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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