Bangkok seven days in May
Ok, so maybe my original post was not good enough, There will be three of "us" (people who started as cooks and are now chefs that run quite a few restaurants in CO) looking for the best eats that Bangkok has to offer in seven days in may. I want to know what to stay away from and what to seek out and enjoy. We want to eat it all!
I added a few pictures to another thread "Som Tam" restaurant on Siam Square Soi 5 (across the road from Siam Paragon shopping centre. I had visited Balee Laos the day before but it was just an expensive restaurant devoid of a good food/cost recommendation (Som Tam was less than 25% the cost). Som Tam restaurant is not as fancy, but the food (Isan Food - NorthEastern Thai food) was quite good. We went around 3:30 in the afternoon and one table was available. in the air-conditioned restaurant. I especially enjoyed the soup.
On a side note:
It was funny, I was watching an Australian cooking show with David Thompson (chef/owner of Nahm) .... he was talking about his journey that he followed from being a classically trained french chef who once viewed Thai food as a simple street food - not worthy of too much attention to a chef obsessed with Thai food that now considered European cuisines to be simplistic in comparison.... I have both a love/hate relationship with this chef.... He is one of the few who writes thai cookbooks for English speakers that is both comprehensively and worthy. But I have also seen him being interviewed where he seems arrogant and obnxious.
What I am getting too is I consider Thai food to be one of the most important / axis cuisines -- at least (maybe more) important/tasty than Italian or French. Unfortunately, what America (and Canada) needs is more (MUCH MORE) Thai Chefs.
re: Curt the Soi Hound
And yet without him - there almost no good cookbooks on Thai food in English. When his first book came out - the Thai section in the cookbook store would maybe have a couple of Thai cookbooks -- now there is still a relatively small bookcase full (as compared to 1,000's for Italian and French). I have 3 english Thai cookbooks and 5 Thai Thai cookbooks, and there are still some recipes I find in his -- not to be found in the others..... that are pretty darn close to the recipe I was looking for -- after going to a restaurant here. Just wish his original "thai food" cookbook had the original thai names along with his translations because sometimes - his translation of the name is not at all close to the thai name :o
His "Thai Street Food" one does have the Thai name along with the english name - and it is a very good book..... Unfortunately he does not identify regions where the street food is common -- which means it is really really hard to find in Bangkok - only to find out that it is only commonly available in the South or North :o
I think you and your chef friends will enjoy spending some time in Chinatown, especially at night when everyone is out enjoying street food. Avoid doing it on Monday when most of the vendors are closed. I would also avoid the red and green t-shirt seafood people ( you'll know who I'm talking about) even though they have the biggest crowds., their flavored are watered down and expensive. I second the Or Tor Kor suggestion, it's a great fresh market and has delicious prepared foods. If you are going to a high end restaurant, I'd go for Nahm. Although that style of dining goes against what Thais normally do (which makes it hard to give up the time slot when you're trying to experience "Thailand," the chef is talented and the food was delicious and complex. I went with my mom who is Thai and lives in Thailand and my boyfriend who is a chef in the States and we all enjoyed and were impressed with the food. Don't forget that Thai malls are a great place to eat, they usually have mid price restaurants but the gems are the food courts. You can experience different types of food in one sitting- I recommend choosing the food court that seems the least fancy ( some malls have 2-3)- that's where all the Thais are eating. Since you're going in May, the air conditioning will be godsend.
Today (early morning) is a holiday so it was time to go out for (Thai) Korean BBQ (Midnight til 3am -- service stops around 5am). Unfortunately they were out of Duck Beaks (duck tongue) so no picture of them. Not the best pictures. Basically a Korean BBQ here is a charcoal grill for meat that has stock around it for vegetables. A side order of cockles (I think that is what they are called), and a side order of a thai salad. I substituted cow tongue - not the same - but I do like offal meats. First the BBQ, then the meat and vegetables that were ordered. After the picture of cockles. The picture following the cockles is the cooked meat with dipping sauce (a little spicy - not much). Following that is the condiments for the fresh oysters, then the salad.
I figured I would start a separate subthread of dishes you should get around to trying:
Som Tam - Papaya Salad - origins from Isan (North-east thailand; poorest region). It is made at street level in clay or wooden mortar and pestle (granite ones are not gentle enough). There are many variations, most westerners will order Som Tam Thai (dried shrimp), while the most common made is Som Tam Poo Balan (preferred by people from Isan) - it is made with preserved crab and something I don't know what it is :o Both should be tried - Thai restaurants in America usually screw this simple dish up. For a full meal buy with grilled/deep fried chicken and sticky rice.
Phat Thai (fried noodles thai style) - varies widely and is harder to find these days (I think some vendors are too light or are swapping out the tamarind juice for some other sour ingredient). One of the better ones is made around Soi Cowboy (if your not afraid of a little neon).
Kuey Teow Nam - noodles in a chicken stock base.
