In light of all the fancy new restaurants we’ve been covering in BK lately (we can’t help it; it’s just been one of those months), we decided it was high time we went back to basics: the fantastic street food stalls that are the true backbone of the city’s dining scene. But don’t just take our word for what the best finds in the city are. We spoke to four of our foodie friends and asked them to recommend the places they are most enthusiastic about. Here’s what we got:
Chef Ian may have been the first Thai ever to become the Executive Chef of a five-star hotel property, and he may have gotten his chops at places like French Laundry in Napa and El Bulli in Spain and Thai-restaurant Kittichai in New York. But his humble beginnings pushing a khao kaeng cart prepared by his mother is what makes him such an authority on Bangkok food. When he’s not busy commuting across the globe, you can find him at his newest Bangkok restaurant, Hyde and Seek (Athenee Residence, 65/1 Soi Ruam Rudee, 02-168-5152, BTS Phloen Chit).
• Thai-Chinese seafood, like kao pad poo (B33)
• Soi Charoennakorn 21, 02-863-6955. Open daily 10am-10pm
Ian says: “Great crab fried rice with fresh and hand-picked crab meat. Also great are their mee hong kong, a version of the Hong Kong stir-fried noodles, but this time with a Thai-Chinese flavor.”
BK tip: Get off at BTS Saphan Taksin and cross the river to Charoennakorn Road. Make a left and walk up the street. The factory-style space is located just across from soi 21.
• Bah mee moo daeng, bah mee crab (B50-300)
• 336/2 Rama 4 Rd. MRT Hua Lamphong. 02-236-1772. Open Tue-Sun 5-11pm
Ian says: “The noodles are made in-house and the recipe has been passed down over three generations. It’s only one noodle shop—they’ve never expanded. This is the taste, flavor and great texture of classic egg noodles, not to mention the blue swimmer crab and its very sweet flavor.”
BK tip: Just a short walk from the train station. A bowl of bah mee here can be as much as B300, so come prepared, and do watch out for the elderly uncle, who gets upset when you don’t have the exact change.
Chua Kim Heng
• Braised goose (B115-460, whole goose B920)
• 81-83 Pattanakarn Rd., 02-319-2510. Open daily 8.30am-6pm
Ian says: “One of the best braised goose in town, salty and sweet and with a deep molasses color from the braising liquid.”
BK tip: Okay, so it’s not really on the sidewalk, but we’re including it because it doesn’t have air-conditioning. And because it seems to constantly be packed with the sort of hi-so who would otherwise never deign to brace such heat. The braised goose aside, the bitter gourd soup is also fantastic. FYI, it’s across Pattanakarn Soi 6 and a 10-minute walk from the SARL Ramkhamhaeng station.
Chawadee Nualkhair got into food as a child because her mother couldn’t cook. She received a cooking diploma from L’Ecole Gregoire-Ferrandi (perhaps the toughest cooking school in Paris) and went on to cover much more serious subjects at international news agencies. Now a freelance journalist, Chawadee is also at work on her first book, about street food. Her blog is www.bangkokglutton.com
Aisa Rot Dee
• Khao mok kai/neua (B55), beef satay (B45 for 10)
• Beginning of Tani Road, 02-282-6378.
Open daily 8am-5pm, except fourth Monday of the month
Chawadee says: “This food court-style venue benefits from the convergence of a whole bunch of stalls in one tiny little open-air courtyard. That makes it a great one-stop introduction to Thai-Muslim food. It’s also hard to find, which, of course, I love. I think people should have to work a little bit for their great food experiences.”
BK tip: The entrance to the alley through which you’ll find Aisa Rot Dee is eclipsed by sidewalk shops, and the only identifying sign is in Thai only (non-readers can identify it from the red color and the crescent and star logo). Close to the corner of Tani Road and Soi Rambuttri.
