Khao Niao Mamuang is the Thai name for the famous mango and sticky rice dessert for which the country is known. I could eat it all day long if I had the chance. In probably my final ever visit to Sukhumvit Soi 38 – Bangkok’s premier street food haunt – before it gets demolished for a luxury block of flats, I decided to once again go manic for mangoes!
Sukhumvit Soi 38 offers a great initiation into Thai street food. Located only a few steps from the BTS at Thong Lor, it is a real contrast with the smarter restaurants that line Sukhumvit Road. Here you will eat on the street at a wobbly metal table with cars dodging the carts and stalls that line the road and the occasional friendly soi dog jogging by looking hopefully for some scraps – but I think this kind of experience is what we all love about Thai street food! The food is tasty, cheap and arrives quickly, and most menus are in English making it easy to make your choice. Unlike some street food stalls, those on soi 38 are pretty hygienic and the ingredients are extremely fresh!
Like many food streets you can grab a table anywhere along soi 38 and order from a selection of stalls. The owners don’t mind, and friendly staff will even run your other dishes over to your table. Although street food on soi 38 has become popular with visitors to Bangkok, it has stayed in favour with locals as well. Sometimes they dine by the road, and occasionally you will see the driver of a luxury taxi jump out to grab some takeaway dishes for their backseat passengers. The road changes throughout the night, with some restaurants only open until 8pm, at which time they are replaced by other stalls that operate well into the early hours of the morning!
Another great stall for dessert on Soi 38 is the Mango and Sticky Rice stall, which is run by two smiley ladies, serving up generous portions of juicy fruit and rice covered in a coconut sauce for only 60 Baht. It was this stall that made me come to Soi 38 in the first place!
Khao Niao Mamuang is probably my favourite dessert in the world (although I could change my mind on a daily basis, so don’t quote me on it!), and I have tried the authentic Thai version in many places around Bangkok. Yet the mango and sticky rice stall at Soi 38 is known to many backpackers as the finest place in the whole city to sample what is probably Thailand “national dessert”. What you have to remember is that, unlike in other countries, Thais consider dessert to be almost a full meal in itself, not just a light bite to enjoy after a meal. This makes Thai desserts rather more fulsome than, say, desserts from the Far East like Taiwan’s Xue Hua Bing, Japan’s Mochi, or even Baesuk from South Korea. So lots of fresh mango (the thicker the slices, the better) with a very generous portion of ‘heavy’ sticky rice is par for the course in Thailand! I just cannot get enough of this dessert known as Khao Niao Mamuang!
It’s a shame that Soi 38, which has been a firm favourite among backpackers over the decades, can no longer be part of our Bangkok itineraries. But obviously time moves on, and with the construction of new luxury flats, we must acknowledge that things cannot stay the same forever. One thing, however, will never change: the enduring popularity of mango desserts in Thailand!