Eating Your Way Through Bangkok

Eating Your Way Through Bangkok
Eating Your Way Through Bangkok

Whether you are visiting Thailand for the first time or have been living there for longer than you can remember, there is always something new, interesting and exotic to experience. What has always been the most dear to me is the multitude and availability of local dishes and cuisines (both traditional and fusion style) that really express Thailand’s culture and the Thais flavor and attitude towards life.

The Misnomer of Street Food: So often when I host an overseas visitor they are amazed at the sheer number of people eating on the street asking me “How safe is it really and do people get sick?” If you’ve been to India, then eating fresh fruits, noodles, grilled chickens and other curiously looking meats from the street vendors in Bangkok is nothing. I’ve been eating from food stalls/street vendors/push carts for years and find that dining in this manner is no more dangerous than eating in a restaurant except for the fact that you are eating in plastic chairs, perhaps share a table with another hungry patron or breath a little exhaust from passing cars here and there; but generally the food is fresh, well prepared, very tasty and overall fairly safe to eat-street vendors don’t like to carry a lot of over-head; most cannot afford to so everyday they go to the fresh markets buying only the amount of ingredients that they anticipate using in a given day; very seldom do they store meats and vegetables like a restaurant.    
     
When trying to decide which food stall to eat from (as there are many to choose from) it’s best to observe where the locals eat (of course using your judgment to a certain extent) and if there is a line, a lot of chaos, and definitive smells that draw a curious sense and hunger; then you are probably at the right place.

Sukhumvit Soi 38 has a plethora of street vendors hawking various dishes such as Moo Grob (crispy pork belly with Chinese broccoli, chili and oyster sauce), Ca Pow Gai (Thai Basil Chicken Fried Rice), and Kuaytiaw Raat Naa (Fried Noodles with Pork & Vegetable Gravy) among others-my favorite is Ba Mee Puu (Egg Noodles with Crab) served from a push cart about 20 meters on the right hand side of Sukhumvit Soi 38 when coming from Thonglor BTS. At the corner of Soi Convent and Silom road (Friday and Saturday nights only) P’ Uan (meaning fat in Thai; not to be construed in a negative sense as in the western culture) serves up the best Moo Ping (Pork Thai Barbecue) in Bangkok-the pork is grilled and caramelized to perfection where the robustness of each bite intensifies leaving you not just tasting the Moo Ping, but experiencing it.

My Pad Thai and Noodles: The first meal that many Bangkok “first timers” order is either Pad Thai or Fried Rice as they want to compare these dishes to the familiar dishes that they get in their own home country (an normally associate these dishes as not being too spicy). Pad Thai is made up of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, and a combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu; for a slight variation of Pad Thai from the traditional sense, I recommend Pad Thai Thip Samai (Salaya, Puthamonthon, Nakornpathom, Bangkok, (0) 81630 6444); established in 1966 that serves two definitive dishes such as the Pad Thai with large prawns enclosed in an egg omelet (Pad Thai Kai Ho) or the Pad Thai Song-Krueng where the Sen Chan or grass noodle can be laced with crab meat, ground cuttlefish and/or sliced mango.

Located in Pranakorn, Somsrong Pochana’s kitchen creations originate from the Sukhothai Province serving Sukhothai noodle consisting of BBQ pork with green sprouts in the noodles and delicately sprinkled with dried chili’s for taste and intensity—for a less spicy flare the Thai Spaghetti with coconut milk, pineapple, & dried shrimp (Kanom Jeen Sao Nam) is a safe bet. Soi Watt Sangwej (Opposite Sangwej Temple), Pra Atit Rd., Pranakorn Bangkok, (0) 2 282 0972.
If you like Duck and happen to be in the Phaholyothin area, a must try is the Steamed Duck Noodles at Yothin Duck Noodles food stall (#1301 Soi Paholyothin 11 (beginning of the Soi), Paholyothin Rd., Bangkhen, Bangkok, (0) 2 278 1738) where the duck meat effortlessly falls off the bone releasing the succulent juices and natural ripeness of the duck.

Don’t Be Scared – Just Eat it!: Bangkok has lots of hidden delicacies and interesting cuisines that are often overlooked as newcomers and veterans of Bangkok tend to stick to the same restaurants over and over again. There is so much great food out there to be eaten that I encourage everyone to venture away from the more touristy areas into the more unknown or ‘less frequented by foreigner ones.’ Talk to locals, people watch, read online reviews, get yourself lost in China town. Whether you have a strong passion for food or just like to enjoy a good meal, get out and do a little exploring. You won’t like everything you taste as you’ll have good meals and bad meals, but who cares-it is all part of the experience! The main thing is that you have fun and learn a lot about the Thai culture, people and food along the way.

