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.
That is the one thing small town America doesn’t get, street food.
cheap and delicious. I love that. just difficult to communication if you really eat at street stall. especially those just open at night. well, I would just point what I wanted to eat 🙂
Yum, all of the dishes look delicious 🙂
Seems like a great find, Chris. I look forward to more food porn to come from the Big Mango! Both the ox tail soup and curry beef noodle look so delicious!
yummy! Lucky star must be with you (and us) meeting the author of a street food book. Any plans to try to the other 49? it would be quite a project.
Cheap and affordable food porn!I’m speculating that most of these places are fixtures or well established rather than fly by night places. I’ve never had clear oxtail soup before. The ones my mom used to make had tons of veggies, barley and yes, tomatoes as well.
OMG!!! She’s from Western Pennsylvania too?
Drool x 1000
this is making me hungry
@marc11864 – Pittsburgh, in fact. I need to ask her how she ended up there.@ElusiveWords – One of the points she made was that the most reliable places are those that are fairly old. People vote with their feet. Tawn and I recently went to a red pork (shar siu) place near Chula University that he and his classmates went to for cheap meals when he was a student. The place was already ancient at that point. I asked the auntie running it how long the shop had been there and she answered, fifty years.@stevew918 – Actually, many of the stalls are familiar to us. As I mentioned to Matt, people vote with their feet so the best places are well known and long-in-tooth. @yang1815 – In fact, one of her listings is the noodle shop I took Andy to and made the video about noodles at.@MichellelyNg – It is funny you should say that, actually. Friday night I took two visiting Singaporean friends to Chinatown for some seafood at one of these “only appears at night” sidewalk vendors. They’ve become so well-known in the guidebooks that they have English menus and the server who took our order speaks a fair amount of English. Same with the vendors on Sukhumvit Soi 38 – they have so many foreigners who eat there that menus are also in Japanese as well as English. The recurring theme this weekend was “Why so many darn foreigners?” Said with a smile, of course!@amygwen – Sadly, this is something most of America (even big town) doesn’t have: inexpensive, freshly made, and nutritious food. That’s one of the reasons America struggles with weight and health issues, I think. The only “fast” food in the US is neither freshly made nor nutritious.@TheCheshireGrins – @Roadlesstaken – @let_the_right_one_in – No doubt this was exactly the type of book (and author) I’m interested in.
OK now that I see this and can even read about it in a book… I will have very fragrant dreams. Thanks!
The places looks clean and the food looks awesome. Kinda reminded me of the Hawker Centers in SG.
@christao408 – sorry forgot a remark. I haven’t been to Thailand for years. And normally, I would avoid tourist spots. And mostly, I went to islands around instead. Remember once I went to Krabi, there were some nice interns in hotels shown me around. They went to weekend market with me. No one speaks English and they helped me to order noodle at food stall. Anyway, that many years ago. And I did have communication problems in Koh Samet. Luckily, a guy who speaks English and Thai helped me to sort problems out. Should go there again and get updates.
@MichellelyNg – It would be interesting to see how it has changed since then. Good excuse for an island vacation! =D@oxyGENE_08 – But not quite as neat and tidy, right? Ha ha…@murisopsis – Perfect thing to read when you are hungry.@manilajones – Yes!
Time to check out the market – travel time!!
@christao408 – Haha…well, I have to see it for myself first.
Being a Muslim eatery, do you know if the meats were halal? The pictures looked really good. I am so happy that you could get connected with the author of the book.
really nifty. glad Zakiah rec’d this. =)
I read this post before I had dinner. It really made me hungry seeing the wonderful food again. I was fortunate enough to have had locals take me to their favorites when I visited the Land of Smiles, a different place for each meal. Even on my own, I found it was very easy to find delicious food. I have been to several Thai food places home in the Los Angeles area, and have yet to find one that is as tasty as an ordinary eatery in Thailand. Its just too Americanized. Thanks for sharing, I have to go eat now.My favorite place in Thailand was an outdoor kitchen in the state park at Ubarat Dam, near Kohn Kaen. Not always where you expect it.
@Ricardo98 – The food here in Thailand is absolutely fantastic and, as you point out, Thai food back in the US just doesn’t seem to be quite as good. Thanks for subscribing.@JulieDeer – I’m glad she recommended it, too. Thanks for stopping by.@ZSA_MD – Thank you for recommending this post. I don’t know for a fact that the meats are halal but would imagine that they are. We have quite a good-sized Muslim population in and around Bangkok and I’ve seen several halal butchers.@Fatcat723 – C’mon over! =D
I love Thai food and that’s one of the reason I enjoy visiting Thailand (I like the cheap massages too!) This place looked so much like another hole-in-the-wall restaurant which we visited when we were in Chiangmai.
@icepearlz – There are so many places like this all throughout Thailand. They are where the best food is, in my opinion.
I only like chines and russian food.Popcorn Machine Shop