Curries are a big deal in Kanchanaburi. People in this province love them, and love lots of them. I saw a restaurant in Thong Phaa Phoom district advertising 100 dishes. You can recognize such restaurants by the stainless steel pots out front. Other than curries, you’ll also find soups, stir-fries and other dishes. Understandably, it’s a big decision:
Finding myself both in Kanchanaburi and hungry, I was lucky to find Ko Kaat, a roadside stall boasting 39 dishes. After lifting about 20 lids, my partner in eating, Aong and I finally rounded it down to four dishes. Unfortunately, Kok Kaat appears to favour quantity over quality, and the dishes were had were average, although not bad. These included a pretty good tom yam het, mushroom tom yam:
and kaeng khii lek, a curry made from a bitter leaf:
For a few more pics, see the slideshow here.
Kok Kaat (Google Maps link)
211/1 Th Saengchuto, Kanchanaburi
It may not look like it, but these very Thai-looking sweets, photographed at a market in Samut Songkhram, are in fact Portuguese in origin. Here’s a description of how they came about, excerpted from an article I wrote a while back for Chile Pepper magazine:
Other than simply having brought new ingredients to the people and places they colonized, in some cases, by living and mixing with local populations, the Portuguese also had an impact on the way Asians cooked. This can be seen as early as the early 16th century, when after having secured the port of Melaka in present-day Malaysia, the Portuguese went abroad to nearby Thailand, then known as Siam. Establishing friendly relations with the kingdom that was based in Ayuthaya, the Portuguese influenced an unexpected aspect of Thai cuisine: its sweets. By introducing the concept of using egg yolks and flour, ingredients integral to Portuguese dessert making, the Portuguese had an impact on Thai desserts that exists until today. Remnants of this legacy can still be found Ayuthaya today. There I came across a variety of Thai sweets, probably variants of ovos moles, a Portuguese egg custard. These bright orange sweets included foy thong, ‘golden strands’, thong yot, ‘golden drops’, and thong yip, ‘pinched gold’, the names all including the Thai word for gold, thong, a reference to the color imparted by the use of duck-egg yolks.
Do I have any Portuguese readers out there? Am curious to know if these sweets still take the same form in their country of origin.
Stay tuned for more pics from Samut Songkhram’s very impressive market.
Samut Songkhram, a small town south of Bangkok, has one of the most interesting fresh markets in the country. As illustrated above, a significant part of the market is located directly on the city’s railroad tracks. When the train runs through, as it does several times each day, everybody picks up and moves to allow it to pass, then immediately gets back down to important task of vending. The aesthetics of the situation, not to mention the excellent food, led to some interesting images, some of which can be seen here.
Update: Reader cranrob sent a link to a hilarious YouTube video (not mine) of the train running through the market:
Perhaps I wasn’t so decisive about this before, but after my third visit, I’d say that this place serves the best northern Thai food I’ve eaten outside of the region. In fact, I’d wager that Maan Mueng puts out better northern Thai nosh than many restaurants in Chiang Mai! If you come during the day, the selection if huge, and you can just point to whatever looks good from the pots out front. It’s probably one of the only places in Bangkok where you can get seasonal dishes, such as the dish pictured above. It’s called yam phak hueat, and is made from sour-tasting leaf (phak hueat) that is minced and par-boiled before being mixed with a curry paste and some other herbs and seasonings. It may not look (or sound?) that pleasant, but was delicious.
Another fun dish was something of a northern Thai tempura; big green chilies stuffed with a delicious minced pork mixture, then battered and deep-fried:
But perhaps the coolest thing about Maan Mueng is the greens; there’s a vast table topped with bowls containing different veggies, leaves and herbs, many of which most Bangkok Thais wouldn’t even recognize:
A waitress warned me that one herb I chose would make my mouth numb. She was right.
Maan Mueng, which is also known as Yaa Maeng Wai, and which is now open evenings, recently moved a bit further up Ramkhamhaeng, and is now truly outside of the city, but is definitely worth a visit.
Maan Mueng/Yaa Maeng Wai (Google Maps link)
8am-10pm (closed Tuesday)
081 913 3413/081 771 1708
This restaurant (pronounced sa ngoo an see), resembling a concrete bunker filled with office furniture circa 1973, has been a longtime favourite of the the lower Sukhumvit professional set. The kitchen specializes in central and southern Thai fare, with an emphasis on sweet-savoury dishes and curries.
On a recent visit, friends Liz and Dan and I ordered khaao tang naa tang (pictured above), crispy rice cakes served with a sweet-savoury coconut milk, herb and ground pork topping. On previous visits I have had a good kaeng phet pet yaang, red curry with grilled duck breast served over khanom jeen noodles, and an interesting salad containing dried fish:
I’ve eaten here quite a few times recently, and have enjoyed each meal. This is in contrast to David Thompson, who told me he didn’t enjoy his latest visit. I urge those of you in Bangkok to stop by and let us know what you thought.
