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Going to Thailand during the New Year, good idea for a foodie?

Hello everyone!! Long time freeloader on these boards, but I think it’s time I came out from the shadows.

I will be in SE Asia for the first time and I wonder if anyone has recommendations for eating experiences that are not to be missed by a bay area native that knows good food but likes it simple. We’ll have approximately 36 hours in each city and I’m looking for non fine dining options, just great food that will change my life and is somewhat close to the basic attractions of the cities. I feel like I need 5 options in each city that are relatively easy to find before we go on the trip. Thanks everyone!!

We’ll be staying by the MBK center in Bangkok, but will probably go to all the temples/attractions around the city. In Chiang Mai we’ll be in the middle of the city, in Koh Samui we’ll be in Choeng Mon, and in Hong Kong in Kowloon close to the water, but will probably venture to all the attractions of the city so anywhere along the train routes are fair game.

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  1. The term "foodie" always sets off alarms for me. But, I will pipe in anyways.

    By a fare to "ARI" and hop on the BTS. Transfer trains at "SIAM" and hop on the train headed towards "MO CHIT"

    When you get off, at ARI, walk in the direction that the train was traveling, on the left, when facing the same direction. Head down the first street on the left, Soi Ari 7. walk down that street to the first street on the right, soi Chua Chit.

    At the end of Chua Chit, you will find Baan Puengchom, a nice restaurant, with some interesting dishes. Definitely try their woosen with 3 smelly vegetables!

    Call ahead to reserve an inside, air conditioned seating. 02 2794204


    21 Replies
    1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

      Don't be too alarmed. It just means a person (non-professional) that has a keen interest in food, trying new food (all levels), maybe an interest in understanding the ingredients and what goes into the food. There are of course food snobs, like there are wine snobs .... but in the end those are just snobs :p

      Don't have specific recommendations -- other than to make you aware that you visiting three very distinct food regions. There are 5 different major regions for food in Thailand. I am aware of this only because one of my teachers (SITCA - cooking school in Koh Samui) wanted to open a restaurant that showcased the 5 different regions (different sections within the same restaurant).

      1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

        Funny....I felt weird as I was typing it too, I'm still getting used to this whole posting thing.

        Would you say the more well traveled places like somboon and LEK and seafood market are worth it? I feel like we only have a certain amount of meals in Bangkok and I don't want to waste any.

        1. re: johnsroastpork

          Just noticed, ONLY 36 hours in each city..... That would be way too much pressure for me.

          I would recommend Baan Klang Nam over the seafood market. Seafood market you order the ingredients, and then tell them how to cook it for you. I would also recommend you eat street food as well, since most Thais working will eat at street food vendors during lunch. I have been to Somboon once and it was closer to closing and therefore some of what I wanted to order they did not have. I did like the curry crab, but crab is not my favourite since I find crab too much work. -- and lek once. I went with my sister to lek and both of us were not impressed - but based on other people I am guessing that it might have been our fault (what we selected there). When I go out I actually find the order is done better if I avoid choosing and leave it to locals....

          Will probably spend some of the next 10 days eating out since my sister will be in town -- but it will depend since she is flying in for major dental :o I might get around to checking out some of the places that Curt has recommended. I think I will finally get out to check the restaurant that is known for pad thai (many variations) :o

          1. re: cacruden

            Sounds like fun, we were also thinking of krua aporn for their crab omelete. Any recs for best street food areas in the main part of the city? At this point I feel like I'll just be on the lookout for stalls with long lines and locals in them, not to scientific.

            1. re: johnsroastpork

              Krua Apsorn's curry crab, one of my favorites, comes already shelled.

              BTW, If you do try Baan Puengchom, return t the ARI BTS area for dessert. La Villa has a branch of After You Dessert, home of the Shibuya Honey Toast I posted a few days back.

              1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                I will definitely have to make a trip out to try the curry crab this time then.

                  1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                    Have it on our list of places to try. Unfortunately last night it was already past closing (730pm/1930). Last night the food was good, but for what you got it was very expensive - went to Balee Laos. It was billed as Isan food, but most of the food was not Isan food (my sister wanted to retry a few restaurants) and expensive in comparison .... but the government is paying for it so not a big problem. The restaurant is on Sukhumvit Soi 16 about 800 metres back - has a nice decor. Food that was ordered was Papaya Salad (Som Tam), Larb Mu (which was not on the menu that I could see - I even went through reading all the Thai which takes me longer :o) -- they were good but not better than you can buy at street level (and 5x+ as expensive), sticky rice. Other food (not Isan), was a soft shelled crab dish (Tamarind based sauce); Pomelo salad (not sure of region); and steamed/baked mussels (but since it is a salt water dish - not likely an Isan dish). For the 5 basic dishes the bill came out to 1700 baht.

