A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.


Monthly Archives: June 2009



Naaz

Posted at 11pm on 6/3/09 | read on
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 Goat biryani at Naaz, a Muslim restaurant in Bangkok

I’ve previously blogged about this tiny Muslim restaurant off Thanon Charoen Krung, but having recently been reminded just how good it is, not to mention the fact that it always seems to be empty, felt compelled me to do a re-run.

The dish to order here is khao mok, biryani, in particular, the goat version (pictured above). The rice here is perfectly-cooked, pleasingly oily (with ghee, I suspect) and fragrant, and studded with raisins, cashews and dried spices, while the joint of goat is fall-apart tender and sits beneath the rice in a puddle of rich curry that eventually soaks into the rice, bringing the dish together.  It’s served with slices of cucumber and onion and a slice of lime and a wonderful homemade relish that’s equal parts sweet and sour.

Damn, it’s good.

There are a few other similar, although not quite as tasty Muslim places in the area, including Fatima, Muslim Restaurant and Home Islamic Cuisine.


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Appetite

Posted at 6pm on 6/16/09 | read on
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Just discovered that shooter Penny De Los Santos has started Appetite, a food-based photo blog. For those not familiar with Penny, she’s a talented photojournalist who happens to do a lot of food-related work and brings those photojournalistic sensibilities into her images. It’s been a while since I’ve come across any interesting food-related blogs, so I’m looking forward to following this one.

Yen Ta Fo JC

Posted at 4am on 6/17/09 | read on
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A bowl of yen ta fo at Coke Chuan Chim, a street stall in Bangkok

I’ve recently moved, and after all these years of living in Bangkok, I’m finally living in Bangkok. I’m now based steps from Thanon Silom, Bangkok’s de facto financial district, basically in the centre of town. Foodwise, there’s an amazing amount of cheap eats around here, strategically positioned and priced to appeal to low- and mid-level office staff. Frankly, much of it doesn’t really look that interesting and is emblematic of the spicy, oily stuff that Bangkokians fancy these days. But amongst the riff raff there are a few ‘famous’ vendors, including a yen ta fo vendor called JC.

Despite being a street stall, and despite the fact that your order is most likely be taken by an overweight shirtless man, there’s no small amount of pretension and protocol associated with eating here. Seating is strictly relegated, and the vast majority of tables are only available for groups of six. If you come with a friend you’re asked to sit on the same side of one of the few tables set aside for individuals. (And don’t even think about sitting where the owner sits.) Because the place is so popular and so much care is put into each bowl, you’re encouraged to order multiple bowls in one go (this is called bun and stems from the Thai shortening and mispronunciation of the English word ‘double’). And after all this, bowls only leisurely arrive at your your table, just as fast as the older couple can put them together.

But it’s worth the wait.

The yen ta fo here is slightly sweet for my taste, but admittedly, that’s exactly how this dish should be. The broth is balanced out with plenty of deep-fried crispy garlic and slightly salty tao huu yii, a tofu-based condiment that also provides the dish with it’s red colour. A bowl comes with excellent-quality fish dumplings, fish cakes, shrimp balls, deep-fried tofu, par-boiled morning glory and pickled squid. And lastly, an order of sen yai here will not get you the usual wide rice noodle sheets, but rather noodles that take the form of thick, old-skool Adidas shoelace-sized strands.

Yen Ta Fo JC
Sala Daeng Soi 2
6-9.20am & noon-1.30pm Tues-Fri


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Kuan Phochana

Posted at 12am on 6/18/09 | read on
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A bowl of chicken khao soi at Kuan Phochana, a restaurant in Bangkok

Bangkok is a decent place to dip your toe in the ocean of regional Thai food, but as soon you attempt to go any deeper than that it’s nigh impossible to find anything profoundly good (it’s even getting harder to find really good Bangkok food these days, but that’s a whole other blog post…).

Take khao soi, for example. If you’re a regular reader of the blog you’re probably already aware of my love for this northern-style curry noodle dish. I’m constantly seeking the stuff out when up north and am always on the lookout for a decent bowl here in Bangkok, but have mostly come up empty-handed. Other than the excellent khao soi at the Bangkok branch of the famous Chiang Mai institution Lam Duan, which unfortunately is located way outside of town, most khao soi in Bangkok is mediocre, or worse. And disappointingly, such was the case with today’s effort, Kuan Phochana (pictured above). The broth of our khao soi kai, chicken khao soi, looked and tasted like little more than sweet-ish coconut milk combined with stale curry powder. Even the sides of pickled mustard greens and the fried chili topping were unpleasant (admittedly, the noodles were decent and authentic though). And to top it off, at 50B for a phiset or ‘special’ bowl, it was relatively expensive.

Luckily their nam ngiaw:

A bowl of khanom jeen nam ngiaw, a northern Thai noodle dish, at Kuan Phochana, a restaurant in Bangkok

a northern-style noodle dish usually also served at the same places that serve khao soi, was decent: satisfyingly rich, meaty and fragrant.

So if you’re in the neighbourhood, you could do worse than stopping by the for decent nam ngiaw, but I’d recommend saving the khao soi for your next trip up north. (And if you can’t make it up north, other, slightly tastier khao soi joints in Bangkok include Khao Soi Sophaphan, Yuy Lee and Maan Mueng.)

