Now, suitably refreshed, we headed out for dinner – to Chinatown. Chinatown in Bangkok? Who’d have thought it? But Bangkok has a thriving Chinese population and when you hit Chinatown proper, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Hong Kong (absent the skyscrapers).
Wandering around the streets they are teeming with little restaurants cooking all things imaginable – and some that are equally unimaginable. But then it wouldn’t be Chinese if that were not the case! One restaurant in particular is famous across Bangkok for cooking pig – not your typical leg of pork, think more along the lines of ears, tails, intestines, trotters – and people were queuing down the street to wait for a table.
Similarly with a little street food vendor’s cart where they cooked a particular Chinese soup. It had the appearance of a beef broth, but who knows, you couldn’t get close to it, such was its popularity.
I was getting properly hungry by now, but Alice was on a mission – and here is the true value of having someone to guide you. She stopped by an open-air restaurant called Fai Keaw, although how you would have known that I don’t know as there is little visible signage – at least none to the western eye! Little tin tables and tiny stools to sit on, this is street dining at its truest.
There is always something theatrical about watching a chef at work, and at Fai Keaw, this is no exception. Rather, this was EXCEPTIONAL! The chef and owner, a Mr Hae Kleng, presides over one steamer and three woks. He is supported by one young lady working an open grill, another chopping vegetables and finally one person washing up. The restaurant sits 80 covers at any one time and every table is continually occupied, with people queuing down the street. Watching Chef Kleng work was truly unbelievable – no tickets backing up, no shouting, just one dish being produced after another. Watching him produce stir-fried morning glory in 10 seconds – yes, 10 seconds – was astonishing and it goes to prove that your wok can never be too hot!
We ate Garlic & Pepper Shrimp and Squid in a Yellow Curry with some steamed rice… and the obligatory Chang Beer(s). Happy days indeed! Total cost 510 Bhat (£11.46).
So dinner came to an end, but that was not the end of the Tour. China Town is a busy, busy place in the evening and it is worth wandering around to see what else is on offer. It does not disappoint…
At this point I have to confess that I was so impressed with China Town that I snuck back there the following evening and was glad I did so. T&K Seafood is yet another busy, open-air restaurant on Yaowarat Road with a line of people waiting. But the wait is not long, customers are packed in on benches as soon as a space opens up – it’s an exciting and very sociable way to dine. I had Poo Cha (crab shells stuffed with crab meat, pork, chopped prawns and a host of other ingredients), Steamed Sea Bass and Stir-fried Pak Boong (Morning Glory to you and me). All washed down with the ever-present Chang.
Wandering around after dinner I found one little stall where I counted 80 people queuing for the renowned Yaowarat Toasted Bread. Although I didn’t get to taste it, it must be astonishingly good because the queues are like this every night.
All in all, this was a fabulous tour and a great way to spend a day. The saddest part of it was that we probably covered less than 50% of what Bangkok has to offer in terms of its street food… But hey, that’s an excuse to come back and do it again.
For those of you who have never been to Thailand, Bangkok is a fascinating city. Its history, its culture, its temples, markets, food and above all, the Thai people are all great reasons to visit. For you Foodies out there, a Street Food Tour of Bangkok should be considered a rite of passage. If you have not done one, I can only encourage you to do so!
China Town: Yaowarat Road, Bangkok
Fai Keaw Restaurant: Chakkrawat, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100
T&K Seafood: 49 Phading Dao, Yaowarat Road, Bangkok