                    Day before when to "Home Kitchen" on Lang Suan - think it was 700 baht for 3 dishes (steamed fish - lime juice/chilies and garlic, deep fried morning glory salad, and one other that slips my mind).

                    So far the list of to-do's are:
                    Krua Apsorn
                    Aroi Nai Non Issan - near Ladprao
                    Thip Samai Thai
                    Bo Lan
                    Will also check out street food vendors near Sukhumvit Soi 38 - not sure what is there.

                    1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                      Followed up today by going to Som Tam Restaurant -- Siam Square Soi 5. It was less than 25% of the price, and 3 times as good.

                      Ordered a NorthEastern style pork on bone soup (actually not on the bone), Som Tam (Papaya Salad), Chicken Larb (Minced Chicken Salad), a sliced bbq pork salad and sticky rice.... Had to keep it toned down a little, spice and dental work don't always mix :o.

                    2. re: cacruden

                      ok I think we are going to go with these restaurants, but I might need some help with what is best to order.

                      Also am I missing anything? Thanks for all the help!!

                      Krua apsorn: curry crab no shell
                      LEK seafood: ?
                      T pochana restaurant: ?
                      MBK food court: 5/6 level

                      and possibly

                      spice market

                      with street food markets sprinkled in.

                      Question: What is the best area for leisurely walking and street food eating around Lumphini park area?
                      Also, are there any good places by the palace, wat po, wat arun?

                      1. re: johnsroastpork

                        One eatery we like, near Lumpini, Is Polo Rice Soup, at the corner of Wireless and Soi Polo. It's a classic, open front shop, cooking up many traditional favorites.

                        Krua Apsorn might be a good choice for your Grand Palace / temples day. You will be much closer than when downtown. Keep in mind that the palace closes at 15:30. Plan according. And, most important, don't listen to all the friendly advice from all the friendly strangers in the area. The Palace area is ground zero for scammers.

                        MBK 6th floor food court is the more traditional one. The Fifth Floor Food Avenue is an "international" tourist tourist attractor.

                        There are even some smaller, very interesting courts on most of MBK's other floors. These are what many of the vendors use.

                        1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                          Oh, Krua Apsorn closes at 15:30/3:30pm - read somewhere else that it was 19:30/7:30. Good to know that :o

                          1. re: cacruden

                            The Samsen branch, the one we always visit, is open until 19:30, although sometimes menu items are gone.

                            The two "Bangkok" branches are both closed Sundays, although there is another, in Nonthaburi, open 7 days.

                            1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                              Finally made it to Krua Apsorn.... not worth the journey!!!!

                              Just kidding!

                              The restaurant would best be described as a hole in the wall type dinner.... but when you serve top notch food, that is all you really need. It was quite the little journey to get there.

                              It is close enough to Thewes Pier (N15) that I took my preferred mode of transit.... The "Chao Phraya Express Boat" from Central Pier (maybe 0) - which connects to the sky train. IF you do go this route.... remember the right boat has an orange flag and would be headed north.... DO NOT buy the ticket on the pier, and DO NOT take the blue boat (Tourist one).... it will just annoy you... they have a barker on there basically giving you basic information - which to me sounds more like Charlie Brown "bla bla bla bla" and it just makes me feel like jumping overboard. If you buy the ticket on the deck - you will get one that will cover both the boats - but costs more.... it will only cost you a flat rate of 15 baht.

                              Waited for the express boat for around 10 minutes, and took about 35 minutes to go by river (total of about 45 minutes). We then got off the boat and headed directly up the street to the nearest major intersection - Samsen Road. Turned left and walked past a small market and the market was on the river side of the road.

                              Ordered the curry crab recommended, a seafood salad (actually mussels but they were out), and a kingfish salad. There was no weak points in what we received - all the dishes were well balanced and flavourful. So it will now be added to my list of restaurants to travel to.

                              Pictures included are:
                              The orange flagged river boat,
                              Sign for the restaurant,
                              Curry Crab,
                              Seafood Salad
                              Kingfish with mango salad.

                              Curt is right, this would be a good choice for your short stay.