The above are just a few examples of some places to enjoy while dining in Bangkok. For more information visit www.PekoPiko.com featuring Bangkok’s Best Restaurants, Street Food and Hidden Cuisines along with restaurant information, user reviews, and saver promotions-everything you need to guide you on Where to Eat and What to Eat in Bangkok. If you like what you’ve read above I recommend PekoPiko’s ‘Old Bangkok Eateries’ section for other similar restaurants.

Written By Jason Buckalew, Bangkok Foodie Photos By Pukky Churuphant.

The Good Stuff: A Passage to Little India

Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand

One of my favourite parts of Bangkok is its Indian neighbourhood, known as “Little India”. This hidden jewel in Bangkok’s crown is full of gorgeous food, interesting sights, and a real impression of what it’s like to walk down an Indian street.

Bangkok’s Indian community first settled in the Phahurat area soon after King Rama I ordered its construction in 1898. The area has expanded over the years, and now merges into the southwestern edge of Chinatown.

The soi, or lane, known as “Little India” runs parallel to Phahurat Road. Read on for photos galore, and details of how to get there.

On entering the lane, you’ll find food stalls selling hot snacks; while posters of Hindu gods sit alongside a child’s bicycle. The sights and sounds of India are everywhere, as locals go about their daily business. I arrive at lunchtime, and that only means one thing: time for lunch! There’s one place I go to eat every time I visit Little India: Punjab Sweets.

This fantastic restaurant is a real treat. TV programmes stop every 3 minutes for advertising: Fair and Lovely face cream, Indian Oil, Bharti Life Insurance, Belmonte Academy of Style, and Reliance Mobile Telephones (only 999 Rupees). There are a couple of dishes I like to order when I go there: chhole batore (a plate of chickpea curry, potato curry and lime pickle, served with puffed-up fried Indian bread), and samosa chana (chickpea curry with 2 crunchy, hot samosas). I’m taken right back to my memories of street-side eating in Delhi, and I wash these delectable treats down with a glass of hot, sweet masala chai. This is way better than any expensive Indian restaurant food; plus, it’s totally authentic, and so easy on the pocket as well: my fantastic lunch set me back a mere 70 Baht. Icy-cold drinking water (in a jug on your table, safe to drink) is free of charge, too, so you can really cool down from the heat of the street.

I’m tempted to stay even longer at Punjab Sweets, as the sweets themselves have caught my eye. They’re quite beautiful. The gulab jamun (sweet fried dough balls in rosewater syrup) nestle under edible silver leaf; the ras malai (milk curds flavoured with cardamom and saffron) also grab my attention. But alas, every time I come here l enjoy my chhole batore and samosas far too much to have room for any of these delicacies. Punjab Sweets also stocks an extensive range of spices and cooking ingredients, if you want to try your hand at making a real curry.

Out into the street I go. It’s time to soak up the spectacle of this part of town. Wandering through the lane, there are so many things to look at. It’s interesting to see how Indian and Thai culture blend a little bit here. Indian food stalls serve

Thai curries to Indian residents. Shop doors feature different written languages, for the understanding of all.
   
A man makes these chewy snacks which turn your mouth, and your saliva, bright red. The experience will set you back about 5 Baht, and it’s like nothing else. Try one!

A beautiful gurdawara, or Sikh temple, sits a little way down the soi. This is said to be the largest gurdwara outside India, and is built of opulent white marble.

If you’re lucky, you may find that your visit coincides with some special occasion in the temple’s calendar, as I was when I took the pictures above.   
 
Visitors to the temple are made very welcome, and there is usually someone there to show you around – an interesting way to spend a little time.

Remember to remove your shoes and cover your head when you go any higher than the ground floor; the customary yellow headscarves are provided for this.

Little India also holds some exotic treasures for fans of browsing and shopping.

Wandering into one establishment, I am soon the proud owner of 3 CDs of beautiful Indian music (80 Baht each) and a bottle of heady rose perfume oil from Mumbai (300 Baht). Walking further, I also pick up a red beaded necklace for 100 Baht, some Burmese cooking ingredients, some natural Neem soap, a rolling pin (50 Baht), some curry pastes, and a box of saffron (70 Baht).

So that gives you an idea of what this area of Bangkok is like. I hope you will give it a try.

Getting there:

In fact, it’s possible to approach the Indian district from the westernmost end of Chinatown’s chaotic Sampeng Lane; from there, turn left onto Chakraphet Road, cross the footbridge, and go left along the pavement. A few minutes along on your right is the entrance to Little India.

However, to avoid the crush of Sampeng, and for a more peaceful journey along the river, here is the route I always take. The journey begins at river-taxi pier 13 (Banglamphu) on Phra Arthit Road.

Take a boat that is heading down the river: if you look to your right from the pier, you can see them approaching under the Rama VIII Bridge with its golden suspension cables. Get on a boat with an orange or yellow flag.

Orange-flagged boats charge 13 Baht per person, while on the yellow-flagged “Tourist Boat” you pay 18 Baht. Do observe the pier numbers as you make your way down the river. The numbers are on blue-and-white signs on the platforms. Look out for pier number 6: Memorial Bridge.

