Or Tor Kor is a fascinating place to stroll about, enjoy a few snacks, and view a slice of Thailand at its best.
by Michael Moore.
Thailand is packed with outdoor markets where farmers sell their products. Sometimes they appear as if by magic on predetermined days in fields located along country roads. More permanent versions appear on a daily basis in vast sheds located in towns and cities. They are fascinating places with an array of fish, meat, poultry and produce often not seen in other parts of the world.
Like automobiles, they range in quality from beat-up jalopies to sparkling luxury models. The top model – Thailand’s Bentley so to speak – is Or Tor Kor (pronounced Aw Taw Kaw), located adjacent to Bangkok’s famous Chatuchak Weekend Market. Described by CNNGO as the fourth “best wet market” in the world, it is easily reached by taking the MRT subway to Kamphaeng Phet station and then departing at exit 3, the one marked “Marketing Organization for Farmers.” When you emerge from beneath the ground, you will be in Or Tor Kor.
Although many factors contribute to its premier status, one of the most prominent is cleanliness. Or Tor Kor sparkles with frequently mopped white tile floors and well-tended booths mounded with fruits, vegetables, pots of curry paste and a host of other items. But it is much more than simply a place that puts a smile on the face of health department officials.
To go on sale at this market, products must be of the highest quality; second-rate items simply don’t appear. This is one of the main reasons it is so popular with restaurant owners and others seeking the finest fruit and produce available. For those looking for football-sized pomelos, mangoes without a single dark spot, or gigantic apples with equally large price tags, Or Tor Kor is where they will find what the are looking for.
Although many things are sold here, the fruit available is probably the most remarkable. Thailand is noted for its vast selection of tropical fruits and when they are in season, all of them make an appearance. Durian, the infamously pungent fruit encased in a spiky skin, was in season during our visit and several varieties of it were prominently displayed. We also saw numerous fruits rarely found in Western markets, including rambutan, jackfruit, dragon fruit and custard apples. A wide variety of dried fruit is also available, including tasty slices of dried durian and mango.
Or Tor Kor specializes in local products, but the Thai love for fruit causes exceptions to be made. We saw quality blackberries and navel oranges from the USA; beautiful apples from Japan; and beautiful avocados from Australia.
The market is also a great place to find the finest vegetables available in Thailand. Of special note is the special shop featuring items from Royal Projects in the north of Thailand. Here you will find things like beautiful leeks; a variety of types of lettuce; and wide selection of fresh “Western-style’ spices like oregano, thyme and rosemary.
The market also has one of the best selections of seafood to be found in Bangkok. A real mind-blower are the gigantic fresh water prawns – they are the size of lobsters! There is also a wide selection of fresh fish that includes several items seldom seen in other local markets, including mullet, flounders, rock fish (think bouillabaisse) and groupers. For those who like things really fresh, several seafood items – like swimmer crabs – are available live in tanks.
Yes, Or Tor Kor is a market where people by products to take away with, but it is also a capital place to have breakfast, lunch or a snack. Foreigners often avoid Bangkok’s famous “street food” because of fears about cleanliness, but this concern diminishes significantly at sparkling clean Or Tor Kor. A good way to start is with a unique fruit juice like the incredibly delicious passion fruit juice. Then progress on to a tasty curry, perhaps a mussel omelet cooked on a huge steel pan, or some delicious Chiang Mai-style sausage. And for those who simply want a cup of coffee, it is available in several forms using locally grown beans.
Even if you are not interested in shopping, Or Tor Kor is a fascinating place to stroll about, enjoy a few snacks and view a slice of Thailand at its best. We highly recommend it as a place to visit.