Thailand is known as The Land of 1000 Smiles, but I like to think of it more as The Land of 1000 Delicious Bites. I love the vibrant colors of the capital city, Bangkok. The clothes, the architecture and of course the food: All have a pop that’s bright, fun and unmistakably Thai. People are hospitable and generous and the scenery is beyond beautiful. If you’ve been, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, book a trip now! You can thank me later.
You might have heard that Bangkok is “cleaning up the streets” in some neighborhoods next year. I can’t imagine what some of the city’s neighborhoods would be like without street food stalls. So I decided to do what I do best. GORGE. I Loaded up a BTS or train card (known to locals as a Rabbit Card), wandered around, got lost and ate whatever looked delicious.
Will CHEN – 1. Food Poisoning – 0. Good times.
Some places don’t have addresses per se. Or English names for that matter! Don’t stress, I don’t speak a lick of Thai and made it back unscathed. So here, in no particular order, are some of the highlights.
Top 5 Best Pad Thai IN THE WORLD!!!?
BTS station: Thong Lo
Renowned for their pad Thai! Rated Top 5 Top Pad Thai by CNN. A simple setup consisting of a small makeshift kitchen in front of two seating areas, a small flattop and a giant pile of seafood on ice sitting right next to the chef. Order comes in, seafood goes down. Rinse and repeat.
I tried to seat myself on the left side, but was quickly shuffled to the brighter, cleaner side with the rest of the tourists. What makes their pad Thai different, from what I can tell, is they serve their noodles with a thin rice flour (?) pancake. So when mixed all together you get a wonderful mix of chewy noodles, crunchy sprouts and crisp bits of toasty wafers.
They also offer a few options of seafood pancakes and omelets. I got the Or Ror, an oyster pancake served in the same lacy rice flour pancake over a bed of sprouts. The oysters were tender and nicely cooked. Condiments are on the table for you to add as you see fit. There are full-color pictures along the wall which makes for easy pointing.
Or Ror – oyster pancake
Chow Lay has no address, BUT it does have a social media location tag … in Thai. It’s on my Instagram account, tap the location and it’ll bring up a map for you.
Market fresh sushi! No sneeze guard in sight!
CHAROEN KRUNG ROAD
BTS station: Saphin Taksin
On my way to Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, I stumbled upon a neighborhood buzzing with people and food stalls. Many places don’t have English signs or even addresses. I ate what I could, took pics, looked up the street online and ate some more.
Don’t mind the grey ring around the egg. This pork melts in your mouth like butter.
106/105 Charoen Wiang Road
No English sign
Charoen Wiang Road is off of Charoen Krung Road, directly across from Robinson Department Store. All the way at the end on the left is Kamou Tokzung. Again, there are no English signs, BUT they have an address! Braised pork is their specialty. Served over rice and pickled mustard; a soy egg costs 10 baht more. The pork knuckle is braised in soy and sugar and is melt-in-your-mouth soft. It’s softer than the rice! Also it’s terribly delicious.
Pork sausage, roast pork, roast duck. Amazing.
1415 Charoen Krung Road
I was walking down the street and saw some roast meats in the window. Say no more! This tiny establishment is pretty established. The walls are littered with English publications raving about their roast meats, and more importantly their roast duck. OK, I’m game.
I fumbled my way through the picto-menu and managed to order OFF THE MENU! (Take that, Chuggy!) And before I could get a gulp of water down, my plate was in front of me. A combination of all their roast meats: duck, pork and pork sausages over perfectly steamed rice, some raw cucumber and a lovely soy-based sauce with hints of cinnamon, five spice and lemongrass. An uncle who was seated across from me showered his plate with pickled chilis that were on the table. What do I know? So I obediently followed suit. ERMAHGAD. It’s so good.
I’m crying just thinking about it. The duck is soft and sweet, not a dry spot in sight. The roast pork is savory, the fat nicely rendered and the sauce well-seasoned but not overly salty.
Hot jook on a hot day? Sounds strategic!
It’s at the mouth of an alley on the same side as Prachak, headed away from the BTS station.
No English sign. There IS one in Chinese, though!
Those that know me know that I’m obsessed with jook. It’s so easy to make and so comforting. Yes, even in 90-degree weather. I’m crazy.
Jok Prince is a literally in an alley. And their menu has four items. Jook with pork meatballs with or without an egg. And Jook with pork offal, with or without an egg. I got the meatballs and egg. Served piping hot with slivered ginger and some cilantro and green onions.
