Perhaps I’ve lived here too long, or maybe I’m just jaded, but lately I’ve become convinced that there’s little good Thai food in Bangkok. My cynicism seemed to be confirmed when a recent dining companion and longtime resident of Bangkok, Ung Ang Talay, expressed similar notions. He then proceeded to prove both of us wrong by taking me and buddy R to Dao Tai, a truly wonderful southern Thai restaurant in Thonburi (well, technically not Bangkok, but close enough).
Dao Tai, like any good southern Thai raan khao kaeng (curry shop) serves a huge array of prepared curries, soups, dips and stir-fries. Simply side up to the glass case and point at whatever looks tasty.
We ordered a huge array of dishes, every one of them uniquely delicious and authentically southern:
There was, from the bottom and moving upwards, kai tom khamin, a thin but fragrant broth of chicken, lemongrass, shallots and fresh turmeric; kaeng lueang, one of the most famous dishes in southern Thailand, a sour, salty, spicy soup of fish and vegetables (or sometimes shrimp and fruit); a rich coconut curry combining beef and pea eggplant; an absolutely delicious soup of creamy coconut milk, tender palm shoots, tiny shrimp and a local leaf called bai liang; and previously unknown but delicious curry of tender palm shoots, grilled fish and sour young tamarind leaves.
Ung Ang Talay ordered nam phrik makhaam on, a tart ‘dip’ of young tamarind:
and at some point there was also a bowl of kaeng khii lek, a thick coconut curry of bitter accacia leaves and grilled fish.
It was one of the best Thai meals I’ve had in a long time, and also served to assure me that there is indeed good Thai food in Bangkok; you just need to be pointed in the right direction by somebody equally pessimistic.
A few more images from the meal can be seen here (all images taken with my Nikon D100, my first digital SLR).
508/26 Th Phran Nok, Thonburi
02 412 2385
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Hua Hin is an old-school seaside resort a couple hours south of Bangkok. It’s still a popular destination today, particularly among middle-class Thais, but beer bars have begun made the centre of town feel more like Pattaya than a quaint fisherman’s village. Nonetheless, if you walk along the beach you’ll see several graceful holiday homes that echo the town’s past, some of which have been refurbished as restaurants. Probably the most popular of these is Baan Itsara:
I had eaten here several years ago and recalled that I enjoyed it. Visiting Hua Hin again with buddies N and R, Baan Itsara seemed the perfect setting for a bromantic late lunch.
My favourite dish of the meal was probably ping ngop thale:
The dish is made by combining curry paste with hearty chunks of seafood, wrapping it up in basil and banana leaves, then grilling it until it solidifies. The basil leaves provide a slightly spicy, bitter flavour, and the dish also has a subtle smokiness from being grilled.
There was a deliciously sour plaa kao tom buay:
grouper soup made tart with the addition of dried plums, and slightly spicy by the addition of holy basil.
There was a unique stir-fried green curry:
topped with deep-fried crispy krachai (Chinese key) and rich with fresh seafood, but the curry was a bit too mild and the eggplants undercooked and bitter.
There were slightly flabby raw oysters (pictured at the top of this post), served Thai-style with sides including garlic, seafood dipping sauce, nam phrik phao and crispy fried shallots. And we also ordered a so-so house yam:
a Thai-style ‘salad’ featuring generous amounts of even more seafood.
All in all a decent, but not outstanding meal.
7 Th Naep Khehat, Hua Hin
032 530 574
Hua Hin isn’t exactly a food destination, but the city has a pretty solid night market. From surprisingly un-greasy phat thai to tasty looking curries, I found something there for just about everybody. To commence a slideshow of images from Hua Hin’s night market, click on the image above — use keyboard arrows or hold your mouse above the images to navigate through them.
I was taking photos at Nay Lao, a noodle restaurant in Bangkok, when the owner made a serious face and called me the back of the restaurant. I thought he was going to scold me for snapping pics, but instead he asked, “Are you Catholic?” I replied “Sure” and immediately thought back to the photo I had just taken:
“There’s a father visiting Bangkok from the Philippines. He’s here to cure people, please come by,” he said, handing me a brochure.
