The Frugal Foodies were recently in Thailand, and you better believe we dove into the cheap street food scene of fresh noodle dishes, spicy curries, and countless servings of mango sticky rice. Thai food in Thailand is centered on regional spices, fresh curry pastes, and local ingredients, making for a flavor profile that is different than what you’ll taste elsewhere in the world; if a spice is dried or a paste comes from a jar, it just isn’t the same.
Twenty-four hours back in New York, and we were already missing southeast asian flavors. After the obligatory bagel and pizza, we headed to Thai Market on the Upper West Side for our first 2020 30 Under 30.
Long Story Short
Thai Market is an Upper West Side spot that has all your Thai classics from Massaman curry to Pad Thai in a relaxed environment jammed with locals and Columbia students. The dishes don’t quite compare to food off the street in Bangkok, but Thai Market packs in some authentic flavors at reasonable prices, making it a great stop if you find yourself in the area.
The decoration is slightly cheesy with mishmashed hanging lights and photos on the walls attempting to evoke Thai street food culture. While we weren’t swept back to Thailand, the low lighting and industrial colors were cozy and comfortable. To be fair, it’s hard to replicate a Thai street food experience if the venue is up to health code.
Our waitress was more authentic than the décor, and she was quick to the point to collect our order, deliver the food, and take our money. In Thailand, it is common that the person behind the wok is the person taking your order, taking your money, and serving you the food, making for an efficient get-in get-out operation. More servings of Pad Thai= more money, meaning the less dilly dallying the better!
At Thai Market, there was no petty chit-chat or shooting the breeze, which reminded us more of Asia than the ambiance.
Our Thai go-tos while traveling were panang curry, Massaman curry, chicken satay, pineapple fried rice, and Pad Se-ew. In Ko Samui, an Island in Thailand, we happened upon a beach front restaurant while motor scooting around. It had a couple pool tables, terribly sweet coffee (no milk no sugar is hard to communicate in South East Asia), and some of the best Thai food with robust, tear-inducing curries packed with fresh thai basil, homemade curry paste, and plenty of spices.
It’s safe to say our standards are pretty high….
Thai Market gives its best attempts at recreating a real Thai flavor, but at the end of the day, the climate in the USA is totally different than that of Thailand. Fresh, regionally-unique herbs and spices that make homecooked Thai food pop just aren’t available here. However, our Panang curry had a nice peanut flavoring with hints of sweetness. And pad se-ew is always delicious… how can you not love stir-fired hearty, thick noodles coated in soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar tied together with veggies, egg, and meat? The flavors were descent and we scarfed it down in no time.
Thai food in New York can cost a pretty penny, which is quite different than the heaps of noodles you get in Thailand for $2 USD. For reference, at Terminal 21 in Pattaya, we scored Pad Thai, soup, mango sticky rice, ice cream, a passionfruit smoothie, and papaya salad for under $7 USD. Read about it HERE!
Food that cheap doesn’t exist in New York (if you find it, let us know), but Thai Market is reasonably priced for the quantity and quality of food you get. Most entrées are less than $15, making it a hitch to stay under $30 while walking away full.
Panang Curry with Chicken: $12.95
Pad Se-Ew with Chicken: $12.95
There is a lunch special for $9.95 that includes an appetizer and an entrée!
Katie and Jeremy