“Where in the world of Dubai do you buy your Thai groceries? Specifically Thai basil?”
That was the question I posed last week to the first Thai person that I had met in Dubai after living here seven years.
And so I learned that every Saturday, at the Royal Thai consulate in Dubai, a lady sets up a stand to sell Thai vegetables grown in her own garden.
I had so many questions for my new Thai friend:
-Can outsiders just walk in and buy these veggies?
-Will it be a problem that I don’t speak Thai?
-What time should I go?
-Are you sure it will be there next Saturday because I really want to check it out?!
And so this past Saturday, joined by Sally @ My Custard Pie, Little Ginger and I ventured into the Royal Thai Consulate in Umm Sequim hopeful for a glimpse of this market.
And we did indeed find it! Just past the security hut, under the car shades with the consulate villa in the background, we strolled into a mini Thai alfresco market.
Sally and I made our rounds of the few vendors that were there while poor Little Ginger (in the yellow stroller below), tired and hot as the Dubai heat was in full swing, not-so-patiently waited for us to finish our
There were maybe 9 or 10 folding tables manned by friendly Thai ladies who kindly welcomed us and who patiently answered all our questions about what they were selling.
I found the lady that grew her own vegetables and bought a packet of Gai Lan and Shanghai choy (similar to bok choy but with a light green stem instead of white) @ 10 dhs per bag. There were also bags of kang kong (aka water spinach), Sweet Thai Basil (horapha), and others I couldn’t identify.
The vegetable lady also sold beef ball and fish ball skewers and I bought 2 of each at 10 dhs per skewer. The skewers came with a little baggie of spicy dipping sauce that had a soy sauce and tamarind (or maybe fish sauce?) base.
I enjoyed the fish balls better than the beef which were a bit dry but edible doused in the dipping sauce.
It was very hot, at least 100°F (38°C), and although I didn’t mind the heat, Little Ginger being tired, hungry and grumpy began throwing a bit of a fuss. I tried to hurry through the different tables but I couldn’t help stopping at each one a few times because more and more food seemed to be coming out of their carrier bags.
In the end, I made away with more skewers of meat, a bag of deep-fried banana and sweet potato “fries” (for lack of a better word – which by the way, were AMAZING!), and a cup of grass jelly (known as chao kuai in Thailand; gulaman in the Philippines). Sally felt that the grass jelly beverage was too sweet for her taste but I quite enjoyed it. I’ve only tasted grass jelly in cans and this homemade version was different as it had a taste I could not completely identify – the closest flavor I can think of is Root beer.
Sadly for us, the rice and salad dishes neatly packed in take-away containers were off limits as they were all pre-ordered but Sally and I placed a few orders of our own for pick-up next Saturday so…we will be back!
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Practical info: The market is held on Saturdays from 10:30am to 3pm at the Royal Thai Consulate located in Umm Sequim close to Jumeirah Beach Hotel (google “Royal Thai Consulate Dubai”). The last one of the season will be held on June 13, 2015.
Best to get there 11am onwards as the ladies were still setting up at 10:30am but most of the food was gone by 12:30pm.
More details can often be found on the Royal Thai Consulate Facebook page.
Note: Thai basil and other Thai produce can also be found at Sunflower (aka “Queen Saba Grocery”) inside the Karama Fish Market.