Nam Som (orange juice) - Orange juice - find a vendor that receives the oranges and processes them the same morning (bag of oranges, or a juice press is a dead giveaway) - the taste suffers if bottled overnight.
Deep Fried Chicken (find someone that sells freshly fried chicken - better hot) - I know there was a very good one on Luang Suan.
Pat Grapow Nua Sai Khai Daow - Stir fried holy basil with beef (chicken, pork, shrimp are also available). It is a very simple dish, but one that I really like (again varies widely). The "Sai Khai Daow" is with a fried egg on top. It is widely eaten, and Thai's will usually order it with the egg on top - it actually is much better with the egg than without.
Of course fresh fruit like pineapple - which is best if you find one that sells the just ripened version which is nice and sweet; watermelon, mango (green) sour - usually eaten dipped in sugar and chili.
Larb Mu (originates from Isan) - is a pork salad served on a leaf of lettuce with sticky rice.
That's it for now.
An addition to my list (picked up several times this week - had not had it in a while):
Yam Wun Sen (don't know what the street version is called) - Glass Noodle Seafood Salad (with minced pork) -- basically any salad here is quite delicious - but this is one of my favourites. Concept of a "salad" here are more diverse than in America.
I guess I will start :o I don't eat out that often (with the exception of picking up street food if I am lazy). More often than not, if it is not seafood then I just cook it at home.
A few restaurants that I have been too in the last few months are:
Baan Klang Nam located at Rama III Soi 14 (13.688323, 100.502248) - one of my favourite places to eat, it is located on the river and has both a nice atmosphere and good food. I always start out with ordering fresh oysters (which are served with variety of stuff to put on them) - but after that I just usually leave the ordering up to thais since I find they do a better job.
Home Kitchen located on Luang Suan (approximately 13.736686, 100.542396) -- not fancy - but good food -- also mainly seafood. I do love their deep fried morning glory with mango salad.
Laem Chareon Seafood on Thanon Pracha Uthit (13.770258, 100.585472) - I have only been there once, they have 7 restaurants the first was in Rayong (which is probably going to be the best), but I liked this one as well. They do have restaurants in major shopping centres ... only went to the Siam Paragon one and it was not the same. Deep fried fish is not my favourite way to cook fish, but had deep fried fish with sweet and sour with chilies (three tastes in thai) and it was one of the best deep fried fish / sauces that I have eaten.
When my sister is visiting (works for Canadian government in a nearby country) we will/have gone to:
Nahm - which is a David Thompson restaurant. I have to admit I liked the food and the restaurant. I think my sister just likes it because it gives her ideas on thai inspired appetizers for parties (food and plating). There was another restaurant opened up by someone that worked for him called Bo Lan which I have never been to - but others have mentioned they liked better than Nahm. I brought a thai friend with me, she said she liked the food -- but it wasn't anything special (not much different taste wise - just presentation was different - probably was weighing cost in and thinking westerners were not that smart :p)
Will also head down to eat near Lumpini Park (after dark) located in parking lot (13.733645,100.538611) - basically street food vendors. It is fairly popular with thai people in the area. I don't think the menu is the same in all of the seating area, so best to walk by each of the vendors to find out what is available.
Sometimes I do a day trip to Koh Larn (a boat ride from Pattaya Pier) - I just find it heaven to eat seafood and drinking beer on the beach :o
Thai meals are usually eaten shared - where they will order many dishes (and make sure the dishes balance) and eat in larger groups - which gives you a wider selection of food to taste. I actually prefer this style to eating in western style restaurants where you order one appetizer and a main and that is all you eat.
I can't think of anything really to stay away from - street food is generally safe and good to eat. If I don't see the vendor handling the proteins properly I just don't' order from them.
I actually also like the thai snacks - i.e. grasshoppers (larger) and crickets (smaller - had to ask what it was) -- just make sure that you take the legs off the grasshopper and eat them separately otherwise they might irritate your wind pipes :o
I like going to markets. So I will include a few:
Or Tor Kor Market (13.797032, 100.547540) is a clean (and more expensive market) which has some good food sold there to be eaten.
Klong Toei Market (13.719505,100.559707) is the closest large market to me - I think a lot of street food vendors in the area buy from here (probably cheaper than Or Tor Kor).
If I am cooking seafood I will make my way out to Ngoen Market (13.724466, 100.492882) near Wongwian Yai station (closer to train station than Skytrain station). They have food in the area to be eaten but haven't done that yet.
Besides my previously recommended Cook Chom's, you might try Baan Phuengchom, a short walk from the Ari BTS skytrain stop. It offers up a few unusual dishes, including woonsen with three smelly vegetables and Steamed beef with mangda sauce.
If you want inside, air conditioned seating, call for a reservation.
Cook Chom's will offer an interesting kitchen perspective, while Baan Phuengchom will offer some interesting Thai cuisine.
Map: http://g.co/maps/ud9b6 (Cook Chom's also on map)