A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.


Monthly Archives: September 2011



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The Thai-language food guide Aroijang recently led me to Khao Man Kai Jao Kao, a restaurant in Bangkok’s Chinatown known for its khao man kai, Hainanese chicken rice. According to the guide, the restaurant still does the dish the old-fashioned Hainanese way, using fat kai ton (castrated roosters) and cooking the rice over coals. This resulted in rice that was just about perfectly cooked, well seasoned and pleasantly fatty, but the chicken was unremarkable and lacked the tender, velvety texture that defines a truly remarkable version of this dish. Instead of the more common sides of cucumber slices and chicken soup, here the rice and chicken is served with a chunk of blood and garnish of coriander, as well as the usual fermented soy bean dipping sauce, which in addition to the usual ginger and chili, also included coarse chunks of garlic.

Almost certainly more interesting was the restaurant’s tom lueat muu:

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literally ‘boiled pig blood’, a soup that, in addition to its namesake, also includes lean slices of pork, crispy pork belly, spleen, stomach and intestine. The meat and offal was extremely tender and flavourful without being too porky. The broth is clear and garlicky and came served with a couple leaves of lettuce and a sprigs of a fresh herb not unlike Italian parsley. You can order the soup with rice noodles or a side of rice, and if you find the offal too overpowering, you can temper it with a spicy/sour dipping sauce that combines crushed fresh chilies and vinegar.

Khao Man Kai Jao Kao
36-42 Th Plaeng Nam, Bangkok
02 623 1200
8am-4.30pm


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A while back, I asked fellow Bangkok-based blogger and likewise graduate of the University of Oregon, Sirin, about her favourite places to eat in Bangkok. Without hesitation she mentioned Somsong Phochana, a shophouse restaurant in Bangkok’s Banglamphu neighbourhood. I ate there for the first time not long after our chat, and after a few subsequent visits, suspect that Somsong may also be nudging its way onto my own favourites list.

Somsong is actually the name of the current owner’s deceased mother, who started the restaurant more than 40 years ago. A native of Sukhothai, she began by selling curries and stir-fries, and later also sold the signature dish of her hometown, kuaytiaw Sukhothai, Sukhothai-style noodles. The dish is still available today:

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and appears to be the reason most people visit Somsong. Kuaytiaw Sukhothai combines thin rice noodles, a sweet broth, thinly-sliced long bean, various cuts of pork, and a topping of deep-fried pork rind. The version here also includes – unusually – crunchy squares of salted radish and ground peanuts. But despite the accolades and fans, I found the dish (both the ‘dry’ and broth versions) overly sweet and one-dimensional, lacking the meatiness and oily richness of the versions I’ve encountered up in Sukhothai.

Instead, what brings me back to Somsong is the restaurant’s excellent central Thai-style curries and spicy stir-fries. In particular, you’re safe ordering just about anything that contains the restaurant’s look chin plaa kraay, dumplings make from a type of freshwater fish. Tender and pleasantly fishy, they’re some of the best I’ve encountered in Bangkok, and feature in several dishes including Somsong’s excellent green curry (pictured at the top of this post). If you’ve only encountered green curry at Thai restaurants abroad or at places that predominately serve foreigners, you might initially be disappointed, as the curry itself is rather thin and watery and has little of the coconut milk creaminess that I suspect many have come to associate with the dish. Instead, the emphasis is on taste, not texture, and an effort is made towards a balance of sweet and savoury, with tender eggplants providing a slightly bitter kick. The curry above was served over khanom jeen noodles instead of rice, and as with many central Thai dishes that include fish or seafood, also included thin strips of krachaay (a root herb with a camphor-like flavour), which serve to counter any unpleasant fishy flavour.

On a previous visit I had a somewhat more traditional green curry with chicken, accompanied by a spicy stir-fry of frog:

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And on my most recent visit there was a tempting kaeng matsaman, but as usual, I went for the green curry.

I’ve also been told that Somsong does excellent desserts, but I’m usually too full to investigate. For more descriptions of the dishes at Somsong, proceed to Sirin’s write-up, here.

