Growing up in a small town in Maine, I never went to the mall to eat a nice meal. I would maybe snack on a salty soft pretzel, or enjoy a chocolate frozen yogurt, but my only reason for going to the mall was to shop. To me, the idea of eating a meal at the food court in a mall in Maine brings to mind greasy burgers and fries, oily Chinese food, and thick-crust pizza—not exactly a fine dining experience.
In my new home in Korat, Thailand, though, eating at the food court in the malls is much more than fast food. In fact, going to the mall to eat is a popular pastime.
In Korat, there are three major malls: The Mall, Terminal 21 and Central Plaza. All are multiple stories and contain hundreds of retail shops, grocery stores, massage places, salons, and, of course, countless food options. They’re sparkly clean, comfortable, and cool—a wonderful escape from the blistering Thailand heat. Perhaps this is why so many locals and farangs (foreigners) flock to the malls on the weeknights and weekends, but in my opinion, everyone goes there for the food.
Similar to most malls around the world, the malls in Korat have sit-down restaurants where, if you sit far from the windows, you’d forget you were in a mall. You can choose from any sit-down restaurant that suites you; everything from pizza and pasta to sushi and steak. The food in most of these establishments is quite tasty, but because they’re often chain restaurants, they tend to be more expensive. While it’s nice to treat yourself every once and while, the best place to eat is in the food court.
Like street food indoors, the food courts in these malls are an eclectic adventure for your tastebuds. Picture: small stalls encompassing a large area of a single floor, while chefs stand behind their counters, sautéing, stirring and dishing up steaming plates. Back-lit menus shine above each stall, showcasing a perfectly photographed image of the featured food. Thankfully, there’s somewhat of an English translation for you to read, but unless you can read Thai, you don’t really know what you’re getting. For example, does “consumption soup” sound appealing? I wonder, am I consuming the soup, or am I getting a rare disease?
Thankfully, there’s somewhat of an English translation for you to read, but unless you can read Thai, you don’t really know what you’re getting. For example, does "consumption soup" sound appealing?
Most of the food you can find in the food court is Thai food. You’ll find your typical pad thai (stir-fried wide noodles with chicken and egg, topped with peanuts and bean sprouts) and tom yum goong (sweet and sour soup with lemongrass, galangal root, seafood, and lots of chili peppers) here, but you’ll also find much more. Curries, stir-fries, noodles, rice, gyoza, salads, omelettes, soups, braised meats. . .the list is endless.
One of my favourite dishes I’ve eaten in the food court was a slow-stewed spiced pork. The pork—and I mean every single part of the pork—stews in a large silver pot that’s big enough to easily fit a whole medium-sized pig in. When you order the dish, it comes with a heaping portion of white rice and a side of sliced cucumbers. The chefs will even ask if you’d like sliced intestines on the side. (Yum?) You can fill a small bowl with any sort of spices you’d like (chili, fish sauce, salt) and voila—a fresh, tasty meal ready in minutes!
The best part about the food court? Most of the dishes are between 35 and 80 THB (about $1 to $3 CAD). Don’t let the low prices fool you, though—the food is high quality and delicious. Eating at the food court is also a great opportunity to try something new. You never know if you’ll discover your new favourite dish (or, even if you don’t, you won’t break the bank).
If you find yourself in Thailand, and are invited to a mall to grab a bite to eat, don’t pass up the offer—you’ll be pleasantly surprised and delightfully stuffed.Add this article to your reading list