Saturday, 30 June 2012

Images from Chinatown

he says:

Some more of Tina's great photos, this time from Chinatown (Yaorowaj). This place is a real spectacle, probably the most crowded busiest place in Bangkok that we visited. By night the area completely transforms and is almost unrecognisable. Sidewalks are completely taken over by food stalls and restaurants only to completely disappear without a trace the following day.

Boat Noodles Alley Victory Monument

he says:

Of course I was going to be heading to Boat Noodle Alley near the Victory Monument to sample as many bowls of Boat Noodles (Kuay Tiau Rua) as possible. We had spent the morning at Chatuchuk and were desperately in need of a seat, preferably in air conditioning. We quickly negotiated a tuk tuk to take us to Victory Monument so I could get a fix of the most popular Boat Noodles in Bangkok. At 9 baht (30 cents) a bowl I reckon they are probably the cheapest too. The alley is actually about four different restaurants that all sell Boat Noodles but we went back to the same one we had visited previously as they have a small air conditioned room that is an oasis in the heat of Bangkok.

This isn't really a tourist area so the staff don't speak much English which makes ordering a bit of a challenge. I took the opportunity to test out my rudimentary Thai and managed to get us our first two bowls of beef boat noodles, one with sen mee and the other with sen lek noodles. The bowls are really quite small however the soup is very rich and hearty and incredibly flavoursome. The broth is thickened with blood which gives its a beautiful red colour. I realise this might not sound delicious to some but the noodles taste fantastic so I'm totally fine with it. For about 10 baht you also get a bowl of crispy pork skin which is basically like roast pork crackling and this is added to the bowl to give the dish some extra texture.

We quickly polished off our first bowls and moved on to a bowl of the pork broth, again with sen mee and sen lek noodles. Sen mee are the thin rice noodles pictured with the beef noodles in the first picture and sen lek are slightly thicker rice noodles pictured with the pork noodles above. Obviously not a lot of care is taken with the crockery as this bowl was really worse for wear. Judging by the number of bowls we saw served in the short time we where there I reckon they must sell thousands of bowls a day so its no surprise the bowls are are so battle worn.

This is the sen mee version of the pork noodles. I really couldn't say which was better between the beef and the pork as both were absolutely awesome. The green vegetable is Pak Boong (Morning Glory) which is very widely used here and really works well with the noodle soups as it retains its crispness in the soup broth.

Now I really don't have much of an idea how many variations of noodles they sell at this place, I originally thought it was just pork and beef so I tried to order another bowl of the beef noodles and got this unusual pink soup instead. Maybe they somehow knew that this foreigner wanted to try all of their range and just brought this to me in spite of what I had ordered or more likely my Thai is pretty dodgy and this is what I ordered. I was actually happy to get a chance to try another of their offerings although this fishy number wasn't my favourite. I am assuming by its bright pink colour that it is some kind of Yen Ta Fo. It was ok but really a bit fishy for my liking.

Like most Thai street food one of the best parts is that you often get to watch the food being prepared. If you ever get to Boat Noodle alley you really have to take a few minutes and watch these guys in action. They move so fast and prepare a bowl of soup in less that 5 seconds.

Like the photos show, these guys hands are literally like a crazy blur as they instinctively move in a repeated rhythm preparing hundreds of bowls in a matter of minutes.

Second only to the speed of the cooks the waiters ferry trays of bowls to customers as quickly as they are prepared. The whole operation is so fast and smooth it's a real spectacle.

Like I said above I'm not sure what this place is actually called but I snapped this photo of the waiters uniform so perhaps someone who can read Thai will be able to enlighten me.  If you even visit Bangkok you have to find your way to Boat Noodle alley, it's really something special and easily one of my favourite places in the city. I am obsessed with Boat Noodles though...

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Aquatini Navalai

he says:

After a big day in Bangkok and with a trip to Chatuchuk Market planned for the following day Tina suggested we have dinner in the riverside restaurant at our hotel. Normally I don't go for eating at the hotel but I was also exhausted after trekking around the city all day and we had ordered a few dishes from Aquatini for room service the night we arrived and they were pretty good so I agreed. It was nice to just wander downstairs for dinner instead of having to get a tuk tuk or taxi and try and then find our way home with very full bellies as is usually the case.

