Or Tor Kor Market, Bangkok ตลาด อ.ต.ก.


Grilled bananas กล้วยปิ้ง – an old-fashioned street food that is becoming harder to find in Bangkok

This may make me sound like a fanatic cultist, mad with rabies. I’ll say it anyway: failure to include Or Tor Kor Market (ตลาด อ.ต.ก.) in your plan is nothing short of a cardinal sin if you’re a foodie visitor to Bangkok.

It’s true. I can’t think of anywhere else where you can get this wide variety of local goodies in a clean and organized environment. Sure, you can visit a local market, such as Bang Kapi market (ตลาดบางกะปิ) or its ilk, but that involves jostling with people, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, and being forced off the sidewalks due to the overcrowding of street hawkers in some areas. If that’s your cup of tea, then please disregard my recommendation. But if you like to stroll leisurely up and down the aisles admiring and sampling beautiful and delicious foods with a roof over you and no motorbikes behind you, then Or Tor Kor is the place to be.

Assorted fresh juices made from local fruits, vegetables, and herbs

The upscale market is organized by the Marketing Organization for Farmers (องค์การตลาดเพื่อเกษตรกร), whose initials in Thai อ.ต.ก. have led to the odd name Or Tor Kor* – the kind of romanization that stabs in the hearts of all linguists like a poisoned dagger. It boasts a vast array of prepared foods, fruits, vegetables, and all kinds of agricultural goods.

Khanom Krok ขนมครก – Little “cakes” made of rice flour and coconut milk featuring thin, crunchy bottoms and sweet, creamy, gooey tops. Remove them from my life and there will be one fewer reason to live.

The market has been around for, oh, I don’t know, a long time. When I was young, I often spent weekends at the house of one of my aunts who insisted on taking her kids, against their will, to Or Tor Kor market every Saturday. Of course, I got put in the car along with my cousins and we would sulk and whine all the way to the market and back.

Noi Na (น้อยหน่า) or custard apples – one of the fruits I miss the most.

Back then, a market — any market — was just a market. As a kid, I didn’t really get what the big deal was about Or Tor Kor market and why my aunt liked it so much she thought a trip there was worth schlepping a bunch of whiny, ungrateful kids across town with her.

Fresh durian ทุเรียน – If you plan on taking the subway home, be informed that durian is not allowed on the train. The security person at the metal detector check point will politely tell you to either trash the fruit prior to boarding the train (are you kidding!?!) or consider another mode of transportation. Don’t ask me how I found that out.

That was a long time before all the expressways were built and it took almost an hour by car from their house to the market. An hour-long ride to a zoo or an amusement park would have been tolerable; an hour-long drive to something as pointless as a market was downright torturous.


But I remember how my cousins and I would promptly shut our whiny mouths once we got out of the car and started tailing after my aunt and uncle up and down the market aisles. We sampled this and that along the way, and everything was so delicious. The best part was the meat, or whatever it was, on sticks. No sane kids I know can ever say no to stuff on sticks.

Mangosteens (มังคุด) and rambutans (เงาะ) – very fresh and high-quality

I can’t speak for my cousins, but for me, it didn’t take long for Or Tor Kor market to start growing on me. I went from dreading a trip to the market to really looking forward to spending a weekend at my aunt’s. I was even willing to put up with her oldest son, one of my cousins, who could be really obnoxious when he was a kid. A weekend with him was worth delicious stuff on sticks.

Pig parts: ears, snouts, tongues, intestines — everything but the oink. Good stuff.

It’s been such a long time and I don’t remember the details of what I saw. I do, however, remember that there were so many colors and aromas. I remember back then how my mind conjured up the old Thai saying describing the abundance of our land: ในน้ำมีปลา ในนามีข้าว nai naam mii plaa, nai naa mii khao, meaning “There are fish in the rivers; there is rice in the fields. Not that famine or starvation was ever an issue in our household, but I remember feeling comforted — just being surrounded by tangible proof of what the fertile Siamese land can bestow upon her inhabitants.

Assorted sun-dried and prepared seafood and freshwater fish.

Abundance of food choices aside, the place was cleaner and more organized than most wet markets in Bangkok. I had nothing against wet markets in general. But when you’re just a little kid, seeing live fish being smacked on the head with a steel mullet, gutted, and scaled can be pretty traumatic. And there was a lot of that going on at most wet markets. None of that happened at Or Tor Kor.

Lod Chong (ลอดช่อง) – Pandan-flavored dessert, resembling long spätzle or Bánh Canh in appearance, served with jasmine-infused coconut milk, sweetened with palm sugar, topped with crushed ice.

As an adult, I still yearn for this market. Sometimes, on a cold, snowy night in Chicago, I would close my eyes and visualize, in the manner of the Little Match Girl, myself walking up and down the aisles of Or Tor Kor market. I don’t know what it is about being surrounded by fresh tropical produce, but it seems to have an effect on me. Needless to say, I come to the market every time I visit Bangkok. I can skip a lot of places in the city, but Or Tor Kor is a must.