In addition to salvation, Nay Lao also specialises in two tasty dishes: raat naa (shown on the left above), rice noodles served with pork, greens and a thick gelatinous gravy, and phat sii iw, rice noodles fried with pork, greens, egg and soy sauce (sii iw). Either dish can be ordered with sen yai, wide flat rice noodles, or sen mii, vermicelli-like strands. The pork has been marinated and is tender, and the vegetables, a type of Chinese kale, are fresh and crispy.
But the best thing about the dishes is how they’re prepared. The men wielding the spatulas at Nay Lao are masters, expertly charring the phat sii iw and providing the dish with a smokey flavour that remains in your mouth a good hour after you’ve eaten. This is done in a single vast wok that really could use a bit of cleaning:
but we can only pray for that to happen.
124/8 Th Nang Linchi, Bangkok
02 678 3517
11am-11pm, Mon 11am-3pm
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and Thanon Senanikhom 1
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If you follow events in Thailand then you’re probably already aware of the anti-government protests that have taken place in Bangkok. I was able to witness some of the clashes firsthand today from 1-3pm in the area surrounding the Victory Monument. Although by the evening of the same day the situation appears to have calmed, the standoff was tense and occasionally violent, and could potentially have been much worse. To view a slideshow of some of the images (taken with my new Nikon D700!), click on the image above — use keyboard arrows or hold your mouse above the images to navigate through them.
Back in 2006 blogger Newley Purnell introduced the world to a French fry-coated hot dog on a stick he had encountered in Korea. Word spread, and other bloggers, including the now Melbourne-based Phil Lees, were posting their own sightings of the dish. Eventually, Lees took the concept a step further and improvised a recipe for the dish (as well as a subsequent bacon version). Here in Bangkok were so taken by the inherent genius of the dish, not to mention Lees’s breathtaking reverse engineering feat, that we decided to attempt our own ‘modern’ interpretation of the French fry-coated hot dog on a stick.
Our contribution to the genre? The dish pictured above: sous-vide potato confit with panko crust and hot dog foam. Unlike Lees, Hock has a modern kitchen at his disposal, and he took full advantage of this to apply cooking techniques that would best highlight each of the dish’s individual ingredients while not losing sight of the dish’s street origins. I think you’ll agree that we succeeded in this.
The lengthy process began by cooking hot dogs and potatoes sous-vide; the hot dogs at a carefully calculated temperature and time ratio of 53.2ºC for 73 hours and 22 minutes, the potatoes at 84.7C for 2 hours 17 minutes (Starch begins to break down at temperatures of 78C and above. Natural pectins, which are the molecular glue holding all plant cells together, do not begin to break down until 85C):
For that bit of extra luxury, the potatoes were prepared confit with the help of the finest street fat available, Crisco:
To prepare the hot dog foam Hock extracted the liquid from the sous-vided CP-brand hot dogs we sourced from our supplier (a nearby branch of 7-Eleven, think local, fools):
and combined it with .83% lecithin, using a hand blender to create a rich nitrate-laden foam:
The potatoes were prepared in an egg bath and subsequently coated with panko bread crumbs:
before being deep-fried:
A smear of ketchup* and a dollop of the hot dog foam finish the dish:
A few ‘behind the scenes’ pics can be seen here.
*Our original conceptualization of the dish included a ketchup ‘ribbon’, but Hock’s methylcellulose was no match for Heinz, and after several failed attempts we gave up; plus Hock had a terrible case of Bangkok belly (probably from all the hot dog research) and was growing weaker with every passing hour.
Food-related hint: The above dish, a vast flattened, bread crumb-battered deep-fried chicken breast, subsequently baked with a zesty tomato sauce, a thin slice of ham and rich, white, rubbery cheeze, and in this case, accompanied by French fries, a salad and a Mountain Goat Pale Ale, is considered ancient traditional fare by the natives of the country I’m currently visiting.
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