, a queue has already formed for a plate of “pad thai”, the flat rice noodles fried with egg, shrimps or chicken, bean shoots and diced tofu which has become
perhaps the best known Thai food in the world. Again, I do not succumb.
Pausing briefly, I consider a tantalising
display of golden piles of Thai “finger food”: delicate spring rolls, stuffed and battered tofu, dumplings of minced and spiced chicken and prawns encased in a fine rice powder pastry, and breaded fish eggs, a local delicacy. My resolve remains strong.
Another local snack is made from a mixture of minced prawns which is moulded around sticks of raw sugar
cane then barbequed. The sweetness of the roasting cane pervades the meat, which is eaten by dragging it off with your teeth, releasing yet more sugary juice from the cane fibres.
Perhaps sweeter still is the dazzling smile of the young chef, busy behind her grill. Yet I resist.
The next assault on my senses comes from another grill. Here marinated pork threaded onto skewers,
garlicky pork and chicken sausages, and whole barbequed fish laid out on fresh green banana leaves form a mouth watering picture with a scent to match. But not tonight.
My destination, by earlier agreement with my husband on the drive into town, is Ibrahim’s Curry Stall, a night market institution, popular with locals and tourists alike. A sign on the wall in English offers Muslim food at local prices, and Ibrahim and his sons offer a warm welcome to any foreigners willing to try out his cooking.
Open every day except Thursdays, Ibrahim’s curries regularly sell out early in the evening, so it you want to choose from the full range, don’t come too late. It may seem confusing, even frightening to the uninitiated, but Ibrahim will take the time to tell you in English what each dish is, give a spiciness rating and even offer tastes.
The choice is slightly different each night but there is always a variety of spicy curries including Massaman, a slightly sweet Southern curry made with chicken and sweet potatoes, super spicy duck curried with the young shoots of coconut palms and catfish stir fried with curry paste.
If you prefer something milder, there is often roasted chicken pieces in a tamarind sauce served with steamed greens, some local green vegetables boiled in coconut milk, some fried fish pieces in a soy sauce, fried marinated beef, “cha-om” omelette - thick pieces of egg cooked with these intensely flavoured fern shoots, and “son-in-law” eggs – boiled eggs fried in batter then doused in a sweet and tangy tamarind sauce and sprinkled with fresh coriander.There is always spicy beef soup, a Muslim speciality, or a cooling vegetable broth to balance the heavier dishes.
Whatever you choose, it comes with a large platter of fresh “salad” leaves, and chopped cucumbers and long green beans. Stainless steel jugs of cool drinking water are on the table and you can help yourself to soft drinks from the fridge.
As usual, we roll out, appetites replete, after a huge meal of four dishes with rice, still paying only a fraction of the price of a meal on the tourist strip. As we walk out, the colourful display of freshly fried Thai donuts with a creamy green custard flavoured with pandanus leaves, sesame balls with yellow bean or coconut filling or rich coconut milk and egg yolk puddings causes only a slight pang of regret at my over full stomach.