Essential food and wine experiences: Bangkok
This article represents the personal favourites of Foodtourist’s editors Sue Dyson and Roger McShane. These are the places they haunt on their regular visits to Bangkok.
Bangkok is a treasure for food lovers. Here you will be able to find some of the most complex and sophisticated dishes in the world!
And it is to the street stalls that we are increasingly turning for the very best that the city has to offer. And the reason is simple. The street stall vendors have been cooking their one or two dishes sometimes for thirty or forty years. If they do not maintain their standards their customers leave and go elsewhere.
There are many good stalls just off Sala Daeng in Convent St, for example, but you can find good food anywhere in the city. Just check out the food and then check to see if it is popular with the locals and go for it. A good sign is if there are a number of tables. This means that the locals probably have their lunch and/or dinner there.
When we do go to restaurants it is likely to be to a place such as Baan Prachachuen (recently moved to a new location in Chatuchak) where you are unlikely to find a foreigner sampling the royal Thai cuisine here. We also like Benjarot which is located in a tiny shop house and which serves authentic Thai food as does the nearby Chote Chitr. We also like the food at Krua Apsorn.
For breakfast we invariably end up at the tiny, tiny Khanom Jeen Soi Suan Plu where they serve some of the best Khanom Jeen noodles in the city.
Whether you are dining at up-market restaurants such as Celadon, Mei Jiang or Rang Mahal or our local favourites such as Kaloang Home Kitchen and Vientiane Kitchen you can be assured of stunning food.
As a general rule don't eat in Thai restaurants in up-market hotels. They will have almost certainly designed their menus for their clientele. The flavours will be muted. The hits of fermented flavours will be missing. The edgy nuances of true Thai food will be missing in their desire to protect their customers from the reality of the essence of this great cuisine (and we specifically are not just talking about chilli hits but something more profound than that).
The one place where we will break this rule is currently Celadon (although even here the food has been somewhat muted lately) and on our next visit we will certainly try David Thompson's Nham.
And if you want to go somewhere different don't forget the Seafood Market and Restaurant in Sukhumvit Soi 24 (there are some imitators in Bangkok so make sure your taxi takes you to this one).
This is an amazing place. Dozens of chefs man an open kitchen. You wander the market area and choose your ingredients and then explain to your waiter how you would like them cooked. The chefs then prepare a meal from your ingredients to your specifications!
But don't confine yourself to the restaurants. While you are here make sure that you spend most of your time exploring the street food. This is where the best dishes are to be found. If you want to start gently, take the trip to the fabulous Aw Taw Kaw food market which you will find quite close to the famous Chatuchak market. Here you can wander for hours sampling the dishes on offer.
Once you have mastered the art, head for the Sala Daeng area or Lumphini Park in the morning or evening where street food stalls sprout like mushrooms.
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