Saturday, 28 June 2014

Flo's Top Three Dishes from Bangkok

Although Chiang Mai is reputedly Thailand’s food capital, my top three Thai dishes are actually from Bangkok. That probably says more about gastronome Ollie – who owns Silvalai Place hotel, than it does about Bangkok, since she has given me the best insider’s edge imaginable.

The first time I came to Bangkok I wanted to get away from the Khao San road and experience a little Thai neighbourhood. I found Silvalai Place and booked an apartment. I met Ollie back then who kindly took me round the same market she took Elle around, when she stayed there last year. We quickly bonded over our love of food and she let me in on some of Bangkok’s best-kept secrets. When I returned for a few days either side of Chiang Mai, I simply had to go and find these dishes again!

Pad Thai is one of those ubiquitous dishes that one doesn’t really question but having been so wowed by Thipsamae’s rendering of it, I did a bit of digging and found it was heavily promoted by Thailand's fascist government in the 40s as part of campaign to promote Thai nationalism and reduce how much rice was eaten so that more could be exported!

Thipsamai’s has to be the best Pad Thai in the world. I really hate exaggerations like that since I obviously haven’t been all over the world sampling every Pad Thai but sometimes when you taste perfection you know that it can’t possibly get better. There have been long queues of Thai people outside it all 5 times that I have ever been, both in 2012 and 2014, which surely says a lot.

The menu consists of around 8 different Pad Thais for around 80 baht (£1.50) each, along with incredibly tasty orange juice. The best ones are the traditional pad thai which comes recommended on the menu, as well as the one wrapped in an egg womb!

This isn’t all that easy to find but it is definitely worth the hunt. Wang Lang pier is also relatively near Wat Arun – my favourite Wat in Bangkok – so if you are out and about in the area, its not much further along the Phraya river. Wang Lang is a pier with a market so if you ask a Taxi driver of Tuk Tuk for Wang lane you will be dropped off opposite an alleyway surrounded by market stalls selling food, clothes and all sorts, that leads down to the pier. This bit has some good food around it but the better food stalls are further up, on Wang Lang Thanon. All you need to do is face the river, turn left up the road, until you meet Wang Lang Thanon, then turn right down it, until you meet another row of stalls.

There, you should be able to find this man and his divine Massaman curry. Hunt him down and you most certainly will not regret it. The curry is one of the best things I have ever eaten, humming with cardamom, cloves, blade mace, cassia and coconut, it is so finely balanced that its humble provenance is almost hard to believe. This man is a genius; I want to know his secret.

There is also a great selection of other snacks and puddings, including a favourite of mine - thin crispy pancakes with a dollop of meringue mix and a sprinkling of sweet shrimps – delicious - and not photographed since I ate them so quickly!

Mmm, crackling!

peanut filled sweet dumplings

Unnamed Seafood Restaurant

This restaurant is of Thanon Arun Amarin, close to Thonburi Hospital. I am afraid you'll have to ask Ollie for better directions since my navigational skills are somewhat lacking. Unlike the last two places, this was new discovery this trip. Ollie took Theo and me there for dinner. You can get all sorts of seafood to order with an incredibly spicy and delicious sauce, that I learnt how to make during my cookingclass in Chaing Mai.

Ollie and Theo

Mud crab curry

My favourite thing however, has to be the mud crab curry. It isn’t exactly the most beautiful of dishes but the soft flakes of crabmeat in that delicately flavoured sauce is pure heaven.