Too often food writing is either a lot of smug humblebragging involving Tom Colicchio and a bottle of wine or boring rambles on the provenance of a certain dish, which are about as exciting as a night out in Nana. Where is all the fun? Where is all the excitement? Where is all the murder and scheming and gore? If you are like me, you are probably looking for the tiniest excuse to insert completely unnecessary references to your favorite fantasy series in everything you write. And if you are like me, you will be looking for the slightest opportunity to read it. Yes? Right?
Therefore we need more “Game of Thrones”/Thai street food mash-ups, said no one, ever.
So, what’s your favorite street food dish? And who’s your favorite “Game of Thrones” character? If you don’t find either of them below, please complain to George RR Martin.
Bamee (egg noodles) = Tyrion Lannister
Everyone loves bamee. Show me a person who says they don’t like bamee, and I’ll show you a person who doesn’t really enjoy street food. Bamee – especially the version offered near the entrance to Ekamai 19 – is a universal crowd-pleaser, the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Thai street food. Sound like anyone you know from “A Song of Ice and Fire”? The “demon monkey” of King’s Landing is the character everyone at some point most identifies with – even series author George RR Martin himself has admitted it – which makes him the most popular guy in the entire series. So what if he becomes kind of a mopey boring loser in the later books? Oh yeah, SPOILERS.
Som tam Thai (Thai-style green papaya salad) = Cersei Lannister
Tart, hot and, of course, with enough of a sprinkling of crushed peanuts to make it wonderfully nutty: I’m talking about som tam, of course. There are many, many versions of this incredibly popular street food staple, but the most in-demand in Thailand’s own King’s Landing is, of course, the sugary-and-shrimpy som tam Thai, particularly those available at popular Isaan standbys like Polo Fried Chicken. Aside from a bucket of red wine, what other dish could be more evocative of Westeros’s current Queen Regent, who is the very definition of “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?”
Guaythiew lard na (stir-fried noodles in gravy) = Jon Snow
Stodgy, thick and slightly stolid, lard na is an intriguing mix of the heavy (wok-fried rice noodles and a “gravy” thickened with cornstarch and what is usually a hearty handful of pork or seafood) and light (a pickled chili pepper garnish and stir-fried greens). It’s a Chinese-inspired dish that relies on the interplay between contrasts: the slight char of the noodles with the goopiness of the sauce like the one at Krua Pornlamai on Soi Plangnam in Yaowaraj. Like lard na, Jon Snow is similarly burdened with this type of contrast: the heavy (his furs, his troubled brow) with the light (his brain in the last few seasons). Also like lard na, Jon Snow’s character improves upon more association.
Khao mun gai (Hainanese chicken rice) = Petyr Baelish
Another Chinese-inspired street food favorite, khao man gai is deceptively simple: steamed, slivered chicken set atop a mound of rice. It seems like the least complicated of foods, something you could feed to a child or an invalid, or even to someone as shell-shocked as Sansa Stark. It’s only when you make your own that you realize all the work that’s gone into it to ensure that the chicken is not a stringy, hardened mass of meat, that the rice is not a damp, chalky, flavorless accompaniment – a tightrope walk perfected at a place like Gai Tawn Pratunam on Petchburi Soi 30. Almost as deceptive is the Lord of the Eyrie himself, Littlefinger, who works day and night to look like he’s hardly working.
Khao thom pla (seafood rice porridge) = Doran Martell
Know who this dude is? Yeah, me neither. But really, not even book readers really know him. No one does. That is part of his charm. He is simply taken for granted. As is that most ubiquitous but least remarked-upon of street food dishes, khao thom: appreciated when you’re having stomach issues or are 80 years old or simply want a light meal, but ignored in favor of the flashier stuff when you’re feeling hotter to trot and want to have a good time. It’s a shame, because (like the head honcho in Dorne), khao thom pla is reliably good and can even be remarkable. Take for example, the version at Sieng Gi in Chinatown: filled to the brim with fresh pomfret or oysters and seasoned with a sauce as dark and rich as a thousand Dornish suns.
Photo: Esme Vos
Editor’s note: This article is best enjoyed whilst playing the “Game of Thrones” theme song embedded below. Please press play and read again from the top.