Guay tiaw Lord
• Guay tiaw lord (flat rice noodles stuffed with pork, B35)
• Yaowaraj Rd. in front of the Seiko shop, next to La Scala shark fin restaurant. Open Tue-Sun 6:30pm-1am
Chawadee says: “Even though it’s fairly well-known, I wanted to make sure it’s included because it is that fantastic a dish. It’s loaded with so many flavors: pork, shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp included in the ‘fabric’ of the rice noodles.”
BK tip: They’ve been around for twenty years, and though they used to only do their signature dish, they now have a pretty fantastic kra por pla (B50-100), too.
• Lad na (B260), pad see ew (B280)
• 327 Mahachai Rd., 02-223-9384. Open Mon-Sat 3pm-2am
Chadawee says: “Yes, it’s an outdoor lad na stall with Italian-restaurant prices. But I think it’s one of Bangkok’s best Thai restaurants! The specialty lad na is really, really good — especially the seafood one with crispy noodles prepared ‘three ways’.”
BK tip: It’s right next to another outdoor stall, so don’t get confused. This one is a shophouse with lots of outdoor seating, directly across the street from Soi Samranrat and the wet market. They seem to have gotten a lot of attention from farangs, as they now do a laminated menu with a few pictures and English descriptions but, we say, stick to the basics.
Xia Duck Noodles
• Duck noodles (B35), five-spice duck (B70-100), dim sum (B20)
• 2856 Rama IV Rd., 02-671-3279, Open daily 7:30pm-midnight
Chawadee says: “It’s not just the duck noodles—there’s duck braised in five-spice powder and ‘Chinese medicine’ meant to go with rice; their tao tung for dessert; and, on Sunday afternoons, dim sum, duck rice and jab chai. A good sign you’re at Xia: deserted at 7pm, completely packed by 7:45.”
BK tip: They’ve been around for three decades. The duck noodles are amazing, yes, but we also recommend going there on a Sunday, when they do some specials like steamed duck and Chinese herbal soups like bah mee boo pith and bitter gourd.
A long-time resident who is fluent in Thai, Austin has been a regular writer and photographer for guides on Southeast Asia, most notably Lonely Planet. He maintains a serious photography and food blog where he chronicles his experience eating at street stalls around Bangkok (including helpful Googlemaps whenever possible) as well as on his travels around the region. Check it out at www.austinbushphotography.com
Khao Kruk Kapi
• Khao khruk kapi (rice with shrimp paste, sweet pork and mango, B30)
• Phra Athit Road. Open Tue-Sat 8am-2pm
Austin says: “There’s just about every flavor and texture you could ever want, and served with a bowl of hot broth, the dish is a tasty, healthy and balanced one-dish meal.”
BK tip: They only serve three dishes here, the highlight of which is the khao kruk kapi. The stall is set up on a stretch of sidewalk right in between Baan Pla Sod and a little cafe/bar called Artist, directly across the street from Baan Chao Phraya. Also, the unsung hero here is the broth accompaniment, which is super peppery and garlicky and plays no second fiddle to the main dish.
• Lad na (B30) and pad see ew (B35)
• 124/8 Nang Linchi Rd., 02 678 3517. Open Tue-Sun 11am-11pm, Mon 11am-3pm
Austin says: “The best thing about the dishes is how they’re prepared. The men wielding the spatulas at Nay Lao are masters, expertly charring the pad see ew and providing the dish with a smoky flavour that remains in your mouth a good hour after you’ve eaten it.”
BK tip: A food inspector’s nightmare, but you won’t care when you put that first bite of their pad see ew in your mouth. The owner makes it order-by-order, never combining orders, making it that much more remarkable that he’s always smiling and nice. It’s right opposite Nang Linchi Soi 8. There are two other branches at Thanon Tok Rd. and Choke Chai 4 being run by his brothers.
Coke Chuan Chim
• Yen ta fo (B35 regular, B40 special)
• Sala Daeng Soi 2. Open Tue-Fri 6-9:20am, noon-1:30pm
Austin says: “The broth is balanced out with plenty of deep-fried crispy garlic and slightly salty tao huu yii. A bowl comes with excellent-quality fish dumplings, fish cakes, shrimp balls, deep-fried tofu, par-boiled morning glory and pickled squid.”