Tong Muan (ทองม้วน) – an old-fashioned Thai snack/dessert, resembling tuile cookies,
that is more and more difficult to find these days.

Fresh produce and prepared foods here are of very high quality. This also means they are not cheap. The prices are still very reasonable, however. I’d rather pay more for a kilo of mangosteens each and every single one of which is sweet, fresh, and bug-free.

Khao Taen (ข้าวแต๋น) or Nang Led (นางเล็ด), puffed rice cakes drizzled with palm sugar syrup –
another old-fashioned snack.

Fortunately, getting to Or Tor Kor is very quick and easy these days regardless of where in Bangkok you’re coming from. The market is right on the subway route. In fact, if you get off at Kamphaeng Phet station (กำแพงเพชร), by taking the Or Tor Kor exit (marked the Marketing Organization for Farmers) you will walk right into the market.

Bananas – you buy them green and let them ripen at home.

There is an area where you sit down and enjoy the foods which you have purchased. What I usually do is bring a few people with me to the market. Then we turn into a bunch of hunter-gatherers who reconvene 15 minutes later at the dining area to enjoy the fruits of our collective labor. Once our stomachs are full, we walk around the market once more and buy everything in sight to take home to enjoy the rest of the week.

Phu Lae pineapples from the north of Thailand – these are only the size of a small grapefruit.

Or Tor Kor market is located in the same area as Jatujak (or Chatuchak) weekend market (ตลาดจตุจักร). So if you visit Jatujak, which you should, you might as well stop by Or Tor Kor.

Assorted dried kitchen staples. Count Dracula has never been spotted here.

The market is open daily from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm. From my observation, though foods and produce are available in abundance everyday, both the market and its offerings seem more lively on weekends.

*Pronounced aw-taw-gaw. All three syllables exactly rhyme with “raw.” Completely disregard the presence of the letter “R” at the end of each syllable.

  1. Nice!! Thanks for sharing with us. I love love these types of markets. The choices are varieties of items and ingredients is just to much. I love it.

  2. Oh what fun and I loved checking out the incredible selection you have i your farmers market. How are you ever going to make it on your return to Chicago? You are still coming back, aren’t you?

    I loved your insightful comment about food on sticks, even now, ‘m a sucker for anything skewered.

  3. I was quite addicted to those puffed rice cakes when I was in Chiang Mai – delicious! How does the little pineapple differ in flavour to a regular large pineapple?

  4. Very interesting, love all the pictures, so much to learn…love the variety of fruits and food. THank you so much for sharing it!

  5. Khanom Krok!!! Yum. Brings back great memories of the khanom krok dude at my old market in Ta Wang Pa (in Jangwat Nan); he let me sprinkle the corn/green onion/taro on the coconut filling sometimes. Sigh. Those were the days. Will definitely post a link on my blog; take a peak at my past entries on Thai markets!

    Better Be Street if You Lookin at Me II
    http://whatsinthepot.blogspot.com/2009/05/better-be-street-if-you-lookin-at-me-ii.html

    (From here there are links to other related market-entries).

  6. Well, I committed the cardinal sin – don’t remember hearing of this market, tho’ I read up and visited Chatuchak too. I love Thai food, but found the smell of some foods hard to get used to. I learnt a lot about how adventurous I really am on that trip. :-(

  7. I LOVE this market. I was there but didn’t know the name. Now I know, and can plot to go back on my return. Yum…

  8. I went there last year, right after visiting Chatuchak. The market is truly amazing, and my biggest regret was that I didn’t have a kitchen available to me where I could do justice to the produce. Thanks for bringing back some sweet memories.

    IanG

  9. Does anybody know if they sell some organic fruits at this market? Or maybe some other place in Bangkok where they sell it. I’ve read a story some vendors inject chemicals into durians for them to ripen quicker.. Peter

  10. Peter – No idea. There are two Royal Project stores located at both ends of the market. They sell cold weather produce, but I can’t remember whether it is organic. Regardless, no durians there. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, though.

    As far as durians, I’d say as long as you buy them in season, chances are they are tampered with. It’s the ones available off-season that are suspect. Ethephon is used in many other fruits, though — not just durians. They say the level of toxicity is too low to worry about. Then again, there haven’t been any published long-term studies, and you’re probably right in being apprehensive.

    You may want to contact Thai Organic Trade Association for information on where to find organic fruits.

    Anyone have any info for Peter?

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  12. I visited Or Tor Kor market last Sunday. Any Thai food lover should go their at least one time in his life. I came back to Bangkok for the last day only to go there and buy everything I could carry in my luggage: honey mangos (a bit expensive, the best mango I ate in my life. Gonna eat the last one with sticky rice), pineapple, ka prao, dry shrimps, cilantro roots… even shallots and garlic. I purchased as well a som tam mortal and pestel. I thought I would never pass the border in France, but I didn’t get any trouble. I highly recommend anyone visiting Or Tor Kor market to have lunch there. I had the best Som Tam ever. I didn’t find any Khanom Krok mentioned by Leela, so I will have to go back there for my next trip in Thailand. I hope by the end of the year. I am in love with this country and its amazing food.

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