Today we're going on a field trip to
This is a street in Ko Rattanakosin, Olde Bangkok, that is known for its Chinese shophouse architecture and its insane variety of eats. I have to admit that I'm somewhat of a newcomer to Thanon Tanao. I've passed through several times, but it wasn't until relatively recently that I discovered just how much good food there is here.
Here's a view of the street from the Ratchadamnoen Klang end:
On the right you'll see our first stop, Kim Leng:
This is small restaurant that serves up good central Thai/Bangkok fare such as curries, dips and Chinese stir fries. Most of the dishes are made in advance, so you can just choose whatever looks good, and they also make some dishes to order. I'd recommend the nam phrik kapi, a shrimp paste "dip" that is served with par-boiled veggies, and battered and deep-fried eggplant and mackerel.
Next, for fans of isaan (northeast Thai) food, we go a couple blocks up the street to a place called Kai Yaang Boraan (02 622 2349), which serves grilled chicken, papaya salad and other Lao-style specialties. It's not the best isaan food you'll ever find, but I think it's a very good introduction to the cuisine, as they have all the standards and the shop is spotless. It's also probably the only air-conditioned restaurant along the strip.
Continuing on the same side of the street, the next interesting place we'll come to is Raad Naa Yod Phak:
As the name suggests, this place serves raad naa, noodles in a sticky broth that I don't really care for. Much better, in my opinion, is phat see iw:
These are the same noodles as raad naa, but are fried "dry" with the addition of soy sauce, egg, pork, and the tender shoots of kai lan. They do an excellent job here, frying the noodles up in a huge wok that allows them to get slightly burnt and acquire a delicious smoky flavor.
Passing a large Chinese shrine, we now reach a street called Thanon Phraeng Nara. This is an excellent food street, with many of the restaurants located right on the sidewalk.
One of the first places you'll see is Khanom Beuang Phraeng Nara:
Khanom bueang are small "tacos" that come in two forms: salty and sweet. The sweet ones:
are filled with a mixture of shredded egg yolk, coconut meat and dried fruit. They are made on a charcoal stove, so they also have a slightly smoky flavor, and are at their sublime best when hot and crispy. The khanom bueang here are easily among the best Thai desserts I've ever had, and are completely different from the cream-filled impostors you'll find elsewhere in Bangkok.
Just up the road is a popular noodle stand:
Where we'll stop for a quick bowl:
before continuing on. As we u-turn and go back to Thanon Tanao we'll pass a very tempting phat thai kung sot:
But we'll have to say no thanks here, as we still haven't reached our goal, the acclaimed hole-in-the-wall, Chotechitr (02 221 4082):
This is a tiny restaurant that, since having been mentioned in a New York Times article last year, has gained a cult-like following among foreigners in Bangkok. Being the Thai Food Guy, I was tired of sheepishly admitting that, No... I've never actually eaten there... So we're going to make a point of stopping by today. We begin with yam tamleung, a spicy/sour "salad" of tamleung, a vinelike green:
An excellent dish. More than sufficiently sour with just a hint of sweetness, and as we know, a handful of giant prawns and squid never hurt anybody. This is followed by kaeng paa plaa kraay, "jungle" curry with fish dumplings:
A less successful effort, in my opinion. This is a dish that should not under any circumstances be sweet, but in true Bangkok style, bordered on the dessertlike here. The homemade fish dumplings were excellent though. Finally, there was moo thod krathiam phrik thai, pork fried with garlic and peppercorns:
This is my favorite dish, and not just because it contained mad amounts of garlic and pepper, but because it was obvious that the person making it employed some restraint and didn't fry the hell out of it. The pork was tender--possibly the first time I've consumed tender pork in Thailand--and the other flavors, salty and just slightly sweet, were perfectly balanced.
Continuing on the same small street where Chotechitr is found is a small community called Phraeng Phuton. There are several longstanding restaurants here, and one good choice is Udom Pochana:
This place has serving food here for 60 years. They do mostly Chinese-style dishes, such as bamee, wheat-noodle soup, and wonton soup, as well as the somewhat more obscure kalee, "curry":
This is a very old-school dish that is hard to find nowadays and is obviously different that your average Thai curry. The dish is actually more like a gravy than a curry, and there's little trace of spices of any kind. The above was the beef version, and is served with sweet potatoes and cucumber.
This is just a tiny taste of what's available along and around Thanon Tanao. I've yet to visit the place that makes pig brain soup, or the famous Thai ice cream restaurant in Phraeng Phuthon, so there will certainly be additional excursions. Stay tuned.