You can see the green Memorial Bridge as you are floating along. On the Tourist Boat, the helpful guide will announce (in English) when you are about to reach your stop, so get ready to get off. Cross the road in front of you, and you will see a huge, ornate Thai Buddhist temple, with its adjacent white spire. Walk towards it and go to your right.

Keeping the temple on your left, walk along and you will soon be in the busy Chakraphet/ Chakphet (the spelling varies) Road. 

Now you’re on the home strait. Pass the Chinese temple on your left, continue along Chakphet Road, and look out for the Royal India restaurant on the other side the road. And before you know it, you’ll be at the entrance to the Little India soi (lane). Look out for the “India Emporium” shopping mall that’s being built, and you’ll know you’ve found your destination. Phew! Happy exploring!

About the author: Liz Clayton

Liz Clayton has been living in Thailand for 2 and a half years. Her first year was spent in Bangkok, last year she worked in Prachinburi province near Isaan, and now she is back in Bangkok for a few more years.

She enjoys looking for new places – finding the little hideaways which aren’t on the usual backpacker trail.

Fortunately, she is passing what she finds onto KhaoSanRoad.com visitors. 

Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu

Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu
Vegetarian Food on Suan Phlu

Thailand does not really have a tradition of vegetarian cooking, and most dishes contain meat or fish. As a result, it can be a bit difficult for a veggie to fully appreciate the Thai cuisine, as most Thai vegetarian dishes are the meat versions with bits taken out. In central Bangkok, Suan Phlu (where the old immigration office was) offers a couple of restaurants that redress the balance.

Thailand does not really have a tradition of vegetarian cooking, and most dishes contain meat or fish. As a result, it can be a bit difficult for a veggie to fully appreciate the Thai cuisine, as most Thai vegetarian dishes are the meat versions with bits taken out. In central Bangkok, Suan Phlu (where the old immigration office was) offers a couple of restaurants that redress the balance.
 
Directly opposite the old Immigration office you have UR Station. It probably looks a bit more like a burger bar than a full on veggie restaurant, but looks can certainly be deceiving, and they are in this case. UR Station offers pretty much everything you could ask for. Both Thai and Western cuisine are available, with particular reference to the latter.

The cakes and pastries are great – blueberry crumble, chocolate buns, cheese croissants… there’s not much you could want for, including versions without egg. Washed down with one of a splendid choice of coffees, they make a great treat.

The Thai cuisine is excellent, too. Fried rice with curry or basil, tofu soup, and rice noodles all come in at the 55-65 Baht range and give you a proper taste of what Thai cooking is all about. The hands down winner though are the sandwiches and croissants. They have an excellent range including veggie ham and cheese and veggie tuna, and they are, to die for. They are truly excellent, and at 65 Baht, killer value. If you are in the area, don’t miss them. Tel: 02-287-1635, 089-490-3111 (mobile).
 
If, however, you are more interested in having traditional Thai fare in more typical surroundings, go out of immigration, and turn right. Keep walking until you get to Soi 8 and go into the Soi. On your right you will find Banbaiplu.

The owner, a suspiciously Singaporean-looking gentleman, with the suspiciously Singaporean-sounding name of ‘Andy Lam’ runs this establishment, and claims to be Thai. He speaks really good Singlish, too (so you guess what’s going on!). Anyway, this is a place where they do wonders with Soya protein and turn it into veggie meat that actually tastes like meat. So much so that you might start asking questions… but it’s true – those big lumps of fried pork, that even look like fried pork, are actually veggie! Being so meat-like, you get a much better insight into the regular Thai meal here. Curries, soups – Andy’s got the works, and all at nice prices. One dish with rice costs only 25 Baht – the same price the locals pay for meat versions. This is something to write home about! Tel: 068-080-7255 (mobile).

Leave Andy’s, go back to the street and turn right, and you’ll soon notice that you have masses of fruit on sale either side of the street. Fresh, clean, and again, despite the presence of so many foreigners, this is not a tourist area and prices are what locals pay. Stock up and put some in your room back on Khao San. Keep walking, and on your right you will soon notice Bobaimai Bakery.
 
This is a dainty little cafe? – actually, it’s small. But the food is good. They have cakes and all the sweet niceties you would expect to sit alongside a nice, hot cappuccino. As their sign suggests – “all natural with no additives or preservatives”, so they are well worth a look. Go out of Bobaimai Bakery, turn right again, and you will come across a stall selling Dim Sum which is part of a bigger restaurant. Although this restaurant serves meat as well, the stall (which faces the road) is dedicated to veggie food. It’s just Dim Sum, but they do a good job, and it’s well worth going down there just for a taste.

To get to Suan Plu By take bus nrs. 22 , 62 or 67. Lumpini Station is the closest MRT station.