A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.

Soi Polo

Posted date:  February 4, 2007


Food with friends always tastes better, especially if those friends happen to introduce you to really good restaurant you’ve never been to before. Such was the case when I was taken to the famous Soi Polo fried chicken joint by experienced diner and South China Morning Post editor Hal Lipper, and self-confessed “ace reporter” Ron Gluckman (check out his site for a plethora of wacky Asian reportage) and his wife Jolanda. These guys all live within a few minutes’ walk of Soi Polo and had eaten there several times. For me getting to this part of town is something of a minor expedition and it was my very first time.

This restaurant has been popular among locals for ages (40 years, according to the sign), but particularly caught the attention of Bangkok’s foreign community when it was featured in a New York Times article by RW Apple. On the day we visited the clientèle was overwhelmingly Thai (generally a good sign), and we began with som tam Thai:


The dish arrived within seconds, which made me fear that it might have been pre-made, but a taste proved the dish to be freshly pounded and really quite exceptional; sour and salty with hearty chunks of crisp papaya and unlike just about everywhere else, good-quality dried shrimp.

Everybody is familiar with laap, but I suggested ordering laap plaa duk, made from the meat of grilled catfish–something new to this group:


The catfish had a delicious smoky flavour that was accentuated, rather than overwhelmed, by the accompanying fish sauce, lime juice, powdered rice and chilies. And the dish wasn’t “mushy” as it often is at lesser restaurants.

Continuing on the fish theme, Hal ordered plaa chorn naam tok, a deep-fried snakehead fish served with a hearty Isaan-influenced dressing:


and Ron wanted us the try the restaurants thord man, fish cakes:


which were almost certainly the largest I’ve ever seen.

But everything else aside, this place is really all about the deep-fried chicken:


which was pretty amazing stuff, although, just to be picky, I found it a bit too meaty, myself preferring the scrawnier kai baan, free-range chicken. The chicken had been marinated in a dressing not unlike the famous deep-fried chicken from Hat Yai, and came with two good, but largely unnecessary dipping sauces. But I think everybody would agree with me that best bit was the copious crispy deep-fried garlic, which I’m sure I could eat by the handful, like popcorn.

Everything we ordered was great, and I was particularly impressed by the quality of the ingredients: big, flavourful mint leaves, tasty catfish, meaty shallots et al. This is a restaurant that really does seem to deserve all the praise shoveled upon it.

Kai Thort Jay Ki (Soi Polo)
137/1-2 Soi Polo (near Lumphini Park and the Suan Lum Night Bazaar)
02 655 8489

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12 Comments for Soi Polo

All look very yummy. I have been so many superb Isan Som Tom places. However, I just cannot simply point out which is the best. Maybe, we need to judge by how much each store costs.

Oh man! Soi Polo garlic friend chicken!!! We used to get that almost every weekend way way back when…


Oh, but I’ll be in Bangkok next weekend. Yippeee!!!!

Oh my god, I am so jealous. Although we get great Thai food in L.A., this looks fresh and amazing. I haven’t seen that exact fried chicken dish with the garlic here in L.A., either.

what a wonderful site you have!

I truly enjoyed browsing and reading your entries..since Thailand is a favorite country of mine to visit because of its FOOD! and your photos just made me wish I was there.

thank you for sharing.

yata: there are heaps of isaan places around town, but I don’t think cost is necessarily an indicator of good food!

melissa: you should definitely try to stop by then!

pat: I’ve never eaten Thai food in LA but can’t imagine they have the kind of food that’s available here.

thess: Thanks very much!

To Austin: I mean as I cannot judge which store serves the best Som Tom. Hence, I will go for the one that charges me the least. How does that sound?

The Soi Polo chicken is excellent! It was the centerpiece in my birthday party last year and we left nothing but bones for the dog. Wasn’t too impressed with the som tam tho.

I am always curious as to what fish Thais use for their fish cake…the color is always pinkish instead of the usual greyish white color. Do you know?

i went there when i was in thailand! so freaking good, i couldnt believe it.

Sticky rice stuck to my hands there….possibly it was because the owners aren’t from Isaan? Either way it is an all-time pet peeve of mine. gotta give the thumbs down on this place…But fear not there is great southern style red fried chicken on the corner of that soi!

Hi Austin:

Photos were great, am making a trip to BKK next month, any chic and cool dining places you would recommend … of cause with great food.

I go back to bangkok once or twice a year…
and everytime I’d be eating food from “Kai Thort Jay Ki” (I usually just call it “Kai Polo” for short) right after I got home from the airport…
since it’s not too far from my house I usually have it deliver, it only cost 50 baht more to do so…
love fried garlic!! always order 20baht more of it…
Arrr… I missed Thai food!!
Can’t wait until I go back… (only 20 more days >_

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