THE Bangkok lifestyle mecca is the sixth shopping complex in the world that receives heavy foot traffic on a daily basis, most of which will be diners when the meal hour strikes.

That shouldn’t be a problem. CentralWorld carries more than 100 dining options on its multi-leveled floors, including a food court at the top storey. Fancy fare to budget meals, hungry diners will have to find the cuisine that suits his or her taste buds (and his wallet).

The thrifty have more reason to rejoice with the mall adding another option to its long list—the street food.

Street food is my kind of “Bangkok thing” (shopping is another) and this giant mall made the popular Thai fare accessible to everyone, locals and tourists alike, by setting up a big tent at the CentralWorld Square, the largest outdoor activity area in downtown Bangkok at 8,000 square meters in area.

The square flanking the Ratchaprasong Road is vast. Even with an art installation and couple of shrines erected on its opposite ends there is still a generous space to hold fairs, just like this street food fair.

According to the time of the year other fairs spring up—beer fest in October. Other than this, the food display seems to be taking up much of the calendar.

The inside of the mall can offer cool comfort from the city’s heat and humidity, but there is something about hitting the streets and feast on delicious yet cheap food.

The “open kitchen”, the unpretentious “al fresco” vibe and and the droplets of perspiration your cotton shirt absorb as you eat in the heat (of the spicy food and weather) add to the charm of the street dining experience.

Although there are street food stalls down the road, CentralWorld’s is across its doorstep and a whiff of what’s grilling is enough to make you decide you need not to go any further. It commands you to take your pick and enjoy the food in the covered, common dining area.

With the mall’s set up, seeking out my favorite barbecued chicken patty and sticky rice to match, and of course my all-time favorite Khao Neeo Mamuang (sticky rice with mango), is easy and most importantly, cheap (perhaps a few baht higher than “real” street food cost depending on the area). So are the other offerings such as fresh fruit juices, Phad Thai and other noodle dishes, pork and chicken stew and many more.

My three skewers of barbecued chicken patties, two servings of sticky rice portioned in clear plastic bags and bottled water cost 50Baht (P67), and the sticky rice with mango is 100Baht (P134), the total of which is a fraction of a cost than it’s fancier counterpart inside the mall. I was a very happy man. Busog!

My next trip will be in November. With the beer fest over, I am looking forward to another bout with my Thai comfort street food choices.

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