Food in Bangkok. While my blog covers a wide range of topics, “food in Bangkok” would be a fair summation of one of the major topic areas. About the same time that I started my “Great Eats in Bangkok” video series, covering various types of food that you really must try while you are here, I had the fortune to be introduced to the author of the newly-released book, Bangkok’s Top 50 Street Food Stalls.
Enjoying a pre-dinner drink as I waited for guests at Soul Food Mahanakorn, the owner handed me a copy of this book and asked if I had seen it yet. Thumbing through the well-organized pages, each of which lists another great street food vendor, I expressed my admiration. At which point, Jarrett introduced me to the author, Chawadee Nualkhair, who was dining at the table just behind me.
I know what you are thinking. “If ever there was a book I would have bought Chris for his birthday, this is it.” Right? Of course you would have. No need, now, since I already have a copy. You can get one from local Bangkok bookstores.
It turns out that Khun Chawadee is the person behind the useful foodie website Bangkok Glutton. A Thai who was raised in western Pennsylvania state, she has split her time between the US and Thailand for the last fifteen years. Bangkok’s Top 50 Street Food Stalls grew out of her desire to eat great Thai food when here, combined with the usual apprehension most foreigners have when approaching Thai street food. We’re unsure what the food is, what the specialties are, how to order them, and how to eat them once they are served.
Khun Chawadee’s book does an excellent job of laying all that out in the picture-rich pages. There’s even an explanation of the seating arrangements, what condiments and utensils are on the table, and whether or not there are restrooms at the shop. Talk about handy information!
After a few email exchanges, Khun Chawadee invited me to join her for lunch at a Muslim restaurant in Banglamphu, the shady older area of the city located between the Chao Phraya River and backpacker headquarters Khao San Road.
After I arrived at our designated meeting spot more than a half-hour late (note: river taxis are not as fast as you might think), Khun Chawadee led me on a brisk walk down Phra Athit Road, around a few corners, and down the street. Our destination:Aicha Rot Dii (“Aicha Good Taste”) Restaurant, a literal hole-in-the-wall that many people would pass by, not realizing what good eats are inside.
From the street side of things, all you see is a narrow walkway passing a food vendor. But if you walk in, you pass a long row of prepared food that opens into an interior courtyard, clean and relatively well ventilated. The menu is Thai Muslim, meaning mostly southern Thai style food. Much of the influence comes from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and India and beef is the meat of choice.
Our meal included an oxtail soup that was wonderfully gelatinous. Unlike western-style oxtail soups, which are often tomato-based and very hearty, this soup had a clear broth with fried shallots and herbs and was very light but full of flavor.
We tried a noodle dish called guaytiaw gaeng nua, a curried beef noodle soup. The noodles are hidden under this spicy curry broth but the beef was very tender. The curry was very nice, too.
We tried two rice dishes, khao mok gai and khao mok nua. The name “khao mok” implies “buried under a mountain of rice”, so the dishes are chicken and beef, respectively, served with a heaping portion of a biryani-style rice. Of the two, I thought the beef was better. The sauce, which at first glance you might fear to be a horrendously spicy chili sauce, is actually made with cilantro, lime, and sugar and is very sweet and sour. The rice itself was a little disappointing, lacking in flavor compared to other khao mok dishes I’ve had. The beef, though, was very tender and flavorful.
The seating place is friendly to foreigners with large pictures of all the dishes on the wall with their names in both English and Thai. You can pretty much just point and eat. Beverages run the range of sodas, waters, and some Thai juices. Be sure to bring your own napkins.
This was a pleasant discovery. More pleasant was the opportunity to meet Khun Chawadee and learn a bit more about what drives her passion for Thai food. Find out more about the book at Chawadee’s blog. She’s also on Twitter as @bangkokglutton.