Friday, November 09, 2007

Bangkok Bound: All I could eat and then some…part 1


We are back and what a trip that was! I am still on a wonderful Thai-high and I just don’t want to come down :) Bangkok was an amazing adventure in so many ways and at so many levels…it certainly did not disappoint all my whimsical imaginings.

Bangkok is a frenetic dance of old world and new; endlessly swirling in vibrant color, so you never know where one ends and the other begins. It is a monk’s silent gaze and a teenager’s flippant swish of her micro-mini-skirt. It is awe-inspiring temples to Buddha and mind-boggling temples to commerce. It is bustling markets filled with all manners of goods and shiny new malls that taunt you with high-end designers. It is a riot you can lose yourself in…it is a riot you want to lose yourself in.

Of course, weaving in and around everything, there is the food. Immensely important and central to life in Thailand…and rightfully so. Its flavors are intense, crisp, clean, bright. Thai food is like a symphony with each note having its own distinct character, clear as a bell, that immediately draws your attention, but still has the ability to blend perfectly with all the other flavor notes. And let’s face it; more than anything else, I was in Bangkok to taste that symphony for myself.

I love Thai food, and although we have some pretty good Thai places here, I had listened to friends go on about how “nothing compares to Thai food in Thailand” one too many times. It was finally my turn! I could feel the kaffir lime and chilies even before our plane touched down. Like before, I’m dividing my trip into highlights for easy digestion :)



The gastronomic highlights on our trip (part 1):

Chote Chitr
This was a recommendation from Robyn of Eating Asia, who graciously shared with me a wealth of tips for Bangkok eating. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to them all (more for next time!), but I did get to this…and were we ever glad we did! Chote Chitr is a tiny five-table gem of a place tucked away down an unassuming lane off Tanao road. It’s a short cab ride from the Grand Palace so we hopped over for lunch in between wats (temples). The chalkboard menu outside was all in Thai, which only made me more excited. We placed ourselves in the capable hands of the very charming proprietress, only asking for the mee krob (crispy noodles with a sweet-sour-salty sauce). The rest we left up to her. Aside from the mee krob, we ended up with a steaming bowl of tôm yam (spicy and sour soup), hor mok (fish in red curry steamed in banana leaves), and steamed rice. This was one of my best meals in Bangkok...one of my best experiences in Bangkok. Everything from hunting the place down, to its cozy feel, the afternoon breeze that wafted in throughout the meal, the complete absence of foreigners (except for us), the helpful proprietress, her unbelievably fluffy dog, the tôm yam that was the best I had ever tasted (she used heart of palm instead of the usual mushrooms – for its sweetness she said), the mee krob that was excellent in every sweet-sour-spicy-crunchy bite, my first taste of hor mok (with its delicate pieces of fish cradled gently in a bed of softly set red curry which hid a mound of fragrant Thai basil leaves all ensconced in a banana leaf cup), to the satisfied lethargy that enveloped me after this perfect meal. Chote Chitr – 146 Phraeng Phutorn, Tanao road.

Kor Panich
After our meal in Chote Chitr, I wanted to try another of Robyn’s recommendations – the sticky rice at Kor Panich, which is said to be the best. The kind lady over at Chote Chitr gamely offered to walk us there (it was just out of the lane and across the main street). Apparently, it’s been around for quite some time and with good reason…the sticky rice is really all that delicious! A big covered metal bowl contains the rice which the girls behind the counter open to stir once you’ve placed your order. You buy the mangoes from another lady that is sitting right outside the shop. We got our order to go since we were still full from our lunch and had one more wat to see. They pack it all up for you, peeling and slicing the mango and including a plastic pouch of coconut milk and another of the crunchy topping, as well as some plastic utensils. I had this scrumptious dessert sitting on a bench at Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn…more on this later), in the shade of one of its chedis (large bell shaped tower). Bliss. Kor Panich – 431-33 Tanao road.