Somsong Phochana
Soi Wat Sangwet, Bangkok
02 282 0972
9.30am-4pm


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Mee phat krachet (หมี่ผัดกระเฉด) is a somewhat obscure dish that combines thin rice noodles, seafood and krachet, a type of crunchy aquatic vegetable. At Sor Naa Wang, a shophouse restaurant near Bangkok’s City Hall, the noodles are seasoned with plenty of garlic and fresh chili, and come from the wok with lots of delicious singed bits. The dish is served with a somewhat unusual tart/salty dipping sauce that combines sliced fresh chili, sliced shallots, fish sauce and lotsa lime.

They also do a reputedly tasty sukii haeng that I’m keen to investigate, as well as several other fried noodle dishes, but I’ve yet to work my way past this one.

Sor Naa Wang
156/2 Th Din Sor, Bangkok
02 622 1525
10am-11.30pm


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This is a fantastically simple but tasty dish you can make even if you have access to only the most rudimentary Asian ingredients. One of many Chinese-influenced fried rice dishes available in Thailand, khao phat nam liab revolves around nam liab, Chinese salted olive (Western-style olives are not a substitute), which gives the dish a distinct briny/umami flavour. I suspect that I first encountered the dish at Je Ngor, a Chinese-Thai seafood chain with several branches around Bangkok.

The amounts below are approximate, and like always, you should constantly be tasting the dish as you cook it to arrive at the flavour that your prefer. To my mind, this dish should have an assertively salty flavour that is balanced by the acidic sides.

And as written instructions aren’t always enough, here’s a video – in Thai only – of the dish being made:

Khao phat nam liab

Lime, 1, diced
Ginger, 1 small piece, peeled and diced
Fresh chili, to taste, sliced
Cilantro, a couple sprigs
Roasted cashews, a couple Tbsps

Oil, 2 Tbsp
Minced pork, about 1/4 cup
Garlic, 2-3 cloves, minced
Nam liab (Chinese salted olive), about 4, seeded and chopped
Cooked rice, about 2 cups*

White pepper, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Soy sauce, to taste

Prepare lime, ginger and chili as described above, and set aside along with cilantro and cashews.

In a wok over medium-high heat, heat oil and add pork. Saute until somewhat dry and crumbly, about four or five minutes. Add garlic and salted olive, saute a minute or two longer until ingredients are combined and garlic is no longer raw.

Add rice, stirring to combine all the ingredients and separate the grains. Season with white pepper to taste, sugar, if desired, and soy sauce, if rice isn’t salty enough.

Serve with prepared sides as illustrated above.

*As suggested in Thompson’s Thai Street Food, I use just cooked rice, still hot from the cooker, and find that it doesn’t tend stick to the pan and maintains the right consistency. This contrasts with many other fried rice recipes, which suggest using cooked rice that’s been chilled overnight.

Granja Viader

Posted at 9pm on 9/14/11 | read on
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In flipping through photos of my recent trip to Europe, quite possibly one of the most memorable things I consumed there was a cup of Spanish-style hot chocolate at Granja Viader, a more than century old cafe in Barcelona:

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Luckily the pic at the top of this post does the bulk of the work, because the combination of that fat cloud of whipped cream and the puddle of hot, slightly bitter chocolate is something that can really only be experienced, not explained. In addition to a glass-like crust and a rich texture, the crema catalana had a unique spice flavour that I don’t think any of us was able to identify.

Amazing stuff.

Granja Viader‎
C/ Xuclà, 4, Barcelona, Spain
933 183 486


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Jib Kee/จิ๊บกี่

Posted at 2am on 9/19/11 | read on
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The area around Bangkok’s Nang Loeng Market is home to lots of old-school restaurants that are ripe for investigation.

One of the oldest-school looking ones is Jib Kee, a restaurant that, for more than 50 years, has specialised in meaty Chinese-Thai dishes such as roast pork and duck:

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On my first visit I tried their muu krob (หมูกรอบ; shown at the top of this post), roast pork belly, and immediately suspected that it might be one of the best I’ve encountered in Bangkok. The skin is crispy, without being too much so; the fatty bits literally melt away in your mouth; and amazingly, the meat is moist, tender and even perhaps a bit rare – surely an indicator of restraint and skill on their part. The dish is served with a dipping sauce that combines sliced chillies, dark soy and I think, a bit of vinegar.

