Take your tastebuds on a trip through time by sampling Nang Lerng market's tried and tested recipes
Nang Lerng market has come of age. As one of the oldest markets in Bangkok, it has just celebrated over a century of trading with a facelift. The sprucing up has removed the clutter and made the walkways cleaner while keeping all the old charms of the historic market intact. “Renovating Nang Lerng market is one of many projects of the Crown Property Bureau,” says Chanoknatt Simpalik, the bureau’s chief of customer relations. “Nang Lerng market is distinctive because it was one of the most important markets in inner Bangkok over a century ago when this area of the city was very prosperous. The market used to be a centre of multicultural commerce for all the various communities living in the city back then.” Growing up alongside the city, Nang Lerng market offers a lot of historical insights in terms of both the food and the architecture. You’ll still see a lot of old shophouses cluttered around the market, many still adorned with old-style wooden facades and structures. The shophouses here are narrower and smaller than the modern day equivalent, with the living rooms tucked away in the back. Along with buildings that suggest a former era, Nang Lerng is also the place to find old-style delicacies to please the palate. Surrounding the market area are shop houses belonging to vendors who have passed on the recipes for their best-selling products from generation to generation. At Nang Lerng’s oldest sago shop, the fourth generation ancestor of the founder still hand-makes each bite of pork sago – or steamed pork-stuffed sago – using traditional methods hailing from around 100 years ago. “You can see the picture of the founders of this place right there,” says the grand nephew of the late Sa-ing of Sago Mae Sa-ing shop. “We still do everything in the way she passed on to us and no one else can imitate the recipes.” Sago bites are eaten with fresh lettuce, sprigs of cilantro and fresh green chillies. The price is Bt20 for a box and you can choose between pork, fish, and shrimp, while the stall also offers kao-grieb pak mor (similar to sago but different flour wrap), kao tang na tang (rice cracker and creamy coconut shrimp dip) and kao tang miang lao (rice cracker with sour preserved side dish). Next to Mae Sa-ing is the famous sai-grok pla naem shop with three big bowls of fresh ingredients (fish and pork sausages, minced dry fish and vegetables) the owner mixes for each customer. A pack of this traditional Thai snack is Bt20. Opposite the sai-grok pla naem shop is the hoy krok gung krok stall where the owner adapts the batter used for hoy tod (crispy fried oyster or mussels) to create a smaller, snack sized version. This stall attracts long queues, especially at lunchtime. Further in there’s the Nanta Thai dessert shop. Nanta makes 20 varieties of desserts wrapped in small palm leaves. Customers can choose from tago (sago-based dessert with coconut cream on top), kanom gluay (banana), kanom tan (sugar palm), and a variety of sweet sticky rice with toppings like egg custard or sangkaya, krachiek or coconut, shrimp and fish). A box is Bt20. Nantha also has a sister, Nok, whose warm kanom tuay (steamed palm and coconut cake) is sublime. They are delivered fresh out of the steamer when each customer places an order. Nang Lerng market is a gastronomic paradise. An old auntie sells sticky rice and deep fried pork and beef at one corner and opposite her stall is one of Bangkok’s best duck shops, Sor Roongroj. The best option for parking is at the nearby Wat Sommanat for Bt20 the first hour and Bt10 for the next. Or if you know the area pretty well, you could be lucky enough to find a space alongside the canal next to the market – but you’ll find plenty of competition hungry to sample this old-timer’s wonderful wares.