On our first evening in Bangkok I was utterly overwhelmed by how bright and loud it was. This overwhelming feeling turned out to just intensify over the next couple of days. From the aforementioned sounds and lights, to smells in markets and sheer options of where to divert your attention at or even what to eat. In a city equally famous for its street food as it Is for its Michelin Guide restaurants, where do you even begin? Well if you’re a first time tourist to Bangkok, let me try to help you a little bit by sharing with you my favourite places for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
BREAKFAST / COFFEE
If you’ve been following me for a while you probably know that am I neither a big breakfast nor a coffee fan. If anything, I adore brunch, but as far as I could tell in my few days in Bangkok, the Thai do not care much for it. Which leaves us with just two coffee places that I can actually recommend. First, there’s Rawvaela Café, tucked away in a wonderful tiny country house next to the Khlong Lat Mayong Floating Market. It shares its space with the Kihon concept store. Kihon is run by the mum, while Rawvaela is run by her son. Rawvaela has some actual main dishes, but the main reason I recommend it here is because you might be as crazy as me as to think choux and cake as a great breakfast meal. And so, this is the place for you. They make beautiful and delicious desserts, and serve great coffee, which in South East Asia is always served either hot or on ice. Yet another great coffee place, this time in downtown Bangkok, is Burapa Coffee. They make strong coffee – in A’s words “heart bracingly strong”, have great service and my favourite part – their coffee store is partially a book store. Even though their books are in Thai, it makes for such a serene and beautiful space, that you’ll forget about the hustle and bustle outside.
We´ll start off the lunch recommendations with something local and fairly hidden – Por Pochaya. For Pochaya is not hidden on an alleyway, it’s actually on a fairly busy street, Wisut Karat, but it’s just not very central, and unless you have read about it in the Michelin Guide (where it’s been for the last five years) or somewhere else, you’d probably miss it. It’s also only open during weekdays and only from 9 to 13:30, so you have to plan well. That being said, it’s totally worth it. We’re not sure if he’s the owner, there’s an older gentleman in Ray Bans who seems like he’s taken right out of a movie to serve you beer and spicy tom yum soup. Their crunchy chicken stir fry with cashews was one of the best ones I’ve had while in South East Asia. Oh and as a reference, each dish was 100 baht, and lunch for two ended up being 410 baht / 10.74 € mainly because we had a few beers to cool down from the horrid heat of the city. My second lunch recommendation takes you all the way to Chinatown. We’re going to Nai Egg Roll Noodle, to try guay chub – egg rolled rice noodles with minced pork in a flavourful broth. Open since 1989, this place is now also in the Michelin Guide despite being as modest as Por Pochaya when it comes to design. Having said that, the crowd waiting outside will surely tip you off as to how delicious their food is! As a reference for them, lunch for two (drinks included) was 200 baht / 5.24 €. Finally, now that you’ve gotten used to Bangkok´s smells and sounds, you’re ready to check out the Khlong Lat Mayong Floating Market. I feel it’s my duty to tell you upland that contrary to expectations, you won’t be floating and eating at the same time. The idea of this floating market is to have an on land, next to the canals, huuuuuge market, which you’ll circle by a boat that’ll cost you 100 baht / 2.62 € for an hour, after which you can explore the market by foot and eat at actual tables. So while there are some (few) dishes you can buy from women and men on boats, while you yourself are in a boat, most of the eating will be done on land. Here, I recommend you choose a bit of everything, and try a bit of their famous boat noodle dishes, but also some satay or fish or rice dishes. Everything is delicious and the prices range from 80 baht / 2.10 € for ten satay pieces to 100 baht for more elaborate dishes. There’s also plenty of natural juices for 10 baht each.
For dinner I have three recommendations, and yet again, they differ quite a bit. On the one hand we have Thipsamai, the “mother” of pad thai. They’ve been making pad thai since 1939 and as far as my research goes, that’s pretty much when the pad thai as we know it today was “invented”. According to Wikipedia: “Another explanation of pad thai’s provenance holds that, during World War II, Thailand suffered a rice shortage due to the war and floods. To reduce domestic rice consumption, the Thai government under Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram promoted consumption of noodles instead.His government promoted rice noodles and helped to establish the identity of Thailand. As a result, a new noodle called sen chan pad thai (named after Chanthaburi Province) was created.” Timing wise, this would really coin Thipsamai as one of the original pad thai places in the country. But whether that is true or not, if you go there you’ll agree with me that they make an absolute kick-ass pad thai. Which is surely why they’re always full, and in the Michelin Guide too. Go early, or close to closing time and get one of their thai teas to enjoy with your dessert. For reference, a pad thai is 150 baht but together with the drinks, our dinner ended up being 550 baht / 14.41 €. My second recommendation is a street food one which will be hard to find I reckon. I am talking about the pad thai at the beginning of Rambuttri Alley, which you can find at a street food stall for 60 baht / 1.57 €. Rambuttri Alley is a very lively alley close to the famous (and way too loud and dirty) Khaosan Road. It’s a great alternative if you still feel like hearing music and drinking, but want something sightly ever less crazy. And their pad thai was absolutely amazing. Finally, my third recommendation is in a crazier place than Khaosan Road. I’m talking about the Patpong Night Market. This place is surrounded by strip clubs and similar establishments, which are loud and flashy and partially insane. It’s hard to stay clear of them and you’ll be tired of refusing all the salesmen trying to lure you in to a ping pong show, but if you manage to stay strong, you’ll find a street food stall where a young man makes a kick ass chicken stir fry with fried egg. And I really mean kick ass, we could have easily had a second portion of it. It was 80 baht / 2.10 € a portion and while there’s no name to the stall (there rarely ever is), I really hope both you and I find it again since it was delicious.
And with this, my Bangkok food love story comes to an end. I would have loved to try more restaurants, and while I know I´ll be back one day for them, for now I’m leaving them here for your inspiration: Sri Trat Restaurant and Bar, Amrokwan, Grandmother Restaurant, Sirocco, Khao Gang Jek Pui, Ann Guay Tiew Kua Gai, Thong Heng Lee and the world famous Raan Jay Fai.