In the harrowing early days of the pandemic, Prin Polsuk, a preeminent chef and scholar of Thai cuisine, could source many of his ingredients directly from farms and suppliers outside of Bangkok. But still, he visited Khlong Toei, one of the largest wet markets in Thailand, almost every day.
“The market makes me feel alive,” he tells me over a choppy video call, his youthful face framed by salt-and-pepper scruff. “I go there to get inspired.”
Wandering through Khlong Toei late one night during the year I spent cooking in Thailand, I was overwhelmed by this very aliveness. There were mountains of multi-colored chile pastes, mounds of bright red rambutan, stacks of dried squid and snake beans.