BK tip: It’s right across from the Bangkok Christian Guest House under a big brown awning. Prepare for 15-minute waits but the owner keeps things very disciplined so that even the sneakiest aunties will be told off if they try to nab your table. Or head there at 1pm when the big rush is over.
• Guay tiaw khua kai (stir-fried noodles with picked squid, chicken and egg, B30)
• Alley behind the corner of Luang Road and Phlapplachai Road. Open daily 4-9pm
Austin says: “The man who cooks the dish, almost pancake style, allows the messy mixture of chicken, eggs and noodles to crisp on one side before flipping the whole lot over en masse. This provides the dish with a crispy texture and lots of tasty singed bits.”
BK tip: It’s a few buildings before Luang Road hits Phlapplachai. Turn left into the alleyway. You’ll have to pass another guay tiaw stall, Nong Ann, to get here. Go now before the litter of street kittens grows up and aren’t as cute anymore.
• Hoy thod (oyster omelet, B65)
• Corner of Plaeng Naam and Charoenkrung Road, 02-623-1980. Open daily 11am-9pm
Austin says: “Whether you order the crispy (or lua, pictured above) or soft (or suan) version, you’re getting a brilliant intersection of seafood and egg; smoky, rich and cooked to perfection. Quite possibly my favorite dish in Bangkok.”
BK tip: Get extras of the delicious dipping sauce, which may look like the stuff that goes with khai chiaw (omelet) but is runny and super vinegary and cuts wonderfully through the grease. Also, these are some of the fattest oysters we’ve ever seen.
A former resident of Chicago where she trained at the Cordon Bleu and at some of the city’s decorated French restaurants, Chef Nate is now back in Thailand, volunteering her time at the Royal Projects and the cause of eating local. Her Thong Lor restaurant, Triplets (6/F, Paranjit Tower, Soi Thong Lor, 02-712-8066), sources almost all food and drink, including beef and wine, from ranchers and growers in Thailand. Who better, then, to extol the virtues of Thai food made with Thai ingredients?
Joke Prince Bangrak
• Congee (B25-50)
• In front of Prince Movie Theatre at Bangrak, 089-795-2629
Nate Says: “I’ve had congee here since I was in primary school, thirty years ago. I think it’s very original—congee nowadays is very thick, but it’s supposed to be soothing when you feel sick or you want to have a light meal in the morning. This one is light, with a nice body and a smoky flavor, really unique.”
BK tip: Take the BTS to Saphan Taksin and walk down Charoenkrung Road, on the way to Silom Road. The shop is a set up in a little alley across the street from soi 44 (the entrance of Shangri-la Hotel).
Kao Tom Prung
• Khao tom (B80-100)
• 1083 Sukhumvit Road (corner of Soi Thong Lor), 02-391-8433. Open daily 5pm-10pm
Nate Says: “There’s a difference between congee and rice porridge. This one keeps the shape of the rice but still has a lot of soup in it. And the ingredients: the fish, shrimp and Chinese sweet pork, they’re all fresh and hygienic.”
BK tip: This is just a single-story shophouse eatery that’s easy to miss if you’re walking by. But the kao tom here is fairly expensive, because the ingredients are very aromatic and their servings are very generous.
• Chinese sweets (starts at B15-40)
• Near by Sapanluerng Church, close to Samyan Market
Nate Says: “They do a lot of condiments and fillings: red bean, lotus seed, water chestnut et cetera. They also have lots of flour-based dumplings in noodle and ball-shapes. And it’s all handmade by the lady who runs the store, and a lot of attention goes into the preparation, which is rare these days when you can just buy these things in bulk at the market.”
BK tip: Situated next to the famous goose noodle of Sapanluerng is the luckiest thing for us to find her. After testing tao tueng, don’t forget to try her por pia sod (B25). It will keeps you coming back to her.