Just how good is the food in Bangkok? OK, I have to come clean, we love Thai food, so this blog is not entirely impartial. On this trip to Thailand we decided to look for something beyond a pad thai and a red curry… and hopefully discover Bangkok – food heaven.
Thais love hot food; that is in terms of chillies rather than temperature. But it isn’t just chillis, they balance it with citrus, the saltiness of fish sauce and the sweetness of palm sugar. It really bursts in the mouth with flavour.
So, how is it different in Thailand from the UK? In some ways it isn’t. If you go to a really good restaurant in Britain you can get the same result as a simple, local eatery in Bangkok. The main difference is the price. We use pad Thai as a benchmark. One of our nearest restaurants served a very tasty pad thai for 85 baht (approx £2.00).
One enterprise we have come across is the Thai Boat Noodle restaurant. Originally they served noodles off the sides of boats, so it was delivered in small portions in large bowls preventing it from spilling whilst on a rocking boat. At first we didn’t know how these worked so we each ordered a noodle soup dish which turned out to be tiny (only cost 12 baht). You should order a number of bowls and they count them up in a similar way to sushi trains. The lovely, flavoursome broth is so delicious, because their secret ingredient is pig’s blood. So it is a bit like having black pudding soup!
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We supplemented the noodles with fish cakes and crab balls (at a cost of 45 baht, we were being a bit excessive!) For once we found the latter underwhelming. But the pudding – coconut cream custard – which was provided automatically – was really good. In fact, it was one of our favourites.
One of our recommendations from our local host was Eatthai. This is a wonderful concept for Thai food lovers like us. It is situated in a big food hall at the basement of a luxury shopping centre, serving food from every part of Thailand. You can choose from each stall – a real mix and match. So you could have a curry from one area, a northern Thai speciality or a soup. Or, you could just go for pudding. It’s a nice way to try different foods.
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Street food has become very trendy in the UK, but often it bears little relation to actual street food found in Thailand. And Bangkok street food is nothing like anything I’ve seen on a menu at home.
Breakfast was a tricky meal, as there doesn’t seem to be a traditional Thai breakfast. What we discovered were particularly good omelettes with rice for 40 Baht. This was then supplemented with fruit and fruit juice from the street. We can select what is included – minced pork, sausage, onion chilli, sweetcorn, radish, fennel and garlic. This is all mixed into the omelette along with fish sauce. We could add further chilli sauce if we wanted to. The lady went easy on the chillies for us as we are not Thai!
One highlight was to go to an evening market in Petchaburi Soi 5. Two lanes were packed with stalls each serving up some great treats. This market served the workers coming back on their way home. It had many foods available. Our highlights were the best chicken skewers we’ve had so far, along with some savoury waffles from a different stall. One of the delights was to mix and match different foods whilst taking in the excitement of a night market, and trying to get run over!
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It is one thing eating all the wonderful food here, but we really want to be able to replicate it back in the UK. So we went to the Sompong Thai Cookery School for an afternoon’s lesson. We’ve learnt from previous experience that it’s a good idea to fast before having one of these lessons as you end up eating what you’re cooked, and you cook a big meal.
Here we learnt to cook:
- Chee chee curry with prawns (this is a red curry – we made the paste earlier)
- Chicken galangal in coconut soup
- Pomelo salad – like a lot of Thai salads this is very spicy and full of fresh flavours. PS: a pomelo is very much like a sweeter, larger grapefruit.
- Mango with sticky rice – unfortunately we found out just how much sugar and salt goes into one of our favourite puddings – so it is not as healthy as we thought!
We can’t wait to try them out back home.
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Eat as the Locals Do
We found two gems just around the corner from our apartment. The first was the equivalent of the worker’s canteen. At lunchtime the workers flock to an outdoor restaurant where there were about ten different dishes to choose from – ranging from curries to fish cakes to stir fries. All this at ridiculously low prices. The food was fresh and full of flavour. You chose up to three dishes (although I didn’t follow the rules and had four because it was too tempting) and sat at a free space sharing tables with everyone else.
After work the Thais like to meet at a simple restaurant and eat good food and drink with their colleagues, as people do in the UK. The second gem we came across was one of these restaurants where the decor was basic, the food simple Thai fayre and quite delicious. We would have happily eaten there every night. It just goes to show that you don’t have to pay a lot or look too hard to get wonderful food. This is why Bangkok is food heaven!