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BANGKOK: Bangkok, a city famous for its street food, has a special attraction every year during the month of Ramadan: a halal food market. Visitors come from all over to sample varieties of traditional Thai Muslim delicacies.
The Thai capital is often considered to have the best street food in the world. It has long attracted migrants from all over Asia, so street food is influenced by many cuisines.
There are tens of thousands of street vendors in Bangkok. During Ramadan, those in Bangkok’s Ratchathewi district gain special prominence among foodies in the evening, selling rotis, curries, noodles, kebabs and grilled meat with peanut sauce and murtabak – pancakes fries stuffed with eggs, chives and minced meat.
Islam is a minority religion in predominantly Buddhist Thailand, where only about 5% of the population is Muslim. They mainly reside in the four southernmost provinces of the country: Satun, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
In Ratchathewi, an alleyway, Petchabury 7, is the center of Ramadan cuisine, where loyal visitors including Lek, 60, have been coming for years during the holy month.
“I don’t live in this area,” Lek told Arab News while ordering a Pattani-style chicken curry. “But I come to this street market every year during Ramadan to try the food.”
One of the most popular places is TeHo, a Pattani store right at the entrance of the alley. It is popular with young people who eat roti and drink tea there until the wee hours of the morning. During Ramadan, the shop sells hundreds of rotis every day.
“My husband was from Pattani and he told me that in the deep south provinces, this kind of little shop – selling roti and hot tea or coffee – is on every corner,” Kulchalee Na Pattani, who has been running TeHo for 14 years, says Arab News. “There were no stores like this here until he opened one.”
Besides various kinds of sweet and savory roti, TeHo also sells halal beef and chicken curry, as well as chicken and beef murtabak. A full meal will cost no more than $3.
For Nisrin Chekoh, a 24-year-old student visiting TeHo with a friend, it’s not just about the food but also the atmosphere.
“Roti is (easy) to find in Bangkok, but I like the atmosphere of this shop where you can sit for a long time and relax. And it opens at night, so it’s a good place to hang out,” she said. “My favorite dish is roti bomb – fried roti with lots of butter – and my friend loves roti with cheese.”
Although most tables along the aisle are full, vendors say there are still fewer visitors than before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“This street food market was busy with more vendors and visitors coming to buy food,” said Kusuma Poomdokmai, who sells halal desserts. “This market is only open during Ramadan. There is a lot of halal food which is not very common to find.
But as we are only halfway through Ramadan, Poomdokmai added that she hopes sales will continue to pick up steam.