                              1. re: cacruden

                                Although I always go for the curry crab, the two "signature" dishes seem to be the crab omelet and yellow curry with lotus shoots. The omelet is great. I still don't care much for the lotus shoots though.

                                Did you happen to see Cook Chom's shop? It's the little open front shop, just as you exit the Thewes pier.

                                Cook Chom got tired of working hotel eateries and started his own plce. He puts out "plates" that one would never expect to see from such a "shack".

                                Cook Chom's: http://s231.photobucket.com/albums/ee...

                                Map from Thewes pier, to Krua Apsorn: http://g.co/maps/73fqc

                                1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                                  Did not see it, must have walked right by it on the way back. Will keep my eye out for it next time I am in the area. Of course I have probably walked through quite a number of places -- that if I had known about -- I would not have :o

                                    1. re: cacruden

                                      Prawns on the other hand break down within about 4 hours if they are not "frozen" (not sure about put on ice but not completely frozen). After death an enzyme is released which starts breaking down prawns quickly.... best if you can get them from a tank - but failing that - on ice or frozen can be better quality.

                        2. re: johnsroastpork

                          OK, I have now visited Bo Lan and previously Nahm so I can do an honest (IMHO) comparison.

                          The restaurant ambience is better at Bo Lan than Nahm - restaurants are two completely different "styles". Nahm has a more modern decor, while Bo Lan is more of a Thai style home environment. Sat outside, I would have chosen outside anyways - but the inside part was already reserved anyways - I gather most visitors don't like the climate here :p

                          Service at Bo Lan was a little better than Nahm.

                          I gave Nahm the edge on the food side though, I preferred the food at Nahm over Bo Lan. The appetizer (Bo Lan Before), although tasting good, was obviously only for one person. Normally appetizers are shared - even in western restaurants, but they gave us 5 different bite sized "appetizers" on a platter (took photo after the first was eaten). Decided just to cut each in half - but the second one was soooo small, it was hard to cut (no knives at a asian table which made it more difficult). If they are afraid of the cost of adding more to the plate (cost 310) they should have had a base price for one with a per person add-on..... although at 310 - they could have been a little more generous :o

                          Unlike Nahm, Bo Lan OBVIOUSLY toned down the spicy/heat - they told us that we ordered a lot of spicy dishes so recommended a the additional dish of Preserved Rice simmered in coconut with vegetables..... They also mentioned the Stir Fried Southern Style Pork was even more spicy -- very very spicy.... which is what I would expect ..... but I would say that on a spicy scale the stir fried pork may have reached a 3/10, the others (except) maybe 1.5/10.

                          Attached (in order) are:
                          Bo Lan Before - Appetizers
                          Green Curried "KU" short ribs
                          Condiments for the Green Curry
                          Preserved rice simmered in Coconut Cream with vegetables
                          Salad of Ayutthaya River Prawns
                          Stir Fried Southern Style Pork

                          1. re: johnsroastpork

                            Baan Klang Nam is one of my favourite restaurants - went there today and ordered a little too much again. Not to mention the fresh (thai style) oysters were the largest I have ever seen - I had to actually cut them into pieces :o

                            Fresh Oysters with condiments that are served along with the oysters,
                            Mussels with Thai herbs
                            Tom Yum Kung (I like theres)
                            and Stir Fried River Prawns with chili paste and chilies (liked it, but would order a different one - the Tom Yum/Chili Paste adds a little more oil than I would prefer).

                            1. re: cacruden

                              The food is good, the location and ambience is nice -- as it is located on the river -- basically a restaurant on the docks. Service this time was a little over the top, even had them replacing the shell bowls after only putting one shell in it :o

                              Cost around 1,500 baht.

              2. Anytime is a good time, just be aware that around 3 days over New Years (maybe a little more) a lot of the bangkok street food vendors will close and go back home during the holidays.

                1. A rule of thumb for thai food is that quality and taste is not correlated with cost -- in fact it actually can be inversely correlated.

                  1. Was not hungry tonight so we just went out to Sukhumvit Soi 38 so my sister could try a specific Pad Thai stand. Actually walked right by it and ate a little farther down, sister ordered Pad Thai, I ordered noodles with coconut curry sauce/soup (believe it is a Chiang Mai dish). Pad Thai there was about 3.5/5 - which is better than a lot of places.... my noodles were probably 4/5 -- and enjoyed them. Found the other Pad Thai place when walking back, so ordered that one for a taste as well.... which actually was not as good as the first location :p

                    Pictures are from the first place (Pad Thai, and Noodles with coconut curry):

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: cacruden

                      Your sis had the Khao soi or khao soy (Thai: ข้าวซอย) - absolutely yummy!

