2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

The One Redeeming Factor of a Long Commute and Not Enough Time

The One Redeeming Factor of a Long Commute and Not Enough Time

Ketchup on Bread in Bangkok

The bun is stuffed with pork floss that pokes through its surface like coarse hair that just can’t be tamed. There are raisins inside it, too. Lines of faux mayo provide an artful touch.

There’s bacon wrapped around cocktail weenies on sticks. There’s a slice of pizza that’s really just a piece of bread topped with corn, ham, and ketchup. There are crab sticks inside salad rolls made of translucent rice paper. They come with flavored salad cream (i.e. the same faux mayo, but laced with wasabi paste or sweet chili sauce). There are rows of sandwiches with their crusts cut off, soft triangles packaged in plastic—red pork, fish, pork floss and egg, boiled hot dog and salad cream, mackerel, tuna, and what could possibly be roe. There are mystery meatballs slathered in a gooey brown sauce of unknown provenance.

Breakfast in Bangkok mirrors the on-the-go morning ritual in other metropolises around the world. A growing lower-middle class—much of it young and freshly graduated—commutes to the city center every morning with the BTS sky train, the well-known steel worm inching along tracks above Sukhumvit and Silom Roads. The sky train has a daily ridership of something like 600,000. Between 8 am and 9 am, heaving masses alight at busy stations in the CBD, and it’s these clock-punching people who often don’t have time for a traditional sit-down breakfast, like jok (rice porridge) or khai luak, a soft-boiled egg served in a kind of shot glass that usually accompanies Thai tea or old-style coffee called gafae bolan.

A young chef named Poupée, who owns a popular Anglo-driven restaurant called Burgers & Bangers, told me that Thai people have always liked flavor combinations that seem odd to Western palates, like crab stick and salad cream. She added that the adoption of foreign items, like bread and lettuce and even the sushi roll, is associated with prestige. The fusion breakfast items provide an aura of privilege.

So, from Monday to Friday we see crab-stick crepes instead of rice and curry, chicken puffs instead of porridge. A good number of Bangkok’s workers look forward to these morning meals, and we can all appreciate a breakfast truly enjoyed.

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