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17th Mar 2014
Need an insider's guide to the best street and fine dining eats in the sprawling cities of Asia? Look no further than our Hong Kong-based resident connoisseur and Contiki Insider Emilie Sullivan. It gives us great pleasure to present the fourth and final course in Emilie's Guide To Chowing Down On The Best Asian Eats: Part Four - Bangkok.
Bangkok is one of my favourite Asia cities in which to spend a long weekend. I love the cool lo-fi energy, the never-ending blocks of low-rise buildings and the happy, punk-y dispositions of the Thai youth, which is all smiles and pure rock and roll. When I travel, I look to be stimulated on a number of levels: I want aesthetic inspiration, to connect with the city’s inhabitants, to further my knowledge of the region's history and, most importantly, to familiarise myself with the gastronomic diversity of the local dining scene.
With this in mind, I have pulled together a list of my favourite spots to eat in iconic Bangkok locations. The focus is ambient charm, a sense of the past and, of course, the tastiest Thai cuisine.
THIP SAMAI PAD THAI
Starting at a grassroots level is BKK’s infamous Thip Samai Pad Thai. Known locally as Ghost Gate Pad Thai, this hot spot opened in 1966 when Mrs. Samai could no longer meet the demand of those lining up in front of her little street food cart. For those unfamiliar, Pad Thai is a tangy rice noodle dish served with stir fried prawns, vegetables, sliced omelet, lime, salt and sugar. Mrs. Samai and her team offer many more variations than the local street vendor, including Pad Thai sans noodles and Pad Thai neatly packaged within a piping hot, bright yellow omelet of farm fresh eggs.
My favourite aspect of this lo-fi pit stop is the artisanal attention they apply to the preparation of each element of this traditional dish. Using Chanthaburi noodles which hail from the East Thai province of the same name, this core ingredient is made from sun-dried milled rice flour. Unlike their Vietnamese vermicelli cousin, these noodles are thin and dense with an al dente texture, not unlike fettuccine pasta. Cooked in large dishes over charcoal and flames, each batch serves 20-30 hungry devotees, either there to sit and eat or take away by the bag full.
Open from 5:00pm until 3:00am, it's not exactly ‘on the way home’ but at less then $3AUD a dish it’s worth hailing down a tuk tuk to indulge in an adventurous midnight feast. A visit to Thip Samai is a great opportunity to experience an authentic Thai dinner amongst locals in a leafy suburban neighborhood.
Address: 313 Maha Chai Road, Samran Rat, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
Hours: 5:00pm - 3:00am Daily
Phone: +66 (0) 2221 6280
Website: Thip Samai Pad Thai
Photos via The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua and The Boy
CHATUCHAL MARKET STREET SNACK
Moving on from the glories of suburban authenticity, we find ourselves at the tourist mecca known as The Chatuchak Weekend Market. This is Thailand’s largest bazaar, an expansive network of alleyways full to the brim with the quirky, weird, cheap and beautiful. Whether you're after rare rock and roll t-shirts, whimsical lanterns, costume jewellery or Thai textile, Chatuchak needs to be ticked off your BKK checklist.
Amidst the madness are many mouth-watering food stalls, which have become famous pilgrimage sites in their own right. Personally I am mad for pork in all its juicy caramelised glory. In Chatuchak, you will find an amazing grilled versions in an unlikely shop front advertised by a cheeky Gallic pig in chefs attire. Locally referred to as Sumonta this dish involves an all night marinade process composed of fish sauce, sugar, ginger, salt and garlic. Cooked at an extremely high heat over burning charcoal, the flavour is sweetly smoked and deliciously sticky.
Sold by weight, indulge in one (or more) of the 100g servings at 40 Baht per serve.
Photos via Fat Boy Good Eats
Address: Chatuchak Market, Area 22, Soi 4
Hours: Weekends from 9:00am to 5:00pm
Website: Chatuchak Weekend Market
THOMPSON RESTAURANT & WINE BAR
Moving out of the market place and into a bygone era, we found ourselves at Jim Thompson’s house. Thompson, an American expat, originally came to be in Bangkok due to his work as an operative in the USA’s Office of Strategic Services. The son of American fabric manufacturers, Thompson ended up in Sri Lanka working with the Seri-Thai Movement, a group focused on liberating Thailand from Japanese occupation. He arrived in Old Siam as Thailand claimed victory, falling hard for the city and eventually adopting it as his full-time home.
Today he is remembered as a pioneering textiles merchant, who worked tirelessly to revitalise the silk cottage industry, exporting its beauty to Western designers and the pages of Vogue. His home was built gradually on a leafy local canal; it's a breathtaking celebration of traditional Thai architecture, 7th century Buddha statues and delicate antique furniture. Set amongst manicured lawns, as an expat and a designer, the beauty of this little location never fails to move me.
Adjacent to the museum is the super chic eatery, Thompson’s Bar and Restaurant and the point of my story. This watering hole is a favourite for creatives and socialites, a quiet corner of old-world elegance and my favourite lunch spot in the city. The menu, whilst being skewed towards the expat palette (less chilli), features the usual suspects of Thai cuisine: luscious green curries, perfectly prepared Pad See Ew and their signature dish, Seau Rong Hai – ('as the tiger weeps').
Produce is beautifully curated and all meals are presented with a cool, laid-back grace. When you finish up in the ground floor’s majestic dining room, head upstairs to the wine bar and indulge in a cocktail on the verandah, soaking up the sunset over the grounds.
Photos via Asia Bars and Restaurants
Address: Opposite The National Stadium 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road, 10330
Phone: +66 2 612 3601
Hours: 9:00 am - 7:00 pm
Website: Jim Thompson
SALA RIM NAAM, MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL
Post-lunch with Jim Thompson, it's dinnertime. My favourite destination on a balmy BKK night is the legendary Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the original building was opened 1887 as Siam’s first luxury hotel. This regal venue is the epitome of colonial charm. The jewel in this hotel's crown is Sala Rim Naam. It sits on an island in the middle of the river, accessed by a beautiful teak boat that floats alongside the hotel’s river-facing promenade.
Photo via The Mandarin Oriental
Under the leadership of Chef Vichit, Sala Rim Naam is considered among the top destinations to experience high end Thai cuisine in the city. Known for his impeccable attention to detail, Vichit ensures produce quality by sourcing rice from his own fields and working directly with farmers and vendors of the Tor Kor Market. Vichit takes great pride in introducing younger generations to historical royal cuisine; his menu includes traditional Thai favorites such as Naam Prig Makham ('Dip with Tamarind and Minced Chicken'), Yaam Nuea Poo Gub Mamuang ('Spiced Green Mango Salad with Crab Meat'), Gai Hor Bai Toey ('Deep Fried Honeyed Chicken in Pandanus Leaf'), and Poo Phad Naam Prig Pow ('Stir Fried Sea Crab with Chilli Jam and Basil Leaves').
If you go with a large group plan The Mandarin Orientalahead and book the chef’s table, which seats up to twelve. This degustation experience is truly mouthwatering and comes with the added benefit of regular commentary from the chef himself. Make sure you don’t miss the traditional Thai folk performance - something I would normally consider a gauche interruption in a tourist-laden venue takes on a whimsical romance in the surrounding beauty of Sala Rim Naam’s riverside location.
Photo via The Mandarin Oriental
Photo via Unearthing Asia
Address: 48 Oriental Ave Alley, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Phone: +66 (2) 659 9000
Website: Sala Rim Naam
Article via Pedestrian.tv