The jook was so good and nicely seasoned and the meatballs, which didn’t look like much, were perfect. Slightly springy, nice black pepper notes and super tender. But the star was the barely cooked egg. It had the brightest yolk I’ve ever seen, so when broken, it flooded the bowl with the most beautiful streaks of yellow.
Alley fresco dining.
JE NIAO BOI KIA
Corner of Charoen Krung Road and Si Wiang Road
No English signs, just yellow awnings
Wandering up and down a few blocks under the glaring sun is no easy feat! It gets hot, fast. And I was losing some steam. Maybe it’s just part food coma and part heat exhaustion. But I had a full day of adventuring planned and didn’t have any time for this nonsense.
You can’t miss this spot. It’s just a few steps down from Jok Prince and on the same side of the road. Big bright yellow awnings are your first clue, then when you get closer, MORE ENGLISH PUBLICATIONS! What are they selling? Some sort of shaved ice. I take a quick glance, and feelings of gloom starts to bubble up from my childhood.
I am hardly a fan of Asian desserts. I’m not talking about your fancy Japanese cakes and cookies, where they take Asian flavors and marry them with European techniques. I mean those desserts straight up from my childhood. Green bean or red bean soup, served cold OR HOT, starchy tapioca balls with black sesame paste in hot sugar water, dense gao with technicolor dried fruit … on and on and on. Ughhh. So when I see the mise for this, I’m hardly excited. But, like I said, I was super hot and tired at this point and it’s still shaved ice.
A dome of finely shaved ice arrives, doused with a dark sugar syrup. It’s pretty much what I think it’ll be. The entire time, all I hear is my mother in my ear. “Eat it, it’s good for you. Don’t embarrass me!” I crack open the dome and start poking around. Gingko nut, silver needle noodles, rehydrated dates, sweet potato, barley, CORN?, and the firmest grass jelly ever, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Besides the grass jelly, everything is served as is. Not dressed, just lightly cooked to remove the rawness but relying solely on the sugar syrup to give it any other flavor notes.
I eat begrudgingly, knowing that my mom is rolling her eyes at me all the way from Boston. I make it almost all the way through the bowl, but there’s only so much bland corn and barley that I can eat. I pay my tab, grab my rucksack and can’t help but notice that I feel a lot cooler, also interestingly enough have some extra spring in my step! Huh…
CHICKEN NOODLE KHAO KRUNG
BTS station: Siam
Near the BTS station
On one of my aimless walks, I stumbled upon this gem. Khao Krung specializes in chicken noodle soup. Everything is customizable: soup base, if any, and type of noodle are all up to you. There’s hard-boiled eggs and coconut custard (think haupia) on the table as well. The best part? Each bowl is only 18 baht (about 50 cents). And if you can eat the most bowls ever, the entire meal is free! Currently the number to beat is 42 bowls.
I was too full when I first saw this place but managed to drag my friends back with me. A few hand gestures and soon enough English menus and order sheets appear. Make a few ticks and the bowls are assembled pretty fast. I do have to say, the portions are TINY, maybe two bites max. But the soup is delicious. Deep chicken flavor and aromas of fried shallot and chicken fat linger nicely in the mouth. Everyone had about two eggs and three bowls of soup noodles. At the end, they come up and tally everything. I plan on coming back and claiming that Khao Krung title. Stay tuned.
Also, they have a Facebook page and an Instagram account. Should make tracking them down easier!
1031 Ploenchit Rd
BTS station: Ploen Chit
So we heard rumors of this seafood restaurant where Asians queue up to try their delicacies. I like seafood, I say. I’m Asian, I say. We manage to locate one of the seven branches. Sure enough, tons of seafood. Steamed, grilled, stewed, fried, soups, stir fries. What else do I see? GIANT RIVER PRAWNS! I haven’t seen this anywhere else on my travels this year, so this is my chance.
The prawns take about 45 minutes to prepare and are no joke, the size of my hand. Served with an amazing condiment of lime, chili, sugar and fish sauce, a perfect foil for these grilled beauties. The tomalley were my personal favorite bits. Tail meat was firm, but not as sweet as standard prawns or even lobster. The server was kind enough to take the legs back and have them cleaned for us. But not much flavor there. Next time, I will try them steamed and report back. River Praws: 7. Sauce: 10.
So there you go! Some treats from my trip to Bangkok. We also went to Gaggan, which was once again named Best Restaurant of Asia, and had perhaps the most intimate service I’ve ever experienced.
But that’s deserving of a story of its own.