The restaurant is actually very beautiful and sits right on the Chao Phraya river near the Phra Artit ferry pier. Our room looks over the river and restaurant, both of which are spectacular at night.

Tina had another reason for wanting to go to Aquatini, cocktails! We settled in quickly and ordered to delicious mojitos to get us started. I think they use a bit of dark rum here which makes the mojito browner than we are used to but they still extremely are delicious, I could drink these all night.

No trip to Thailand is complete without eating some soft shelled crab and the Aquatini version with cashews and a sticky tamarind garlic sauce is excellent. I just love these sweet tamarind chilli sauces, they go with just about anything but fried seafood works especially well.

I also had a secret agenda for agreeing to dine at Aquatini. I have only recently discovered Yum Pak Boong Krob (Deep Fried Morning Glory served with Seafood and Minced Pork Spicy Dressing) and it is currenlty my absolute favourite Thai dish. I know of only one place you can get this amazing dish in Melbourne but will be keeping that secret until I get home.

The crispy morning glory is fantastic and the light curry sauce is superb. The curry sauce is similar to Tom Yum but creamier like a curry with succulent chunks of prawns and squid and lots of other extra flavours that I can't even begin to describe. Needless to say this is a must try Thai dish for anyone who loves Thai food. The Aquatini version is excellent and the good news for those in Melbourne is that the local version that I will post about soon is just as good!

No Thai meal is complete without rice so we ordered a serve of Khao Pad Gai (Chicken Fried Rice). I love fried rice (as does Charlie) and this was a great accompaniment to the other dishes. I think a lot of the hotel guests eat all their meals at Aquatini and while that isn't my style I can see why they do it. Ignoring the western section with offerings of spaghetti bolognese etc the menu is quite extensive and has a much wider range of Thai dishes than many Melbourne Thai restaurants. Judging by the quality of the meals we enjoyed, the cooking is also of a very high standard which in a city like Bangkok is pretty much mandatory. With so many excellent eating options available, those who are less than great don't last very long.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Krua Apsorn

he says:

I had read about Krua Apsorn on CNNGO and as it was nearby we decided to check it our for dinner. Krua Apsorn is one of a number of popular restaurants on Thanon Dinsor which is about a 20 minute walk from our hotel on Phra Artit. There are a few other places on Thanon Dinsor recommended by the CNNGO article, you can read about them here.

Like a lot of places in Bangkok there is both indoor and outdoor seating options. We had had our fill of Bangkok traffic fumes for the day thanks to Charlie's obsession with riding in tuk tuk so we opted for air conditioning.

Krua Apsorn is an all round Thai restaurant which surprisingly aren't that common in Bangkok as most places seem to specialise in one or two dishes. In saying that Krua Apsorn is most famous for its seafood offerings so that's what we ordered. First up was the prawns in a sweet chill sauce, I'm not sure if the prawns here are different but they certainly don't look the same as what we get back home. They seem to have a larger head section, part of which is left on when they are served. In cutting these off to try the tail a kind of yellow creamy roe like substance oozed out so I decided to just eat the tail sections. This roe is probably considered a delicacy but it wasn't for me. The prawns were great and as usual the sauce was fantastic, beautifully sweet with a touch of chilli. 

The other dish we ordered is pretty much Krua Apsorn's signature dish, stir fried crab meat in yellow chilli sauce. I just love the way crab is served over here, there's no mucking around trying to remove tiny mouthfuls of flesh out from the shell, all the hard work is done for you. This dish was incredibly spicy thanks to the slices of orange chilli. At first I didn't recognise these as chillies and was constantly cooling the fire in my mouth with glasses of iced fanta until Tina pointed them out to me. I think I thought they were carrot! The crab meat was beautiful and the snake beans lovely and crunchy, a great combination. Neither dish was cheap by Bangkok standards at 300 baht each (approx $10). 

After dinner we crossed the road to Mont Nom Sod. We had spotted this place a few nights ago and I remembered it from one of my food books. It has quite a history and was one of the only places you used to be able to by milk in Bangkok, milk is still considered a delicacy as are most dairy products. Nowadays Mont Nom Sod is famous for serving toast with sweet toppings. These are very popular with the young Thai in particular and the place was packed with kids in school uniforms at 8pm. Also testament to its coolness is the wall of photos of young Thai celebrities who have visited the shop. We chose the chocolate topping and a coconut custard that I think was coloured with pandan. They do something different to their bread over here as it is much sweeter and when combined with the custard toppings makes for a delicious dessert. Lots of different flavours are available with some special toppings only available on certain days. Charlie loved the chocolate topping the best, you can just see her little grabby hands about to sneak a piece in the photo above. 

