We're in Bangkok on a short assignment. Less than twenty-four hours we've been here, and my oh my have we eaten well.
Two hours ago: gaeng het (mushroom curry), a big bowl of love cooked up on Thanon Larn Luang by a cart-pushing Isaan native. Her fungi-packed display case (cloud ear and oyster mushrooms, meaty het lom, and various other unidentifiables) stopped us dead in our tracks. A gander at the array of greens on her cutting board decided us on an order.
Gaeng het prep is quick: a couple ladels of broth (slightly herbal, very vegetal) into the pan, followed by handfuls of cubed pumpkin and loofah gourd, a spoonful of pickled something, and plenty of each variety of mushroom. After it's brought to the boil the curry is seasoned with bplaa raa, fish sauce, chopped fresh chilies to taste, and white pepper.
In go plenty of chopped greens - pumpkin vine, something resembling Vietnamese rice paddy herb - and, if you like it sour, copious slivers of a long green and reddish shiny leaf that tastes a lot like lime (but isn't lime leaf). A fistful of chopped cha om and basil finish the dish.
This must is the most restaurant-like street food we've ever had. It made us long for a proper table and chairs, a side of sticky rice, the setting in and time with which to linger over it. Still, standing on a curb, passing the bowl back and forth, we basked in the rich meatiness of the mushrooms, the curry's brilliantly green vegetal notes, its bracing spiciness (we asked for extra chile), the light sourness offset by sweet pumpkin, and the mild little hits of white pepper heat that competed for attention with boldly fishy bplaa raa.
This vendor is ever on the move, but her gaeng het is well worth the hunt. Try the market on Thanon Larn Luang by the bridge, in the evenings.