LSF On Tour: Trang street food market, Southern Thailand

Saiphin Moore, founder of Rosa’s Thai Cafes, cooks up the bounty bought from a market in Trang Province, Southern Thailand (Photo: Victoria Stewart)

Once you’ve been to a Southern Thai food market with Saiphin Moore and her son Richard, you never forget it.

On the day we – another food journalist Mike, a photographer and some of Saiphin’s staff (she’s the co-founder of London’s growing Thai restaurant chain, Rosa’s Thai Cafe) – visited Talad Sod Thetsabin market in Trang Province, southern Thailand, it was one of those seriously wet days where it felt as if the sky would never stop bawling its eyes out.

It was early January, and the countryside was unusually flooded: cars sloshed through water, palm trees stood up to their nobbly knees in muddy liquid, people ferried things between the houses that were full of water and those that weren’t.

After the van had pulled in alongside the market, we all did a kind of mad run dash, leaping from its steps to the protection of the roof canopy, with Saiphin shouting “Quiiick! Run, run, run!” at us from her seat on the bus.

Inside, the atmosphere was hopping with movement; a gigantic blast of noise – chatter, and chopping and the rustle of plastic bags – unleashed itself around the place. I saw a mesmorising, delicious feast of fresh and dried produce.

A pile of fruit bought from the market in Trang, Southern Thailand (Photo: Victoria Stewart)

A pile of fruit bought from the market in Trang, Southern Thailand (Photo: Victoria Stewart)

There were dried fish (namely anchovies and prawns which you can eat as snacks or chuck into all manner of dishes); street food snacks like pork on skewers and pieces of pork sausage; sweet and savoury coconut pancakes; bananas deep fried until they were soft and sweet; piles of fresh fruit; and there were trays and trays of Southern Thai curries like gaeng masumam (coconut milk curry of fresh herbs and dried curry powder), hot gaeng sohm often (the famous ‘orange’ fish curry known because of the use of turmeric and sour pineapple), and geang tai pla (made with fermented head or innards of mackerel).

Gathering my senses, I turned around to find that Saiphin and Richard had disappeared. But, then, a few minutes later there he was speeding towards us, his hands filled with tiny clear plastic bags with goodies in them.

“OH MY GOD,” he exclaimed. “OH MY GOD, I LOVE THIS. THIS PLACE IS AMAZING. I LOVE MARKETS,” he boomed, fizzing with excitement as he thrust the bags at us and exclaimed that “YOU HAVE TO TRY THESE.”

A bucket of batter to dip whole chickens in, Trang, Southern Thailand (Photo: Victoria Stewart)

First of all, out of a bag he revealed some tiny little pork balls covered in honey, absolutely excellent and which Richard claimed were his favourite thing in the “entire world.” Five minutes later he was off again, grabbing us to go in search of chicken skewers, more deep fried bananas, and street food snacks.

Walking past a pile of sliced-up mangoes, I bought some and ate them straight out of a little plastic bag, with sugar, salt and chilli, as is customary. Five of us licked sticky fingers, then gazed around for our next treat.

“OH MY GOD,” said Saiphin’s voice from behind us, and we turned around to find her laden with shopping bags.


Frogs at market in Trang Southern Thailand (Photo: Victoria Stewart)

Frogs at market in Trang Southern Thailand (Photo: Victoria Stewart)

“I’ve got everything I need for lunch today. I am going to COOK for you all. We are going to have frogs, we are going to have chicken, we are going to have all these herbs and noodles, we are going to have EVERYTHING. You are going to LOVE this.”

“Look!” she pointed out a box of frogs crawling around in a box.

Coffee in a bag, Trang, Southern Thailand (Photo: Victoria Stewart)

Coffee in a bag, Trang, Southern Thailand (Photo: Victoria Stewart)

Next we careered over to a coffee stand and in we dived – the coffee was bulked up with sickly condensed milk (that’s the ‘non-sweet’ version – I can’t imagine how sickly the sweet version could be) – before bouncing around the various other produce stalls. We eyed up piles of tiny dried anchovies and prawns, colossal peppers and chillies, and stacks of leafy veg. To the right of us, three women hacked up pigs’ heads with such vigour that I thought they might fly off the shelf.

Finally, as I watched a man dip an entire chicken in an old oil drum filled with batter, I waited to see if he would lift it out -I wanted to watch it spit on the grill.

But there were Saiphin’s familiar squeals of excitement:

“OK, We’re going home now, it’s time to COOK. Ooooh, I’m so excited.”

And with that, each of us dumbfounded by the noise and the colour and the flavours, we climbed into the van and pulled away through the puddles, wondering what Saiphin would cook up.

A table covered with curries cooked up by Saiphin Moore, co-founder of Rosa's Thai Cafe (Photo: Victoria Stewart)

A table covered with curries cooked up by Saiphin Moore, co-founder of Rosa’s Thai Cafe (Photo: Victoria Stewart)

Huai Yod, Pienprom Road; find it

There are several branches of Rosa’s Thai Cafe in London;


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