Alright, y’all come in real close. We need have a heart to heart about Chatuchak market. If you’re new to the weekend market, most commonly known to locals as ‘JJ Market’. Finding good food at this giant market of 8,000 or more stalls is difficult. The recent rise in rent prices has also put a lot of pressure on vendors who are expected to have cheap food for the masses. I have eaten a lot of rushed, unhygienic Thai food in JJ market and wanted to throw together some suggestions to help you find the best things to eat and not be wandering the market hangry and dissatisfied.
Here’s what to look for at the weekend market, including two delicious spots you should check out if you don’t mind leaving the market grounds in search of a great meal.
1. Coconut Ice Cream, Thai Popsicles, and Cold Fruit Drinks
This is great news if you’re being overwhelmed by the heat, but bad news if you’re not planning to be diabetic later in life. Yes, Chatuchak (also spelled Jatujak) Weekend Market is full of cold, sweet, and sugary drinks or snacks. This includes the famous coconut ice cream which costs about $1 and is usually served with a shot of coconut water (they usually have a few toppings which they will charge extra for such as candied fruit, grass jelly, and nuts). The ice cream is sold all over the market and most tourists love the novelty of eating it out of the coconut shell. You can grab Thai style popsicles for 5 baht, the flavors seems to be a range of the brightly colored Fanta soda flavors or frozen Coke. Finally there are a ton of drink stands for fruit smoothies, juice, and frappe style drinks. Many of them do offer smoothies and drinks without the added sugar, although you may need the extra sugar boost to survive the market’s 8,000 sweaty stalls worth of shopping.
Protip: If you love coconut water, try the toasted coconut version which has a distinct perfumed flavor. You’ll recognize them because they are much smaller than the standard coconut serving and may have visible dark marks from being toasted over the fire.
2. Halal Food at Saman Islam Restaurant
There may be a stand to help tourists when you enter the market from the Mor Chit BTS side of the stupid enormous flea market. There they are often giving out maps to the entire market and for most of your time there, the map will be pretty useless. However, if you can find the central shrine looking monument on the map (pretty much the center of the market), you’re in luck because tucked away on one side of the shrine (labeled the “clock tower” on the map) is Saman Islam Restaurant.
Saman Islam restaurant is not only one of the few halal food stalls, but also does a delicious variety of popular Thai foods. There are people coming there for their pad thai, khao soi noodles, or mango and sticky rice. However, if you have a chance to visit I think you should stick with their specialties and enjoy the selection of rich curries like massaman and fried chicken over rice.
3. Paella and Cocktails at Viva 8
Viva 8 has the market’s most lively restaurant stall as they bump loud techno beats, serve up cocktails, and let their Spanish chef have a blast cooking up giant pans of paella. It will definitely be tough to find a seat at Viva 8, but while you’re standing around go ahead and bust a dance move, grab a drink, and catch the paella ingredients the bubbly Chef Fernando is flinging at passerby’s. The music is thumping, it’s crowded, but once you finally grab a seat this is one of the best spots in all of Chatuchak Weekend Market to people watch. You get a bit of a show as the paella is being made, and if you stick around long enough perhaps a plate of authentic Spanish paella too (150 baht or $5). You can also grab a cocktail or beer, the cocktails cost around 200 hundred baht ($6), and on a hot day the mojito comes highly recommended.
4. Skewered Meat, Miang Kam, and other Savory Snackables
Without a doubt, the best thing to do in the market without a doubt is to snack. The skewers of meat and giant squid or pretty non committal and still leave you with room to taste around as you shop. I love the granny doing miang kam on a stick and a popular stall with Thais are the garlic roasted squid eggs. However, even without looking for a specific stall you can taste around and expect to spend 30 baht ($1) or less for each tasting. For example, a bag of the miang kam skewers cost 40 baht, a little more than a dollar.