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Images from Bangkok

he says:

Tina has been slowly working out how to get the most out of our camera and in the process has taken some really great photos of Bangkok. These are a few of my favourites.

Hoy Tod Chaolay

he says:

I still had a bit of room left after Saew and also hadn't yet scratched my Hoy Tod itch from a few days earlier so I convinced Tina to walk about 15 minutes down the road to our old stomping ground Thong Lo where I knew I could find one of Bangkok's better purveyors of Hoy Tod (fried mussel omlette).

On our way I had to walk past this takeaway version of Pad Krapow for only 15 baht (50 cents). Definitely hard to pass up but I had Hoy Tod on my mind.

When it comes to Thai food I don't think you ever stop learning. I had always thought that Hoy Tod could be either mussels or oysters however going by this sign the oyster version is actually called Or Ror. You can get Hoy Tod at a few places in Melbourne, Middle Fish does a particularly good version so I decided to go with Or Ror.

The Hoy Tod Chaolay version of Or Ror is beautifully presented with crispy net like edges and had a wonderful flavour to back up the lovely presentation. As with Hoy Tod the dish should be doused with Sriracha chilli sauce then in my case consumed rapidly! Or Ror is such a different way of using oysters that some may find it a bit confronting, I have come to really love it. The oysters are succulent and plump and burst in flavour when bitten and the Sriracha provides the perfect accompaniment of chilli and saltiness. I have a feeling that I might just find another reason to be back over this way and when I do I really might as well pop in to try the Hoy Tod.


he says:

After returning to our friendly Doreaki vendor in Silom and successfully negotiating a cooking lesson for the following Monday we decided to head over to Sukhumvit for lunch. We are pretty comfortable over that way as we stayed a week there last visit and it is where most of the expats live and work. When we stayed there last we mostly ate at the amazing Soi 55 which is a side street that comes alive of an evening with street food vendors everywhere. It also works like a pseudo drive thru as a lot of people drive down the soi and order takeaway from their car.

As is usually the case when I'm looking for somewhere new to try I turned to the most useful travel book I've ever bought. Bangkok's Top 50 Street Food Stalls by Chawadee Nualkhair from Bangkok Glutton. Another reason we were in Sukhumvit was that I had read the Kinokuniya bookshop in the Emporium had a few copies of the out of print Good Eats Rattanakosin food map that was highly recommended by the very reliable Austin Bush in an article on CNNGO. You can read his article here, and yes I have all of them!

Saew is about a 15 minute walk from the Phrom Pong BTS station that adjoins the Emporium and as we were feeling pretty good after a nice dose of air conditioning we decided to walk and see if we could find it. I have to say that Chow has never steered me wrong when it comes to food but directionally she is a bit hit and miss so we were delighted to find Saew with minimal fuss. I wandered in and grabbed a table while holding the book open at Saew's page which turned out to be very useful as Chow has the three specialty dishes pictured and the waiter pointed to my book and asked if I wanted all three. Ah, that would be yes kawp kun krup! This one (above) is a dry wide egg noodle tom yum soup. I know dry soup sounds a bit weird but I think that's how it is described. The wide egg noodles are bamee ban and they are awesome, I'm definitely an egg noodle man when given the choice.

This dish is Tom Yum with pork and thin egg noodles (bamee glom) and was also fantastic. This was my favourite of the three. The tom yum soup here is much subtler than I've had back home, you will notice that the broth it isn't that bright red colour that you often see.

