It’s unfortunate that when one mentions Bangkok these days, the first thing that people think of is violence and danger, no thanks to the ongoing Redshirt drama. Indeed, people are reconsidering and ultimately dropping Bangkok from their itineraries following recent violence in the city which saw a Japanese tourist wearing a red shirt get beaten, not to mention calls by Arthur Frommer – not once, but twice – to completely avoid not just Bangkok, but the entire nation of Thailand.

(As I’m writing this article, things have only gotten worse, so much so that I personally wouldn’t recommend going to Bangkok right now, either.)

And that’s a shame, because Bangkok is such a wonderful city. I visited it at the end of February this year, just a little over a month before the madness began, and I had a great time there. One of the major factors that contributed to my enjoyment of Bangkok was the food. All you need to do is walk around Bangkok, and you’ll find some great Thai food, either at a roadside stall, a sit-in restaurant, a marketplace, or anywhere within walking distance from the city’s major tourist attractions. Step outside the Royal Palace, for example, and you’ll be greeted by an entire area with plastic chairs and tables, large umbrellas, and signs advertising Pad Thai.

Thai street food stalls

In Bangkok, I was fortunate enough to reconnect with Mark Wiens, who I’d met in Manila the previous year thanks to CouchSurfing Also known as Migration Mark (or simply @migrationology to Tweeps in the know), Mark introduced me to some delicious authentic Thai food. It’s always great when you’re taken care of by someone who’s “in the know,” and Mark is definitely “in the know” when it comes to Thai food, as evidenced by his list of 100 Food Dishes To Eat Like a King in Bangkok: The Ultimate Thai Eating Guide.

with Thai food expert Mark Wiens (yes that's the best photo we have together)

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time and opportunity to try all 100 items on that list, or even the 40 Thai foods we can’t live without. Still, I had a taste of what real Thai food is like (it’s not just pineapple fried rice, people!).

After having some kao pad (Thai fried rice) in the morning from a tourist-targeted stall, and pad see eiu (Thai noodles) in the afternoon from a restaurant my Lonely Planet guidebook recommended, Mark personally brought me to a roadside restaurant that he frequented, and ordered up a feast of Thai food. Armed with a bottle of Coke and a tub of sticky rice (to combat the impending spiciness), we began eating… and wow. It was some of the most amazing food I’d ever had.

Here’s what we had (with thanks to Mark’s blogs for descriptions of the food).

Som Tam Thai

Som Tam Thai. It’s a spicy green papaya salad with tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, and string beans.

Larb Moo

Larb Moo. An Isaan minced pork dish with lime juice, mint leaves, cracked wheat, and onions. It’s a tasty treat perfect for dipping in balls of sticky rice and savoring the sauce.

Tom Saap Plah

Tom Saap Plah. Lemongrass soup with crushed lime leaves and floating pork. Deliciously spicy; I could not stop taking spoonfuls of the soup, with a chaser of Coke to douse the spiciness.

Nam Tok Moo

Nam Tok Moo. Grilled tender juicy pork neck, mixed with lemon juice, green onions, chili, mint sprigs, and fish sauce. I scarfed this one down and finished it pretty quickly; not necessarily because it was the most delicious, but just because it was the least spicy of the food we had.

By the end of the night, I’d consumed four bottles of Coke and one and a half tubs of sticky rice. It was a little too spicy for me (despite Mark’s best efforts to get the mildest food) but I couldn’t stop eating. It’s like an addiction; once you start, you can’t stop.

I’m looking forward to going back to Bangkok and trying the other food on Mark’s long list. Hopefully, the problems in Bangkok – and indeed, all of Thailand – will blow over soon, so people can go and enjoy awesome and authentic Thai cuisine.

If you enjoy Thai food as much as I do, pick up Mark’s brand new eBook, Eating Thai Food Guide.