The remainder of the restaurant’s dishes revolve around duck, and include a decent pet tun (เป็ดตุ๋น), a slightly peppery broth of duck:

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roast duck (เป็ดย่าง):

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served over bitter greens in a light five spice-based sauce; and duck intestines (ใส้แก้ว):

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the latter with little or no flavour of their own, but with a crunchy texture, and served in a slightly salty sauce that included fermented soybeans.

The duck dishes are probably above average, and I suspect they’re what attract the high-ranking military generals who frequent the place every time I’ve been there (a sure-fire sign of a good restaurant in Thailand), but it’s the pork belly that would draw me back here.

Here’s a video from the Thai television programme, Aroy Rim Thaang (“Delicious Street Food”) about Jib Kee:

Jib Kee
Th Nakhon Sawan, Bangkok
02 281 1283
9am-3pm


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I’m working on yet another piece about obscure Thai dishes for CNNGo’s Bangkok pages. This week I’m eating suki haeng (สุกี้แห้ง), the wok-fried ‘dry’ version of the ubiquitous do-it-yourself hotpot sukiyaki that’s found in just about every shopping centre in Thailand.

Of the handful of suki haeng restaurants I’ve been to so far, a list that includes the famous Elvis Suki, this tiny stall at the side of Thanon Rama IV stands out as my favourite. The proprietor claims to have been making the dish at this location for at least 30 years, and in this time he’s arrived at the combination of flavours and textures that define an excellent version of the dish.

A pork or chicken order here comes with tender, marinated meat, while the seafood version includes squid and shrimp. A dish here is slightly smokey with some nice charred bits, and contains lots of vegetables and egg and a relative minimum of noodles. A squirt of oyster sauce provides the suki with a bit more meaty roundness, and his dipping sauce – the element that can make or break a good suki – is excellent, combining meaty and spicy flavours with lots of garlic.

It’s a very simple dish, as this video illustrates:

He begins by heating oil over a high flame, adding to it egg and protein. These are just barely cooked before he adds the veggies (a combination of Napa cabbage, green onions and morning glory), a knot of bean thread, a pinch of sugar and MSG, and a squirt of oyster sauce. A few more turns to bring it all together and the dish is done in less than a minute.

It’d be an easy Thai dish to make at home, the only thing lacking being the nam jim suki (น้ำจิ้มสุกี้), the dipping sauce, which as this video (in Thai only) shows, is a much more complicated dish than I’d realised:

If you can’t understand Thai but want to have a go at making the dipping sauce it yourself, the process is pretty self-explanatory, and the ingredients include, in the order she introduces them, water, bottled chili sauce, cilantro/coriander root, garlic, fresh chili, sugar, fish sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, salt, lime juice and roasted sesame.

Suki Haeng Saphan Leuang
Thanon Rama IV, Bangkok
5-10pm


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Save the date

Posted at 1am on 9/25/11 | read on
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If you’re in New York City, that is. On October 5, Australian chef David Thompson will be doing a one-off khanom jeen dinner at Betel, featuring a little help from some of the guys at Portland’s Pok Pok:

Betel-Thompson Final

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Kaeng karee (แกงกะหรี่) generally refers to a mild Chinese-style curry served with thin slices of tender pork or crunchy beef tendon. It’s not nearly as complex or spicy as a typical Thai curry and is one of only a handful of Thai dishes that include bottled curry powder.

Ideal Map’s Good Eats Rattanakosin map (see details here) led me to this open-air shophouse near Nang Loeng Market that turned out to do one of the better plates of kaeng karee I’ve come across in Bangkok.

The kaeng karee muu, pork curry (pictured above,) here is spicier than average, but as is the standard, comes served with slices of deep-fried kun chiang, Chinese-style pork sausage, a few slices of cucumber and sliced chilies.

They also do a similar satoo lin muu, a stew of pork tongue, served the same way.

For more places to eat kaeng karii, including a couple places that do the similarly-named but Muslim-influenced dish, check out this article I did for CNNGo.

Khao Karii Nang Loeng
Th Suphaminit, Bangkok
02 282 3918
8am-2pm


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