Our Bangkok Food Adventure

People consider Bangkok the capital of the Southeast Asian culinary world. Thai cuisine has won the hearts of people around the globe, so it is not surprising that to many food lovers, Bangkok is like Mecca. We came to Bangkok with huge expectations to taste the seemingly endless choices of traditional and Western foods the city has to offer.

shutterstock_1890382

People consider Bangkok the capital of the Southeast Asian culinary world. Thai cuisine has won the hearts of people around the globe, so it is not surprising that to many food lovers, Bangkok is like Mecca. We came to Bangkok with huge expectations to taste the seemingly endless choices of traditional and Western foods the city has to offer.

THIS JOURNEY BEGAN from the center of the city. Sukhumvit is a CBD area and during midday, office employees can be seen flocking the numerous food stalls which abound. It is almost like the typical Jakarta warung, humble stalls that serve simple but comforting home cooked dishes. The most common food offered in this area is chicken rice. Far from the rice and fried chicken dish with sambal that is usually served at stalls in Jakarta, the Bangkok version chicken rice is more like the popular chicken rice that we can find all over the Southeastern Asia region.

This popular one-dish meal is known as khao man gai, it is a local adaptation of Hainanese chicken rice, but is lighter in taste due to the less oily rice and chicken. In each portion of khao man gai, you will get a piece of boneless braised chicken breast served over jasmine rice that is cooked in chicken broth and chicken fat to create the hearty savory taste. The rice has just the right texture, not too soft, not too dry. As condiments, it is served along with slices of cucumber, cilantro, and a bowl of soup. If you want, you can order side dishes such as blood jelly and chicken liver or chicken gizzard. As true foodies, we went for the complete package: chicken rice, blood jelly and chicken liver and gizzard. The warm rice and juicy chicken were a perfect combination, served in an appropriate portion that will not give an instant full stomach. The blood jelly had a very unique texture although it tasted a bit bland. Khao Man Gai is definitely a perfect choice for lunch.

dsc_2202

And because there was still enough room left after our khao man gai, we decided to try traditional Thailand snacks that can be found along the Rama Road from Sukhumvit to Siam. Here you can choose from among the large varieties of snacks, from the sweet snacks such as grilled banana with coconut sugar syrup, colorful steamed snacks, traditional crepes with coconut cream and foi khong – unique strings made of egg yolk and simple syrup – filling, to modern snacks such as waffles and fruit juices. Our favorite? Of course, the khanon bueang, or Thai traditional crepes. The heavenly combination of crunchy crepes, creamy filling and the sweet foi khong makes it really hard to stop munching this delectable snack. This dish comes in small portions, so please excuse us if we had two portions at a time!

Traditional markets are always listed in our trip plan. In Bangkok, we visited Or Tor Kor Market, which is located a bit outside of the city center. This market provides huge choices of fresh produce such as meat, fresh seafoods, fruits and vegetables, and also ready-to-eat snacks. A quick glance at the market and we could see that Or Tor Kor was not your typical market. It is neatly organized and clean, making it a fun destination for sightseeing, shopping, or for simply taking great pictures to be shared on your Instagram. No wonder CNNGo dubbed Or Tor Kor as the world’s 4th best fresh market a couple of years ago.

f11594048

We tried several snacks that were offered at small stalls inside the market. One of the most appealing snacks here was the sticky rice platter, which consisted of bite-size sticky rice balls topped with sweet condiments, such as candied grated coconut and kaya custard, as well as the savory coconut and crispy shallots. We spent several hours at the market and closed our visit with a lunch at the food court area. For lunch, we had khao soi, a traditional noodle dish that originates from the northern part of Thailand. It was a humble bowl of egg noodles in a coconut milk-curry broth, topped with juicy chicken thigh, crispy noodle, pickled cabbage, fresh slices of shallots, and chili oil. It did not look like much, but it was so satisfying!

img_20151228_122850

Besides Or Tor Kor, there is another interesting market on Yaowarat Road. Yaowarat started as the dwelling of Chinese immigrants in Bangkok, but now it is a popular Chinatown area that has some of the best stores selling Chinese food products, spices and exotic tea. Wait until it turns dark because Yaowarat Road transforms into a food court area with its popular seafood barbeque. It’s a must try!