Kuan Phochana
Soi 22, Thanon Sukhumvit


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Phat Thai Fai Look

Posted at 8am on 6/24/09 | read on
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 Frying up phat thai at Phat Thai Fai Look, a stall in Bangkok

The name of this stall means ‘rising flame’, a reference to how the phat thai here is fried a small wok, which allows the flames to char the noodles. This is a substantial difference with the vast majority of phat thai, as the dish is generally made on a wide flat surface with no flames at all.

The vendor sets up at the little alleyway of ‘famous’ stalls at the popular Soi 38 night market, and in addition to flames, there are a few more interesting things about how he rolls. He begins the dish by flash-frying shrimp, dried shrimp and tofu in plenty of oil over a very, very hot flame. Next, the fire is turned down and dry rice noodles are moistened with a few splashes of tinned milk and seasoned with sugar, vinegar, dried chili and fish sauce. The heat is increased again and the noodles and seasonings are mixed thoroughly (shown above). After a few seconds, chopped Chinese chives and bean sprouts are tossed in and the dish is removed. In a new wok, he then scrambles a few eggs over a very high heat and when cooked, adds these to the noodle mixture. And when serving the dish, instead of the usual sliced banana flower, he uses a few sprigs of pennywort.

Unfortunately, despite all these clever variations, the result is a pretty bog standard dish of phat thai:

A dish of phat thai at Phat Thai Fai Look, a stall in Bangkok

Not bad, but wholly unremarkable, and most sadly, lacking the smokiness that I assume was the intent of making the dish in this manner.

Oh well.

Phat Thai Fai Look
Corner Thanon Sukhumvit & Soi 38
8pm-late


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Ko Tek Chiang 3

Posted at 7am on 6/25/09 | read on
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A bowl of nuea toon, braised beef, at Ko Tek Chiang 3, a restaurant outside Bangkok

Vegetarians, cover your eyes: this is a particularly flesh-laden post. But in its defense I’d have to say that Ko Tek Chiang 3 is one of the best uses of meat that I’ve encountered in a long time.

The flesh in question is in the form of toon, a Chinese-style slow braise:

Making nuea toon, braised beef, at Ko Tek Chiang 3, a restaurant outside Bangkok

It’s a simple dish, consisting of cuts of pork or beef simmered until tender and served with a seasoned broth, a pinch of veggies and, if desired, rice.

We stuck with the nuea toon, beef (shown at the top of this post). The slices you see at the top of the bowl are tongue, which have their own particular meaty flavour and were virtually fall-apart tender. Below that you’ll find bits of beef similar to the Vietnamese-style corned beef one finds in pho, and the Thai favourite, big strips of gelatinous tendon. The broth has a pleasant amber colour and is peppery to the point of being spicy. The dish is truly, meatily wonderful, but, in what must be the proprietor’s bizarre inside joke, is served with some of the worst rice I’ve encountered anywhere in Thailand.

The other downside: Ko Tek Chiang 3 is located way out in Muang Thong Thani. The “3” in the name implies that there are two branches elsewhere, but they have no business card so I wasn’t even able to establish an accurate address for this one. The Google Map location below, pinpointed with the consul of my iPhone, should be accurate though.

But it’s worth the drive for the tongue alone.

Ko Tek Chiang 3
Bond St., Muang Thong Thani
Lunch


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Andy “Richter” Ricker, chef/owner of Pok Pok and Ping, makes som tam on the Today show:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

And Nong’s Khao Man Gai stall is written up in the Oregonian.

If you find yourself in Bangkok

Posted at 7pm on 6/29/09 | read on
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Hock grilling Portuguese-style chicken on the streets of BKK

and happen upon a drunk Kiwi chef grilling chicken on the side of the street, don’t be alarmed; foreigners haven’t started taking menial jobs, and food standards haven’t yet dropped that much. Rather, Hock and I simply wanted to make frango no churrasco, Portuguese-style grilled chicken.

You see, my new place doesn’t allow coal-burning stoves, so we asked the streetside Isaan restaurant downstairs if we could use their grill. They were kind enough to oblige, and the next day we brought down two small Thai free-range chickens that I had marinated overnight in my own homemade molho de piri-piri (dried phrik kariang chilies from Mae Hong Son, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, salt):

Portuguese-style chicken ready to be grilled on the streets of BKK

After removing the birds from the marinade, Hock spatchcocked them two different ways: one he cut down the breastbone and the other down the spine:

Portuguese-style chicken ready to be grilled on the streets of BKK

After a few minutes of grilling, it appeared that the latter seemed to work better, as it meant that the thicker breast meat was in the centre of the chicken, directly above the fire. Hock also pointed out that, whereas Americans and Australians happily go about spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars on complicated barbecue systems, this guy, like many other Thai street vendors, gets by with an enamel basin and a wire grill. This is really all one needs, since we were grilling, not smoking, and a lid isn’t even necessary.

The coals were hot but not flaming, and it took a good 45 minutes to cook, all the while we drank our beers and received strange looks from passing Thais. Our kind sponsor helped us pass the time with shots of yaa dong, a bright-red, sickly-sweet Thai herbal liquor. In return, we gave him some chicken, our recipe and money for new coals.

The result was so tasty we forgot to take a pic of it.