It’s been a while since I’ve featured any recipes on these pages, and unfortunately, I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to do that anytime soon. Luckily, thanks to Maytel, I was recently reminded of a couple good Thai recipes sites that I’d forgotten about along the way:
Appon’s Thai Food features nearly 1,000 authentic and well-organized Thai food recipes, all put together by a native of Thailand. She even has short audio clips of her pronouncing the various dishes and ingredients. Very cool.
And Thai Food Tonight has a recipe page featuring videos (and recipes) of quite a wide spectrum of Thai dishes. The woman featured in the videos, Dim Geefay, previously hosted a Thai cooking programme on US television.
If you’re hungry, in Bangkok, and don’t happen to have any money, I’d suggest stopping by Government House. At the moment there’s a crazy party going on there with heaps of free nosh:
It’s been said somewhere that you always end up paying for free things, and I reckon the cost here would be having to eat your free pork and sticky rice while being forced to listen to somebody screaming about the current Prime Minister must ‘die’. I lost my appetite, which was really too bad, as the selection of food was pretty impressive: curries, stir-fries, an abundance of omelets, candy and buns. If you wait long enough, an expensive German car will inevitably pull up and and unload even more food:
And when you’re full, there are lots of pleasant places to relax:
It’s the hottest party in town. And it’s all free. Details here.
I’ve eaten at many, if not most of the upscale Thai restaurants in Bangkok, and have rarely, if ever, had a good meal. Nothing I ate at these restaurants was necessarily bad–no hairs were found, no surly service, nothing rotten–but rather, the food left no impression whatsoever. The general phenomenon seems to be that the more you pay for Thai food, the less flavourful it is, and the more predictable the menu tends to be.
Exploring Banglamphu with friends on a recent Sunday, it didn’t take us very long to realize that on Sunday, in Banglamphu, absolutely nothing is open. Luckily, a few days previously, I was reminded of an upscale Thai restaurant that I’ve always suspected might be different from the rest, so we made it up Th Dinso to Sorndaeng.
A sign out front claims that Sorndaeng has been around since 1957. A glance into the dining room shows that very little appears to have changed in 51 years: the service staff dress like soldiers, there are doilys and frumpy furniture, live lounge music (appropriately, a mild version of ‘Sukiyaki‘ was sung at one point), and of course that most telling sign of old-school Thai elitism, a table dominated by several big-haired, silk-wearing Thai-Chinese women:
A had been eating here since she was young, and suggested we order krathong thong:
‘golden baskets’ with a sweet/savoury filling.
I ordered lon kapi, a savoury ‘dip’ served with fresh vegetables and herbs:
and yam som oh, pomelo salad:
The former was a very good take on a dish that’s somewhat hard to find, and the latter was simple but delicious, incorporating no more than five ingredients including deep-fried cashews, and if I remember correctly, roasted coconut.
A ordered fish maw fried with egg and bean sprouts:
a dish I didn’t think I would like, but which was actually very nice, deliciously eggy and smokey, a lot like or suan.
P ordered mee krop, just to see how it would stand up to that of Chote Chitr:
It wasn’t bad, but not nearly as rich, citrusy and complex as Chot Chitr’s.
We had a couple other things as well, including a soup with duck and pickled lime, and the yummy crab-filled hor mok shown at the top of the post. Virtually every dish was excellent.
Sorndaeng also proved to be one of the few places I was actuallly inspired to order a dessert:
Mango and sticky rice–a Thai cliche, but still very nice, even if it wasn’t peak mango season.
Finally: highly recommendable upscale Thai food.
Sorndaeng (Google Maps link)
78/2 Th Ratchadamnoen Klang
02 224 3088
Kuay jap, a thick broth with deep-fried crispy pork, pork offal and thick noodles is not a dish I thought I would like. In general, I try to keep my meat consumption to a minium, and I like noodles well enough, but rarely crave them. However with kuay jap it’s the broth that keeps drawing me back… The thick liquid is so laden with pepper that it’s positively spicy.
Uan Phochana (‘Fat Nutrition’–don’t ask) is one of a couple very, very popular stalls in Bangkok’s Chinatown selling this dish. Naay Uan (‘Mr Fat’, you sense a trend here?), just up the road, is probably more popular, but my latest discovery had a couple touches I really liked. There seems to be less emphasis on the offal at Uan Phochana (although it could be they just prepared it that way for the White Guy), the crispy pork could shatter a tooth, and the dish is served with tiny, crispy fingers of deep-fried dough:
But best of all, there’s that pepper burn…
Uan Phochana (Google Maps link)
02 812 0640
It’s that time of year again: Thailand’s annual Vegetarian Festival is in full swing, and as always, the best place to eat is the Chinatown area. Most people come for the various meat-free noodle and fried dishes, but I personally can’t wait for khanom tup tap. This is an old-school snack made from peanuts, sugar and a bit of salt pounded into a flaky roll–via a pretty amazing process.
It all begins by cooking roasted peanuts in boiling syrup:
The resulting mixture, which resembles still-warm peanut brittle, is cooled then thoroughly blended by two men working wooden mallets. During the pounding, the peanut mixture is repeatedly folded onto itself, giving the dish the phyllo-like layers you can see in the first pic. The sound (tup tap, tup tap) made by the pounding is the origin of the snack’s name:
The paste is then stretched out into a long thin sheet and is filled with even more ground peanuts, with the sheet serving as a wrapper of sorts. The whole lot melts together and the long tubes are cut into bite-sized pieces:
The result is simultaneously savoury, sweet and crispy, and is remarkably similar in taste and texture to the the American candy bar, Butterfinger. As Phil Lees can confirm, khanom tup tap are also incredibly addictive. Get your tup tap on from now until October 9th, at the shrine described below.
Available during Bangkok’s annual Vegetarian Festival, late September/early October, at the Jo Sue Kong Shrine, Talat Noi (see map below).
Jay is the Chinese/Thai word for vegetarian, and from now until October 9th is the annual Ngaan Jay, Vegetarian Festival. To be honest though, it is quite possibly the most innacurately-named festival around. Although everything for sale in Thailand’s various Chinese districts during this period is entirely meat free, you’ll actually find very few, if any, actual vegetables. Just about everything is either some form of starch (noodles, rice, potatoes) or protein (soy).
In addition to a lack of vegetables, virtually everything is fried:
Another odd aspect of the festival is that Bangkok’s entire Chinese community seems to collectively decide that it’s not capable of cooking at home during the 10 days, and instead buys every meal ‘to go’ from a truly remarkable number of street stalls:
Nonetheless, if you’re willing to brave the potentially detrimental health risks of the Vegetarian Festival, it’s heaps of fun, and in Chinatown, everybody is involved. In Talat Mai, the main market alley, vendors who normally sell meat instead sell soy-based meat substitutes:
If you look closely, you’ll see veggie ground pork, veggie scallops, and even veggie pork stomach and intestines!
Across the way, even Nay Uan, normally one of the meatiest stalls around, goes jay, serving up tofu, soy protein and mushrooms in place of pork offal:
Just next door, OK Phat Thai has ditched the epynomous dish and makes a variety of meat-free noodle stir-fries and vegtarian hoy jor:
But my favourite Vegetarian Festival dish is fried yellow wheat noodles, phat mee leuang:
Fried yes, but also one of the only dishes that actually includes vegetables.