A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.



Or Tor Kor Market

Posted date:  June 4, 2008
7 Comments


Hor mork, steamed curries, for sale at Bangkok's Or Tor Kor Market

Long known as the city’s most upscale market, Or Tor Kor Market is also probably my favourite place to shop in Bangkok. This has nothing to do with its chi-chi reputation; I’ve been shopping here since I moved to Bangkok in the late 90’s, and the market has a great selection of just about everything, from high-quality ingredients to a decent dish of curry. It’s relatively close to my house, and after a thorough renovation about three years ago, is now cleaner, better organized and more well-lit than ever. I’ve mentioned the market quite a few times on these pages, but have never really done blog specifically about it. I’m hoping to follow this up with profiles of some of Bangkok’s other significant markets in the coming weeks.

Or Tor Kor is mostly known for its giant–and often expensive–fruit, but you can pick up just about anything there, including veggies from this couple who’ve been selling at the market just as long as I can remember:

Two vendors selling vegetables at Bangkok's Or Tor Kor Market

Tourists in particular are drawn to Or Tor Kor’s selection of insanely immense shellfish, but at a markedly less impressive stall, Mr Sanyaa has been selling freshwater fish, the majority from the northern province of Nakhorn Sawan, for more than 10 years. He’s incredibly enthusiastic about his products, voluntarily lifting and explaining the pedigree of each, and claims to sell only freshly caught (not raised) fish, including this meaty plaa buek (giant Mekong catfish):

Plaa buek, giant Mekong catfish, for sale at Sanyaa, a longstanding stall selling freshwater fish at Bangkok's Or Tor Kor Market

If you’re in no mood to cook, there’s lots of prepared food you can take home delicious hor mok, steamed curries (shown at the top of this post) which, as shown above, tend to sell out pretty quickly, or a bag of curry to go from Mae Malee, an incredibly popular and longstanding curry stall just across the way:

The variety of curries for sale at Mae Malee, a longstanding stall at Bangkok's Or Tor Kor Market

If you can’t wait until you make it home, there are lots of snacks too. Mr Tii has been making and selling his tasty khanom khrok, crispy coconut puddings, at Or Tor Kor for more than 25 years now:

Mr Tii making khanom khrok, crispy coconut puddings as he's done for more than 25 years at Or Tor Kor Market, Bangkok

He reckons the renovation has made the market better and has even improved his sales, as he’s not located on the outermost edge any more. Mr Tii also claims that despite the rise in rent that came as a result of the renovation, most of the same vendors have remained and still sell their stuff at Or Tor Kor.

If you like Thai sweets, there are some delicious sticky rice treats:

Sticky rice treats at Khanomthai Kao Peenong, a family-owned sweets shop at Bangkok's Or Tor Kor Market

and khanom taan, cornbread-like cakes of steamed palm sugar at Khanomthai Kao Peenong, a family-owned Thai sweets vendor that dominates the centre of the market.

You can also stop by Or Tor Kor for lunch or dinner, although there are better places in town to sit down to a meal, and anyway, there are never enough seats during the lunchtime rush. One reliable stall is Rot Det, whose tremendous variety of curries, soups and stir-fries have been available at Or Tor Kor for ‘only about 10 years’ according to one worker:

Getting lunch at Raan Rot Det, a longstanding curry stall at Bangkok's Or Tor Kor Market

For a larger version of this image go here.

Steps away from Rot Det, I came across a stall I had never seen before, selling kung op woon sen, shrimp and glass noodles:

Kung op woon sen, shrimp and glass noodles, Or Tor Kor Market, Bangkok

I had never noticed it before because it was new; less than a week old, confessed the owner. After recently graduating from a professional cooking course at Kasetsart University, she and her husband (and baby) decided to open up a stall at the market. Her take was deliciously peppery, but as she used margarine instead of the more traditional pork fat (a result of her Western-style cooking education, she explained), it lacked the richness I normally associate with kung op woon sen.

Another reason to visit the market is the abundance of regional Thai food. There at least four stalls selling various products from Thailand’s north, and at least three stalls selling southern Thai food, including Jiap’s, whose Phuket-style naam yaa pak tai, a fish-based coconut curry that is by far the mildest of all her excruciatingly spicy dishes, is pretty good:

Jiap, a native of Phuket, serving up southern-style naam yaa, a fish curry over fresh rice noodles, from her stall at Bangkok's Or Tor Kor Market

The food of Thailand’s northeast is represented by Sut Jai Kai Yaang, a stall (with an nearby, but noisy restaurant), that has served som tam and grilled chicken at Or Tor Kor for more than 30 years now:

Making som tam at Sut Jai Kai Yaang, a stall that has sold isaan food from Bangkok's Or Tor Kor Market for 30 years

They sell do-it-yourself som tam kits with everything you’d need (except the mortar and pestle–but those can also be bought nearby), something I’d never seen elsewhere.

In recent years, I’ve tended to visit Or Tor Kor primarily for its handsome branch of the Doi Kham or Royal Projects store, located directly east of the market. There you can get high-quality, Western-style produce grown in northern Thailand for ridiculously cheap. A recent visit revealed hard-to-find items such as sweet lemons, Italian parsley, rhubarb and smoked trout. At the west end of the market is another shop selling similar products from a different project; they have tiny bottles of wonderfully creamy goat milk and on occasion, a decent liver pate.

See the entire photoset of images from today’s trip to Or Tor Kor Market here.

Or Tor Kor Market (Google Maps link)


7 Comments for Or Tor Kor Market


Austin,

Nice shots (as usual) but speaking as a photographer, I just did not find the market to be as interesting or inspiring as it was prior to the renovations. To me there’s a human element that is now missing. Somehow, it doesn’t have the same feel or level of energy that it had. Who’s to say?

Dave

you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t huh

personally I’m all for hygiene, even if it does remove a certain “human element”

Wow, I was surprised to see that pa beuk being sold in the market. I hope you took advantage of the opportunity to sample it, because it’s very rare and probably on its way to extinction.

Speaking of renovations, there has been a fairly recent makeover of the “food court” section.

It was great to meet you at Khao Cooking School in April – coming back to Thailand (Bangkok)and their school January 14-22. You still around.

[…] Two excellent writers on food in Thailand are big fans or Or Tor Kor: check out Leela’s memories of Or Tor Kor, and Austin Bush’s beautiful photography of the market. […]

To elgin: pla buek is far from being extinct. It has been seeded in various lakes and reservoirs in Thailand, and it is also reared on farm for food. Sadly though, its native habitat and population in the Mekhong River is suffering. Chinese blasting of rapids near Chiang Saen to create a channel for their freight boats has been a major blow as that is thought to be their spawning area.



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