You have 2 days and 1 night in Bangkok, armed only with an iPhone and you need to eat and document some food. What do you do? What do you do? Well, this is just a very small list of the places I frequent to satisfy desires and cravings. Whether you can find these places or not…….its another question and up to your abilities to navigate your way around. Here are some recommended eating places for those on a tight schedule:
Day 1 – Lunch
There’s no better way to start off your afternoon than at a Moo Krob joint, better known as Siu Yoke…or cantonese roast pork. Chances are that you will go hungry if you followed this recommendation of mine, as there is no other way for a foreigner getting there than by Taxi, its in Prachachuen and my friend drives, so tough luck.
This place gets sold out by 2pm, so just salivate at what goes on here. They’ve got 7 pots of soup on sale, and on this day, only 1 was left, a melon soup which was really tasty but not the focus of our attention. Half a kilo of roast pork for SGD$5 for 2 of us sounded like a great deal! The crackling is perfectly crisp and dissolves in the mouth for it has a light, airy, honeycombed texture.
The meat is soft and yielding, with the right amount of chew to get the saliva working on extracting all that porky goodness. I would KILL to learn how to make Moo Krob like this, but I don’t think they take non-Thai speaking stagiaires! In the back, from an ancient looking deck oven, they roast these heavenly slabs of the best Moo Krob I’ve ever come across. Could we find better ones in Hong Kong? I don’t really care, because Bangkok is sure as hell nicer and nearer than Hong Kong!
Day 1 – Dinner
Since you would be absolutely starving from my unfindable lunch destination, this one is way easier to find. Its name is Sorn Thong, and its a Chinese Thai Seafood Restaurant. If you’ve been following this blog, you know about my exaggerated exclamations for the best ‘this and that’ ever! Its no different for me to proclaim that this is my favourite restaurant and the BEST Chinese Seafood restaurant ever! Forget the chilli crabs and what nots in Singapore, its good, but its not everyday food.
To find Sorn Thong, ask your taxi driver to go to the end of Sukhumvit Soi 24 (Thats the Emporium road), to the MacDonalds. The maccers is at the junction of Sukhumvit Soi 24 and Rama 4 road. There’s a huge petrol station there with an equally huge maccers. If you miss it, you are blind. Get the cab to turn LEFT into Rama 4 road and drop you off about 50 metres from Macdonalds. You cannot miss it, as its the only restaurant there with fish tanks out front. If you happen to drive, they offer valet parking too.
On the left, is raw marinated crab, one of the best things you can ever part money for. Not exactly for the faint of heart, but here’s what happens in this dish called Puu Kai Dong. Take a good crab (Not them skinny blue flower crabs), brush it till its spotlessly clean, ignoring its foaming mouth.
In a pot of your special Thai mixture of fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, chilli, sugar and coriander, chuck the still writhing crustacean into the pot, cover and put in the fridge to chill. The theory is that the drowning crab will ingest all that wonderful marinade and flavour itself from within. Not sure at what point this pickling exercise stops, but its then frozen and when its brought to our table, its been de-gilled and expertly chopped into conveniently handled pieces.
You cannot imagine how awesome this tastes……sweet, sour, spicy, salty……..
On the right is what could be also one of the best fried rices ever. Perhaps you will have your favourite, but this flavour is sadly missing from lots of fried rices in Singapore, the ‘wok hei’, or breath of the wok. The rice used here is a medium grain rice with the perfect texture and tastes its best when fried by the old man, AKA, the current owner’s father. I’ve tasted this on his off day before and it pales drastically in comparison.. (Edited Aug 2012: I’ve since eaten here on 3 occasions in the last 6 months, and probably 6 or more occasions in the past year and find that the Fried Rice is no longer worth ordering. This is based on every occasion I have come here in the past year. Someone else has taken over the frying and it is a soggy, tasteless affair. The other dishes are still good, but can’t endorse the fried rice anymore. It was amazing when it lasted, thanks for the taste memories.)
Sometime in the future, I will learn Thai properly just to beg to stage at this place and learn how they cook and make these 2 sauces! Thai food is simple right? All the ingredients are the same…..but…..its the proportions that make the magic. These two simple chilli sauces perfectly complement every dish.
Another must have would be the salt baked sea bass. When you enter the restaurant, there’s a grilling station out front next to the tanks, and this is where this baby is prepared. Covered in salt and foiled before grilled to perfection, the slightly salty skin crisps gently to reveal the wonderfully soft and moist insides. A waft of lemongrass and kaffir lime emanates from the stuffed belly cavity, making this one of the healthiest, delectable items on the menu.
In keeping with our 5 meats and 1 veg policy, we ordered a stir fried coconut shoot dish with prawns. This is a first taste of coconut shoots and if anything, its like fresh bamboo shoots. Nothing spectacular about this.
Another dish that gets eaten every visit here is Goong Chae Nam Pla, or raw marinated prawns. If the raw crab doesn’t get your juices flowing, this one will! Superbly spicy and garlicy, the addition of raw bitter melon slices just brings home the ideology behind Thai cuisine. Sweet, sour, salty and bitter, yark kin maak!
If coconut shoots don’t strike your fancy, another veg. dish just might in the form of Pak Boong Fai Daeng, loosely translated into Red Fire Kang Kong. This is a curiously hollow stemmed vegetable better known as Chinese Water Spinach. When asked about the origins of this dish’s name, a street food vendor spoke passionately of a legendary colleague whose stove cooked with such ferocity that when the kang kong went into the wok with some Thai whisky, the flambé would shoot up 7 storeys high. Frenchmen with their dainty copper sauteuses, eat your hearts out!
There is no better way to continue the night than have some beers, no, not just any beer, but Belgian beer. Beers like Hoegaarden and Leffe are common elsewhere but in Thailand 3+ years ago, I led a very pathetic existence surviving on headache-inducing Asahi. They had Erdinger, and as nice as it is, its not my preferred poison.
So, imagine my happiness when HOBS opened up in Thonglor, right across the road from J-Avenue. HOBS of course, means House of Beers, and this place is awesome! Its a pity the food is only so-so, with the fries resembling matchsticks and the nachos averagely pedestrian. Its truly a pity, for with some good pub food, HOBS would be even more awesome than it is now!
After a night of chilling at HOBS, hunger pangs will either lead you to Sukumvit Soi 38, the usual clubber’s late night food destination, or if you are not that late, head down Ekamai to have Ba Mee Kai. Ekamai is parallel to Thong Lor, so its a short bikey ride away. It should be located at Ekamai Soi 19, tell the driver you want to eat Ba Mee Kai at Ekamai and they will know.
Ba Mee Kai is a Thai version of Char Siew noodles, but add a ‘Kai’ to it and it becomes a sinful after hours indulgence. Char siew noodles done the old way (With pork lard) and a whole egged cooked to molecular perfection. Modern chefs use a thermal circulator to cook their eggs to precisely x degrees celsius for x amounts of minutes. At this Ba Mee joint, which is actually a back of a pickup truck (Yes, that is a pickup truck!), they cook their eggs with a crappy aluminum pot and portable, gas powered stove.
There are many hole in the walls around Bangkok that draw me back time and again, and hopefully, in the near future, revisiting these places will result in more blog posts on one of the best foodie destinations in SE Asia.