                      I just had one last night, but it didn't look as good as the one in your pic:

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        Sounds familiar :o Actually, I ordered/ate it - sister had a small taste - but she ate mostly Pad Thai (Pad Thai and Som Tam are comfort foods for her). I don't eat it often but it is delicious. Was too lazy to remember the name. It was funny, when I was eating it and my sister was eating Pad Thai, a table of 10 thais (or about 60% of the table space) came in and most ordered the same as me.... so I think it was probably their specialty. I asked for it spicy so he gave me a bowl of chilies - I merged half of that in.... I love most curries, for me curry is a comfort food. I grew up eating curry a couple of times a month, with leftover curry chicken on toast for breakfast.... It was funny, I had a friend visit and I offered him a bowl of one of the family curries - and he would not taste it - told me it looked like barf :o. Thai curries (many varieties) are some of the best.....

                        1. re: klyeoh

                          I thought you were in Bangalore? ;-)

                          1. re: huiray

                            LOL! I didn't notice your comment as I'd been more active on the India & South Asia board these couple of weeks instead of the China & SouthEast Asia board).

                            My "khao soi" was from Rin Naam at the Oberoi on MG Road. I was checking it out as the Times of India had just voted it best Thai restaurant in Bangalore (ahead of Aroy in JP Nagar and Benjarong in Ulsoor). Rin Naam has improved by leaps & bounds since I last dined there in 2004.

                      2. Have only one restaurant left on my list of to visit. Had lunch at Aroi Nae Non (did not see a sign in english). They had two menus, one with pictures and english and thai and one that was just a long list (and I know it had more on it). I only ordered from the english one because it would have taken me a long time to read/sound out the thai menu :o Besides, was not overly hungry but had to eat something early so that I would have time to digest before a late dinner. Ordered a seafood salad with vermicelli (picture was a little late), BBQ Beef Salad and Tom Yum Kung (with a splash of coconut milk). He asked if it should be spicy, I replied yes - and he did definitely comply :o

                        It is a large open restaurant which is apparently popular during lunch/weekday, less so today. Liked the food, but I think I would give Som Tom on Siam Square the nod over this one.

                        It is located just before Lat Phrao Soi 1 - and before Union Mall on Lat Phrao.

                        Pictures are:
                        Signage of Restaurant and the stairs up and down to get in (strange way to enter).
                        Seafood Salad
                        BBQ Beef Salad
                        Tom Yum Kung Soup

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: cacruden

                          In the dishes you can see the red chilies, but you cannot see the plentiful smaller green chilies that also added to the spicy heat of it :o

                        2. The fresh oysters in Thai style (posted by cacruden with the post about Baan Klang Nam) is one thing I think someone from the Bay area shouldn't be missed. It's the compare/contrast of what fresh oyster is served in other part of the world.

                          Thai oysters (the Surat ones) are particularly bigger and much richer (oystier...if that's a word) in flavor than most oysters (kumamoto, bluepoints, etc) I encountered in French/ American restaurants. Therefore, the condiments pronounce much stronger flavor/spice to match with the oyster itself.

                          Condiments to be eaten with Thai fresh oysters:
                          -The seafood sauce made from fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, cilantro and chilli smoothly blended/chopped together
                          - Tip of White Popinac leaf (which tasted pretty weird eating alone but turned sweet when eaten with raw oysters)....just eat the tip and some leaves- not the stalk
                          - Deep fried thinly sliced shallots

                          I really am a big fan of raw oysters and I usually tell people that wherever the oysters from- take their local condiments. Those from French would shine through vinegar with minced shallot nicely, so do those from Mexican Bay that go best with cocktail sauce.

                          1. And the final location was Thip Samai - which makes Pad Thai (in this case Pad Thai Thamada or Pad Thai Phiset) (Pad Thai Normal/Regular; Pad Thai Special).

                            Was a little concerned when I saw the volume the place was churning out, but after ordering one of each -- the pad thai was very good (I have had better, but both other locations disappeared long ago).

                            I preferred the Normal Pad Thai but I would give both Pad Thais a 4.5 out of 5. Special Pad Thai had a couple of large prawns - and a little more of a tangy flavour (wrapped with egg).