Street Food and Market Stall Hawkers
I was soon to find out that, just as it is hard to take a bad photo in Boracay, or have a bad coffee in Spain, it is hard to have a bad meal in Bangkok (oh, I’m sure there are whammies hiding there somewhere, but I thankfully didn’t bump into them). This is probably because there is such deliciousness to be found on every sidewalk corner and down every tiny soi (lane). Bangkok’s streets are literally lined in gastronomic gold. Being a big fan of, not only Thai food, but street food in general (we have our own gems too…more on that someday!), I was determined to sample all this city had to offer. Let me tell you, I could have eaten double what I did and I would still feel that it wasn’t enough. I had sweet coconut water still in its husk, vendors hacking at it to crack the shell and insert my straw, then scraping out all the tender meat for me to eat with my fingers. I had deep fried sweet things at Chatuchak Market that look too tempting to even ask what they were (banana fritters I think I was told…but I would have tried it no matter what it was). Outdoor hawkers at the Suan Lum Night Bazaar served a dizzying array of dishes…each one looking better than the next (not that I was in any way daunted oh no not me), the perfect re-charge after a night of shopping. C had grilled chicken and I had som tam, a spicy green papaya salad that I am now seriously, irrevocably addicted to, and we shared a plate of phad thai (stir-fried noodles). We had grilled chicken and pork on sticks in between the ruins of Ayutthaya (more on that later)…the hunger-inducing smell reeling us in. Hot of the grill, they were incredibly juicy and soft and so tasty. We ate them standing in the grill-smoke, oil and juices dripping down our chins. At one such stall the meat suspiciously did not taste like chicken (although they told me it was)…did I care? Not me! It tasted even better than chicken! Bring it on I say!

I have divided my Bangkok eating highlights into two posts to avoid getting long-winded (although I fear it is much too late for that). I meant to have it all in one post before I realized exactly how much I could just go ON and ON about this cuisine that obviously has me on a leash. I’ll be posting about the sights and such too…temples, shopping, Thai massage and more! Stay tuned! :)

22 comments:

katrina said...

Arrggghhh!!! You're only halfway through the food posts and already I'm hungry and dying to go back! Imagine, you were only there for 4 days, yet I didn't get to try most of the food you've written about here. (I want that Hor Mok! And more Mee Krob!) What a wealth of deliciousness they truly have.

thess said...

Na 'homesick' naman ako sa post mo, joey! I was there several weeks ago and I want to pack my suitcase again and just fly to BKK!

buti ka pa nai post mo na adventure mo, I should do that too.

Nabeela said...

wow....that sounds like an amazing gastronomic experience!! Me wanna go too!

Midge said...

Hi, Joey; welcome back! I was drooling with envy when I read your Bangkok post; every sight sounded gorgeous and the food must have been fab! Your line about the grilled and skewered pork and chicken near the Ayutthaya ruins reminded me of the Thailand chapter of Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me with Apples: so tempting!

maybahay said...

good to hear you had a wonderful trip.
like you, i've been to lots of places but hardly know south east asia. your post just made me want to fly to bangkok right now. looking forward to the next installment.

Franco said...

Sounds like you had an amazing time, Joey. Personally, I can't wait to go back.

mtan said...

I heart som tam too. I've had it in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, Khon Kaen, some tiny town in Isan near Vietnam, and Bkk and some other further town south of the city, and I love all variations (they even have them with tiny oysters).

Looking forward to seeing all those fantastic food photos.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Katrina! Truly, truly delicious! There were still things I felt I missed out on so I definitely want/need to return! I am still craving Thai food until now! Meanwhile, let's go to Benjarong (in Dusit hotel) one of these days...it's pretty good and they "imported" a Thai chef :)

Hi Thess! Yes, please post about it! I'd love to read about your adventures there :)

Hi Nabeela! It truly was amazing! And one of the best parts is that, since the street food is so good, it doesn't have to come at such a high price tag :)

Hi Midge! Thanks! :) The food was indeed "all that"! I have to read "Comfort me with Apples" now...I read "Tender at the Bone" but haven't gotten to Apples yet :)

Hi Maybahay! I hear ya! It may be pretty late in life for me to be totally smitten with my home continent but hey, better late than never right? ;) I'm hoping to make up for it!