Speaking of brightly coloured broth, the last dish was Yen Ta Fo which is wide ribbon rice noodles in a vivid pink (si chompuu) broth. I remember reading that traditionally the pink colour comes from a natural source (I can't remember what) but these days food colouring is more commonly used. The pak boong (morning glory) seems to be very widely used over here, also popular is pak kanna (chinese broccoli/kale). This is an interesting dish and definitely worth seeking out but to me it can't compete with the stars of the Thai noodle soup world, kuay tiao rua, kuay tiao moo, kuay tiao gai and of course tom yam!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Snacks in Silom

he says:

Most readers will know about my love of Thai snacks, especially Kanom Tokyo. Strangely these are pretty common in Melbourne but so far we haven't seen them in Bangkok. On a previous trip to Bangkok we visited a food market in Silom with my great uncle Colin and tried some cute little Thai snacks that we thought were Kanom Tokyo. As we were wanting to try them again we jumped on a ferry downriver then caught a skytrain to Silom and with a bit of luck and a bit of skill managed to find our way back to the market we had visited a few years earlier.

The food market is huge with probably around 100 vendors, it is where many of Silom's office workers eat their lunch. I was also hoping to try and find a Hoy Tod (Mussel Omlette) vendor that I had seen there on our last visit.

Unfortunately the Hoy Tod vendor no longer operates from this market so I settled for a serve of Tod Mun Pla (fish cakes) instead. These are a great little snack that are best enjoyed doused with sriracha chilli sauce.

There was so much interesting food for sale that it was actually a bit overwhelming. As it was too early for lunch I decided to try some Sangkaya (custard filled pumpkin). I had read about this dish but never had to chance to try it. I always find it so interesting how the Thai don't have any preconceptions as to whether a vegetable is sweet or savoury and are happy to use things like corn or pumpkin in either capacity. The creamy custard and soft sweet pumpkin is a lovely combination.

At first we were a bit worried that our custard snack vendor was not there but luckily after a bit of a search Tina managed to find her. The lady was incredibly friendly and had quite good english and was able to explain to us that the snack wasn't Kanom Tokyo but in fact Doreaki named after the Japanese amine character Doremon as apparently these are his favourite snack.

Basically Doreaki are little pikelet sandwiches filled with various sweet custard creams. They are lovely and soft and very delicious. A serve of 6 is around 20 baht but to be honest I don't really remember. I was too busy asking her lots of questions about where to buy the machine and how they are made. Once again we were overwhelmed by her friendliness and willingness to help us. She wrote down the address where we could buy the Doreaki machine and even offered to take us there on the weekend.

I'm not 100% sure what all the creams are but of course they are all delicious! One of them is corn, I think the purple one is taro and the green one is coconut coloured with pandan but that's really just a guess. We managed to find the place that sells the machines and are now proud owners of a Doreaki machine. I am very hopeful that Doreaki will soon be available in Melbourne! We are heading back to see her before we leave to see if we can convince her to give us a lesson on how to make the batter and creams, fingers crossed!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Khun Dang

he says:

We first visited Khun Dang on our last trip to Bangkok and since then I have often thought of the delicious soup we tried that first visit. The noodle soup served at Khun Dang is absolutely superb and like nothing I've seen before. I not 100% sure but I think it is what the Thai refer to as a Vietnamese Noodle Soup however it certainly isn't like Pho or any of the usual Vietnamese soups that we all know and love. What makes this soup so special is the beautiful fresh rice noodles. At first I thought these were mung bean noodles as they have a slightly chewy glutinous texture but the restaurant manager happily informed me that hey were handmade rice noodles. Most of the food vendors over here are more than happy to explain aspects of their food if you are interested enough to ask.

The fresh noodles appear to be dusted in some kind of flour which I think helps give the soup a bit of a congee like consistency. The glutinous pork broth combined wonderfully with the slightly chewy noodles.

Another strong component of the flavour of this soup is the sliced pork and pepper loaf, you can see it in the bottom middle of the above photo. Also added to the broth are earthy mushrooms (I think shitake) and loads of crispy fried shallots. The deluxe version contains a soft poached egg, I can't imagine ordering it any other way. You also get pieces of tender braised pork and lovely little freshly made pork balls, not the processed kind which are also delicious. If you're in Bangkok this soup is worth seeking out. Luckily for us we are staying on Thanon Phra Artit and Khun Dang is right across the street. I'm pretty sure we'll be back at least once more before we head home to Mebourne.

I had to take a photo of this advertisement on a bus for safe sex. There's something about the pose of the unfortunate young schoolboy with his obviously pregnant girlfriend in the foreground that made me smile. Poor boy, he does seem a bit worried...