Protip: I have had too many bad experiences with padthai, noodles, and seemingly basic Thai dishes in the market. If snacking isn’t enough and you’re really starving, go outside the market and eat at the vendors lining the street between JJ market grounds and the Chatuchak park to find something more hearty. You can also grab some things to go and take it into the park where you can rent a mat that you can use to picnic on!
5. Real food at Or Thor Kor Market (ตลาด อตก)
Any bad food experiences I’ve had in Chatuchak, have been outweighed by great experiences in the Or Thor Kor market. In fact, my experience in Or Thor Kor has been almost the complete opposite. The area is clean, the seating isn’t painfully crowded and there’s so much choice.
The market is pricier than typical Thai street food, but then again so are the vendors inside Chatuchak. The difference is the Or Thor Kor market is organized with each stall clearly numbered, and since they’re open everyday they’ve learned to better cope with the large crowds. Look for fantastic grilled chicken, strange fruit, sai oua the Chiang Mai sausage, boat noodles, and a few giant khao gaeng stalls serving all sorts of stir fries, soups, and curries.
6. Vegetarian food at Chamlong Asoke’s Vegetarian Club (ชมรมมังสวิรัติ จตุจักร)
This is easily the best vegetarian food court in Bangkok and included in Mark’s Vegetarian Thai food guide. While it can be a little tough to find, if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or just looking for something out of the ordinary around Chatuchak, Chamlong Asoke’s food court is a must visit spot. In the food court you will find all sorts of food with tofu and faux meat versions of many of Bangkok’s street food favorites from kow mok gai (Thai biryani) to som tum (papaya salad) to mystery meat skewers (made with mushrooms and fake meat). Just don’t forget to head to this place before you get too hungry. While they are open Tuesday – Sunday, they do close up pretty early each day. On a weekday you’ll need to get here and order before 2pm, and on weekends they close at 3pm. This vegetarian food court is located across from Or Thor Kor market (on Kamphaeng Phet Rd.), just behind IN Square Mall.
How to Get to Chatuchak Weekend Market
Fortunately Chatuchak is easy to access by public transportation, including bus and minivan. If you do need to take a taxi, most taxi drivers will know the market also. However, the easiest method is to leave home early and head for either the BTS Skytrain’s Mor Chit Station or the underground MRT’s Kamphaeng Phet Station (You can also use the station to cross comfortably to Or Thor Kor or head towards Chamlong Asoke’s). The MRT is a little more convenient is you can enter and exit right into the park. If you use the skytrain, you’ll need to walk a few minuted around or through Chatuchak park to enter into the market.
Hotels and Hostels Near Chatuchak Weekend Market
If you’re in Bangkok a short time or really want to take advantage of all the shopping in the market there are some decent hotels nearby. However, none of the ones I’d recommend are in walking distance to the market. In general though you should be ok staying at any hotel in Bangkok which is nearby a BTS or MRT station to get to JJ market conveniently. I’ve had friends looking for a nice place on the northern side of town where the market is located stay in Centara Grand (the giant hotel near Central Lad Prao mall and MRT Phahon Yothin station). There is also Abloom Serviced Apartments (Sanam Pao BTS), a smaller and more quiet hotel in a mostly Thai neighborhood, a few stops away from the market.
The same goes for Bangkok hostels in the area. If you want to be in the general direction of JJ, you can try the tiny and budget Linkcorner Hostel. However, I prefer to stay at Lub d Hostel in Siam which is a little more upscale and pricey, but right next to the National Stadium BTS.
Subscribe to Bangkok Fatty on Youtube
Ok thanks for reading. There should be a video on all this all coming soon. I’m planning to launch the Bangkok Fatty youtube channel at the end of December, so be sure to go ahead and subscribe to the channel on youtube. Even though this isn’t one of my favorite places to eat, I must admit I did really have a ton of fun in the market hunting food, ducking the sun, and running into old friends. The additional of the markets and food court however, do make Chatuchak market a proper weekend eating destination when in Bangkok, so enjoy!
If you’ve got anything add, please leave some feedback in a comment below!