Hi Franco! Me too! I really want to go back now :) Sigh...until then I am off to Fully Booked to get a good Thai cookbook and I'm going to do my best to replicate everything I had (and also those I didn't get the chance to try!) :)

Hi M! Wow! The som tam with the tiny oysters sounds amazing! I am determined to try and make some som tam here...we have green papaya too (atsara!)! I dream of visiting as much of Asia as you have :)

canDIshhh said...

Welcome back Joey!! Reading through your post I felt like you did more than I did! :) Hahaha.. I was so bitin! I really want to go back again!! Can't wait for your next post na!

Anh said...

Bangkok!! The last time I was there was a few years back. I was a crazy teenager back then, travelling alone and all! =)

katrina said...

Yes, Benjarong! I've been hearing about it for many years. Everyone raves about it, but for some reason I never got around to going. We MUST rectify the situation soon! Sigh...the list of restos to try just keeps getting longer...

katiez said...

I have a friend who trys to get to Thailand, India, Indonesia at least twice a year. After reading your post I'm even more jealous!
Look forward to reading about the rest...

dhanggit said...

Thailand is one of my best trip in Asia...just like you I like combining travelling and food..when i went there for the first time I was still a student then so my bf and I feasted mainly on streetfoods...they were cheap, delicious and very very hot...

veron said...

oh my all that food, and I'm hungry already even after eating lunch! Can't wait to see part 2.

Em Dy said...

Nakakainggit. I want to go there again. First and last time was 2005 and I ate mostly McDo and KFC then apart from the hotel buffet and Thai buffet aboard the Chao Phraya cruise from Ayutthaya.

Jen Tan said...

Wow..your trip and Didi's trip really makes me wana go visit Bangkok---SOOON!!!! and part 1 plang ah. Thanks for shring joey..will be waiting for part 2!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Candishhh! Trust me...there was much more I wanted to do (and eat!)! I want to go back too :)

Hi Anh! Crazy teenage travel is sometimes the best of all! :) I can imagine it was a lot of fun :)

Hi Katrina! It's really good! When we went we just let the Thai lady who heads the waitstaff order for us! And everything she brought out was delicious :)

Hi Katiez! Wow! You have got one lucky friend :)

Hi Dhanggit! Bangkok is great for a budget because some of the best food is on the streets :) Very hot yes definitely!

Hi Veron! We ate much more than our fair share I think, heehee :)

Hi Em Dy! If you eat the street food it'll probably come out even cheaper than Mcdo and Kentucky! For your next trip ;)

Hi Jen! Go, go, go! :) You will love it I am so sure! :)

christine said...

You captures the essence of Bangkok perfectly! The fusion of old world and new, and the food. Sigh the food! Your post had me drooling for all of it. I'm so glad you finally went! :)

christine said...

"You captures the essence" ? Bwahahaha!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Murph! Hahaha! You are too funny :) I'm so glad I finally went too! Hope to have 2nd post up soon...HUG!

MikeMina said...

Bangkok will forever be on top of my favourite Asian cities list . . . I will never forget my motorbiking days in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son (near the Myanmar border) . . . and enjoying food in morning markets (after a night out! hehehe!) with Thai friends . . . the best som tams can be found in the provinces - homemade!

Gee! This post reminds me of my own that is forever in draft mode. I look forward to spending new year celebs there!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Mike! "...motorbiking days in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son..."??? Whoa! Sounds fantastic! :) And wonderful homemade som tam in the provinces...lucky you! :) Have fun on your New Year celebrations and looking forward to that post!