Culinary escapades at night has become a huge part of the culture in Bangkok. Many restaurants and food stalls serve until late night, providing food for those who still wish to dine. Along the Silom area you can find great street food to satisfy your late night cravings, from pad thai to oyster omelet.

But if you want a spicy and refreshing tom yam for your dinner, you’d better visit a stall in Petchaburi area named P’Aor / Pe Aor. Tom yam here comes in a special version, because it uses condensed milk in the broth. Don’t worry, this addition does not change the taste of tom yam into something overly sweet. Instead, the P’Aor version of tom yam has a surprisingly creamy yet refreshing taste. Large prawns presented in each portion makes P’Aor tom yam even more special.

img_20151225_194725

After spending a few days exploring the old city area and tasting a variety of traditional foods, we were curious about the more urban culinary scene in Bangkok. Just like other big cities in Southeast Asia, Bangkok has a growing food and beverage industry with numerous newly opened businesses, ranging from coffee shops, food trucks, to fine dining establishments.

If you want a taste of the Bangkok urban dining experience, you have to explore the Thonglor area. Just like Tiong Bahru in Singapore or Senopati in Jakarta, Thonglor is an area that has became a hipster enclave. One of the legendary ‘occupants’ of Thonglor is Roast Coffee. This coffee shop had gained a reputation among the coffee communities in Southeast Asia and is indeed a must-visit destination for coffee lovers.

f10933568

However our personal favorite was Casa Lapin x49 that is located not far from there. The fact that this place is a bit hidden in a blind alley made it more interesting because it gives the impression of a secluded and intimate getaway. It is a very comfortable place to enjoy your me-time with a book and a cup of special coffee that you can choose from their menu. For the record, Casa Lapin uses single origin coffee beans from the Jomthong area in Chiang Mai.

But Thonglor does not only have coffee shops, because there are also plenty of casual dining establishments that are worth visiting. The ABC Essence in Eatery, which is located on the 3rd floor of a community mall, is a fusion concept restaurant that is always packed from brunch until the afternoon, although this place is still relatively new. We tasted some of their signature dishes. First we had the Japanese-style Skinny Sumo Salad, a combination of mixed greens, tofu tempura, shitake mushrooms, kimchi roll and yakitori, with drizzles of miso ginger dressing. This entrée is dominated by the sweet taste of the dressing and it has layers of different textures. Our main course was Duck Confit, which was served with a stunning presentation, fitting of a gourmet restaurant. The confit was served over prune risotto, along with condiments of beet mayo, duck ju, and parmesan foam. This dish really stole our hearts. The savory duck confit was brilliantly balanced with the slightly sweet prune risotto. We noted to ourselves that we will order this again on our next visit to ABC Essence.

f11679808

Having experienced the widespread development of the Bangkok culinary scene ourselves, we were curious to find out more about artisanal food products that normally develop in line with the culinary industry. Some colleagues in Bangkok informed us that artisanal food products are still not very popular. However, there are several brands that are gaining popularity, one of which is Sloane’s. It is the brainchild of Joe Slane, a top chef who recently decided to start producing artisanal products. Sloane’s offers processed meat products in different variants; ranging from sausages like chorizo, bratwurst, beef stout (beef sausage flavored with stout beer), savory pork and apple, to cured meats such as bacon, pastrami, and ham. Interestingly, Sloane’s applies strict principles to choose the pork and beef that they use – all must be free-range, free of antibiotics and growth hormones, and slaughtered humanely.

The products of Sloane’s can be found at their deli located in Bangna area, a little on the edge of Bangkok. In addition to selling their own products, Sloane’s also offers other artisanal food products like cheese, fruit preserves, bottled sauces, and kombucha from a variety of other gourmet brands. Another place worth trying product is Heaven on Cheese, which produces various kinds of soft cheese like brie and camembert.

And so our two week adventure in Bangkok finally ended. We had to go home, but we are back with good memories of Bangkok as a heaven for foodies who want adventure in flavors with a wide selection of food – from traditional food to modern international cuisine. All of the food that we tasted there had successfully left a deep impression and made us immediately want to go back to Bangkok.


Written by Gupta Sitorus & Primo Rizky Photographs by Gupta Sitorus & Primo Rizky July 2, 2016.

Comments

Related