                            Pictures include (before addition of condiments):
                            Regular Pad Thai
                            Special Pad Thai

                            1. Last restaurant for a while - have to get on the treadmill now. The restaurant was Soul Food Mahankorn on Sukhumvit Soi 55. It was set in a nice trend place, it actually felt like a place that would not be out of place in Toronto - a place where you might bring a date. The restaurant was full which might have been a problem if we did not make a reservation, I generally don't make reservations... especially since those places that take it (farang oriented) generally aren't full.

                              The food was pretty good, especially the first dish which meant that all the others had a hard time competing.

                              Dishes include:

                              Smoked Duck (with Fresh Duck) Larb - this dish was absolutely fantastic.
                              Yam Hua Plee - or Banana Flower Salad
                              Crab Dip with Vegetables
                              Sticky Tamarind Ribs - these were quite good but I think they would have been a better fit with beer than the rest of the dishes that we had. The pork ribs were tender and fell off the bones.
                              Khao Soi / Beef - I actually preferred the street one (a few days ago) a little more, my sister preferred this one a little more (probably since she tasted mine and I generally spice my food a were bit more than her tolerance is).
                              Lamb Pad Grapao - ordered this dish even though full -- my sister can recover now that she is going back - last night. Lamb is not generally used by Thais because it has a stronger smell which Thais have problems with.... Basically this is taking lamb and making a holy basil and chili stir fry - It was also very good - but hard to faste since when it came .... we were full :o

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: cacruden

                                Yes, quite a "rare" dish indeed - that lamb pad kaprao.

                                1. re: klyeoh

                                  At the Erawan buffet, lamb is devoured by the kilo!

                                  1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                                    Western-style roast lamb? At the Grand Hyatt Erawan's buffet?

                                    BTW, in Thai restaurants here in India - including the *best* one on the Indian sub-continent: Thai Pavilion at the Taj President in Mumbai, lamb constituted 80% of the meats offered! It caught me unawares because lamb is definitely *not* a meat of choice for Thais - who have an aversion to the smell. Taj Group Chairman, Ratan Tata, can be seen at Thai Pavilion every so often.

                                    1. re: klyeoh

                                      Yup; appears to be a classic rack, already carved by the time it comes out front. Then, most Thais will have it grilled to extra well done ...

                                      For me, lamb is great, but you can keep mutton.

                                      1. re: klyeoh

                                        Local adaptation, one supposes...still, although beef would be disallowed and pork is iffy in Hindu/Muslim India...it is interesting there weren't more chicken and fish/seafood selections - or mutton, goat...

                                        1. re: huiray

                                          I was reading that there has been a problem with fish being adulterated with formaldehyde in India - which I am aware when I visited Bangladesh (which either also has or imports from India).

                                          1. re: cacruden

                                            Don't think it is a problem in Thailand. When I visited Ngeon Market (about 10 minute walk from Wongwian Yai BTS Station - close to train station) the fish there was fairly high quality.
                                            Arrived at 11 am (late by fish monger standards - so best would have been gone) and bought a couple of fish there a couple weeks ago. What I was looking for (assuming the fish was not alive at that point) was:
                                            - Eyes clear and convex (not cloudy). 
- Gills were a nice bright colour with no mucus
- Fish smelt salty and clean - not fishy (fishy smell is a dead give-away of decay)
- Fish were in a state of rigour (rigour sets in early and then lasts for a short period depending on fish - so if a fish is out of rigour decay has started)
                                            What I noticed was the market, even with the huge amount of fish being processed (and messy), was not overpowering fishy -- and there was not that bleach smell (trying to clean up after the dead)..... In Toronto china town, you can walk into a store and be overpowered by a bleach smell in the fish area (other than T&T that had tanks of fish instead).
                                            I figured that if this was the state of the market - it is less likely they need to adulterate the fish to last longer.

                                            Prawns on the other hand break down within about 4 hours if they are not "frozen" (not sure about put on ice but not completely frozen). After death an enzyme is released which starts breaking down prawns quickly.... best if you can get them from a tank - but failing that - on ice or frozen can be better quality.

                                            1. re: cacruden

                                              There were local news stories about formaldehyde treated food products here.

                                2. Now that my sister has left and I am finished going out to too many restaurants for a while (restaurants have receipts for expenses)..... I would have to say the top three restaurants I went to were:

                                  Krua Apsorn
                                  Baan Klang Nam
                                  Som Tam