To find Sanguan Sri, enter Thanon Withayu and look for a gray, featureless building that you’ll inevitably walk past without noticing.
Sanguan Sri (Google Maps link)
59/1 Th Withayu
02 252 7637
You’d think you could get fried rice just about anywhere in Bangkok. But Cherry insisted we needed to go to Thanon Thaa Din Daeng, across the river in Thonburi. Cherry has taken me to some good places on this street before, so I had no reason to object.
What makes Sor Raad Naa’s fried rice worth the journey is that owner fries the rice old-school style in a wide flat wok over very, very hot coals. Occasionally he tilts the wok to impart everything with a smoky flavour:
If the coals aren’t hot enough, he flips a switch that turns on a high powered fan. He does two types of fried rice, one with tomato (pictured above) and another with Chinese kale:
The tomato version was slightly sour, and I imagine that the kale version would taste slightly bitter from the greens. Both are topped with pork that has been marinated and cooked ahead of time.
As the name suggests, the shop was originally known for its raad naa, noodles fried in a thick gravy. They also do the fried noodle dish, phat sii iw, but it seemed that most people, like us, came for the fried rice.
Sor Laad Naa (Google Maps link)
Soi 13, Th Thaa Din Daeng
Lunch & dinner
It’s been a busy holiday season:
I took the photos for a piece about dining in Bangkok in last month’s Olive.
I believe I have a piece about phat thai in the current issue of Intermezzo.
Here’s an interview (in French), with friend and photographer Eric Valli about our experience photographing bird nest gatherers in southern Thailand one year ago. His photos, including one that I took, were in a recent Paris Match.
And lastly, RealThai was mentioned in a recent New York Times piece on food in Bangkok.
This restaurant, pronounced phot saphaa khaan, is famous for its cook, who is the relative of a former cook in the royal palace. The restaurant, which has been located in the same place since 1925, claims to follow these royal recipes, and serves excellent old-school faves such as mee krawp (sweet/sour crispy noodles) and kaeng liang (a thick soup combining shrimp and vegetables). I particularly like the more unusual dishes such as a delicious salad of fresh herbs and grilled pork, and the deceptively simple but delicious omelet with lemongrass (pictured above).
Poj Spa Kar (Google Maps link)
443 Th Tanao
02 222 2686
10:30am-2:30pm, 5:30-9pm Mon-Fri; 11am-9:30pm Sat-Sun
Ever find yourself in a rut? There’s so much good stuff to eat in Bangkok’s Chinatown, but somehow I always find myself going to the same places. Thus with the intention of trying something new, I stopped by Choy Tii, a shophouse noodle joint on Thanon Plaeng Naam in the heart of Bangkok’s Chinatown. What initially drew me in was the shop’s sign (above), which advertised phat mee hong kong, Hong Kong-style fried noodles. Unfortunately Choy Tii was out of the thin, pale wheat noodles used to make this dish and I was asked if I’d rather have mee haeng, ‘dry noodles’. I agreed, reluctantly, and received this:
The noodles, the flat kind known as bamii, were par-boiled along with a few leaves of lettuce, and the whole lot was topped with cubes of fatty muu waan, ‘sweet pork’, and generous lashings of thick dark Chinese-style vinegar. The dish was meaty, oily and sour, and I thought it was one of the best bowls of noodles I’ve had in a long while. I ate every last bit.
Looking at the sign again it appeared that yen taa fo was Choy Tii’s signature dish, so I decided to try a bowl. I was highly disappointed: the soggy noodles, tasteless factory-like fishballs and weak broth were particularly disappointing, especially after the wonderful yet simple bowl I had just eaten. It was almost enough to make me order another mee haeng.
Choy Tii (Google Maps link)
59 Th Plaeng Naam
02 222 6087
Lunch & dinner
Lest you think it’s all famous restaurants and ancient recipes for me here in Bangkok, I do enjoy (relatively) trashy food once in a while. This desire usually manifests itself early in the morning, when I’m on my way to Chinatown to take photos. Stopping by Hua Lamphong, the city’s main train terminal, I beeline to the snacks shown above. The waffle-like pastry above is in fact, cleverly known as The Waffle (motto: “Enjoy your life enjoy your waffle”). Lately I’ve been opting for sesame-salt flavour, but I’m also an firm supporter of rum-raisin. A hunk of The Waffle is best enjoyed with a steaming paper cup of espresso from Black Canyon (motto: “A drink from paradise… available on Earth”), a bargain at 50 baht.
And if there was any additional need to justify my decision, here’s the view at Hua Lamphong:
(For a larger version of this pic, go here.)
Friend and fellow blogger Newley Purnell is also a big player on the Bangkok waffle scene. He has been known to down one or two The Waffles, but is probably most recognized for his promotion of that ancient Thai snack dish, the waffle-coated hot dog.