There are few buildings more prevalent or iconic in Thailand than 7/11. We’ve all found ourselves desperate and hungry, roasting under the hot Thai sun, and in arms reach of a bountiful assortment of noodle stalls, sizzling street-side stir-fries, and pounded pots piled with som tam. And… we have all decided to pass up on these proverbially “burgers” and insist on having “bologna”. Yes, I’ve been here many times and will undoubtedly be back; like a no good for you ex 7/11 is always just a “u up?” text away from indulging you in a bad decision.
7/11 in Thailand is more than just a quick stop munchies shop (however this still is it’s primary function). It acts more as a one stop shop for most of life’s minor inconveniences. Need to pay a phone bill or buy a plane ticket from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani? 7/11. Have you run out of toilet paper, pens, and super glue? 7/11. They’ll even open your beer for you, give you an unnecessary plastic straw, and some cartoon charactered stamps that can be redeemed for 1-3 baht on a future visit (Often times there will be charitable calendar looking things that you can donate your stamps to hanging nearby). Alright, that’s enough of a buildup, let’s get to the best of the best.
Ham and Cheese Toastie
Could I really start this list any other way? The toasties at 7/11 have developed a cult following. They are almost even a meme of themselves at this point. A testament to this is that no where on the bag does it actually say the word toastie, yet that is what they are exclusively and affectionately called. They offer many types of toastie, but the classic ham and cheese is the best.
Hanging in little plastic bags on a refrigerated wall, lit from fluorescent lights, they are a sight to behold at 2 am when seeking nourishment after a night of bad decisions. Devoid of fish sauce and chili, it may be the most nostalgic food on offer for an American living abroad.
Plain and simple, toasties are food created for white people. I mean, it is a crustless, white bread, ham and processed cheese sandwich made in a panini press, that comes out shaped like a seashell. If you know a whiter food in existence I’d like to hear about it… and where I can get it – I’ll bring the mayo.
In the American South soda is simply referred to as “a coke”. It doesn’t matter if it’s Pepsi, Sprite, or (God forbid) creme soda. They are all just “a coke”. Something similar happens with packaged ramen noodles in Thailand. They are not known as ramen, or ba mi dtaat (deep fried egg noodles) for that matter, they are Mama.
Mama noodles are the most popular brand of ramen sold in Thailand and for good reason. They are the cheapest on offer, come in familiar flavors to the Thai pallet (pork, Tom yum, etc.), and did I mention they were the cheapest – this is ramen after all. The best and most common of which is the pork flavor.
I was honestly a bit shocked the first time I pulled back that little yellow lid on top the cardboard esque cup. That little salty flavor packet was present and there were the dehydrated bits of “pork” and “carrots”, but they were not alone. Attached in its on section to the seasoning was chili powder, and next to that was some encased oil. They even went so far as to origami a little fork in there for you.
Coming from a world of Cup Noodles and ramen so bad that it was ironically referred to as “top”, this left a big mark on me. Even with all the high quality food I eat for this site, Mama always has room in my stomach… and heart for that matter.
Pro-tip: after adding the hot water to the to-go cup, use the fork to adhere the lid to its base by poking one prong through the edge.
Crunchy Green Peas
These don’t sound all that great, crunchy peas covered in salt. But they might be the best food to eat when doing any mind numbing activity. Subtle in flavor, these are more of a textural experience than anything else. They will get stuck in your teeth, and you won’t care.
Fake Orange Juice
Make no mistake about it, this isn’t that fresh squeezed stuff sold at the shake stand out front. I would liken it to Tang more than anything else. An orange flavored substance if you will. Viscous and overly sweet. It will turn your tongue orange. You’ll have to brush your teeth earlier than expected. You will have a good time.
Big Gummy Burger
What’s not to love here? Manipulated sugar in the form of a hamburger. There are those that eat it price by piece, but that way is just squandering a great opportunity to annoy your friends. Grab it with two hand, tuck a napkin in your shirt, and proceed to pretend that it is in fact, a real burger.
A few of my favorite lines are “Oh man, I asked for no pickles”. “the buns sure are soft today, must have just come out the oven.” Don’t forget to say that “you’re stuffed” after taking that last bite, while patting your belly. You’ll know if your friends have a good sense of humor and play along by saying “Yeah, that was a Biiiiig Burger.”
Sun dried Bananas
The only way I could succinctly describe these would be, banana fudge. If that’s not a big enough selling point for you then note they are usually glazed in honey after drying out. Chewy and dense they are not a light snack like other dried fruits, but they will have you liking your fingertips out of necessity and pleasure.
Sour Patch Kids
Without a doubt the best sour gummy candy ever made. Full stop. Originally created to hop on board the hype train that was Cabbage Patch Kids, they have been padding the bills at dental clinics ever since. Not a Thailand exclusive by any means, they are one of the best American offerings on hand in the land of Siam. The best flavors are red and green, while orange and yellow take a distant back seat. Anyone who says otherwise is flat out wrong.
Little rectangular extruded bits of chewy sugar, who’s only decreeable difference is their inner color, Hi-Chews are are international classic. Once again, not a Thailand exclusive item – that shouldn’t stop you from choosing them over the lesser Mentos chews.
Chocolate Covered Ores
They are chocolate covered Oreos, how are they not going to be delicious. Take the words most popular cookie and cover it in the worlds most sought after candy. Extra points for actually looking like the depiction on the package.
As an American I have been denied Kinder products my whole life do to the lot American tradition of frivolous litigation. I had heard Kinder is king when it comes to chocolate confections, but just chalked it up to a European superiority complex. These are what Kit-Kats wishes they could be.
The whole experience is filled with elegance. That artistic squiggle of chocolate adorning their exterior. The satisfying snap when segregating segments. They are filled with Hazelnut nougat for crying out loud. Maybe my favorite thing on offer at Heaven Eleven.
Now before you get your panties in a bunch about how this thing or that was left off the list, I hear you. The number of treasures at Club 7 is way too big to fit on one list, and way too unctuous to eat in the time it takes me to pump one of these writings out. So I’ll be making this a regular feature until I’ve chronologged all that is good and holy when standards have become lowered.
The Good Stuff Chiang Mai