Yaowarat Road (ถนนเยาวราช), Bangkok, Thailand

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Category: Thai (Chinese) – Street Food

Yaowarat Road in Bangkok, Thailand, is practically synonymous with “Chinatown”. At night, the streets are flooded with taxis ferrying tourists who flock there for dinner, supper, or to soak in the hustling atmosphere side-by-side with the locals. Vendors park their carts in front of the shops and begin business, practically forming a street-side barricade that effectively encroaches into the road, with more than 10 stalls every 20m or so.

Sam Pheng Lane ซอยสำเพ็ง, Bangkok, Thailand

The taxis inch along bumper-to-bumper. Bright lights, lots of signs. Noise. Vehicles all lined along the curb. People weaving randomly through the traffic, queuing, eating – here, there, everywhere. You’ve reached Yaowarat, alright.

Damage: $

Food here is inexpensive – as it should be, given that almost all the time your food will be prepared out of small push-carts, shelter-like things or even a wok precariously balanced on top of a gas cylinder, and you’ll be sitting on a stool that’s been planted on the road. Half the time you’ll be thinking and raving about how inexpensive the dish you were just served is, and the other half you’ll spend wondering if you’re going to get a stomach ache afterwards. Nonetheless, Yaowarat seemed, on the whole, to be noticeably cleaner than some other food streets in Bangkok.

To go: When looking for food in Bangkok at night

With probably over a thousand stalls operating along the streets at night, there is an abundance of food, although it once again (as with many other places in Bangkok) becomes very challenging to differentiate the talented hawkers. It is lively, chaotic – typical Bangkok style. It’s probably a good one-stop-shop at night, with the other food street option being Sukhumvit Soi 38.


This review contains a few sub-reviews on different stalls which we patronised. 

A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

The cab hadn’t moved in 4 minutes. I’d pre-loaded my GPS with the wifi at the hotel (as we’d all learnt to do when travelling on exchange with no data plan), and I could see that the start of my planned food trail was barely 25m away. We thanked him, paid the fare, alighted and had to scoot out of the way of a hasty tuk-tuk,  before blending into the constant stream of people going up and down the street.

Nai Mong Hoy Tod (นายหมงหอยทอด) was our first stop. Acclaimed for their oyster omelettes (or “Orh luak” as they’re known in Singapore), it is a small shophouse just of Charoen Krung Road, 25m down Phlap Phla Chai Street, on your right. Rather than bother with the complex street names, you can search for the shop’s name on google maps and you’ll find that it’s so well-known that it’s already marked out with a star.

Nai Mong Hoy Tod Oyster Omelette Yaowarat Bangkok Thailand

Nai Mong Hoy Tod Orh Luak Oyster Omelette Bangkok

This was delish – topped with a generous serving of plump good-sized oysters, it was such great value at around $4. I can’t think of a better value oyster omelette anywhere else. Orh Luak tends to come with starch mixed in, which tends to be clumpy if not done correctly, but this one was excellent – the starch was tasty (it was actually, for the first time ever, tasty!). Well incorporated into the omelette, it provided a smooth springy texture which interlaced with the crisp of the omelette. Unlike when poorly fried to a dry crisp, the egg flavour was still apparent in the fluffy omelette and oysters were fresh. We ordered a plate of clams cooked in a spicy sauce from the shophouse to its right as well, and that was also great value and very tasty – so you could consider doing that if you’re paying Nai Mong a visit.

Seafood was up next, and for that, we headed back out to the main street. There are two very popular seafood stalls at the intersection of Yaowarat Road and Thanon Phadung Dao Street. The queue was so long at T&K Seafood restaurant that we settled, without much hesitation, at my originally-planned stop of Lek & Rut Seafood (featured picture) which was right opposite to that. Contrary to what some reviews say, the staff were not friendly – they were impatient when taking orders and would just holler an unhelpful response whilst looking everywhere else when customers tried to get clarification on the dishes. Their menu was a plastic folder of white A4 paper printed with pictures and some words, sometimes indistinct. I noticed the only exception to this was a caucasian family with two kids, who the waitress immediately offered Strawberry Collon snacks to and spent time recommending dishes as well as joking with the kids, and a group of young and boisterous caucasian men whom she (surprise surprise) greeted with a broad smile and open arms.

The seafood was inexpensive, surely, and of a decent value, but be prepared for a massive squeeze and terrible service. I particularly liked the prawns cooked in a chilli egg sauce, which I happily licked up with my spoon.

Chilli Egg sauce prawns Lek & Rut Yaowarat Bangkok Thailand

After walking along the street, I spotted a street-side stall operated by two teenage girls who looked like students helping to run a family business on the weekend. They were both dressed in tshirts and shorts, hair neatly tied up in ponytails, cheerfully chatting with each other and meticulously arranging the boxes of Mango Sticky Rice. The cart was neat and clean – boxes of sticky rice stacked on one side and boxes of sliced mangos stacked on the other, with a woven rattan tray of the mango fruit to the right.

I am a huge fan of mango sticky rice and theirs looked good so we got a box to try for 120THB (~$5), and sat at the blue tables just behind the stall. The rice was delicious – just the right amount of stickiness and chewiness, and drizzling the coconut milk over top was divine; a thick creamy coating of just the right sweetness. The uncooked grains sprinkled over the top weren’t as good though, and were not crispy but instead a little tough to bite through, but nonetheless could be ignored. With a generous serving of sweet mango at its side, we later concluded on hindsight after trying the same dish at several other places that this was one of the best mango sticky rice we had in Bangkok.

Mango Sticky Rice Yaowarat Chinatown Bangkok Thailand

Bo.lan Essentially Thai ร้านโบ.ลาน อาหารไทย, Bangkok, Thailand

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Category: Thai – Fine dining

2 of Asia’s top 50 restaurants are located in Bangkok city itself, and since I was headed that way earlier this month, I decided I had to dine at at least one of them. While I couldn’t get down to Nahm, I did manage to get lunch at Bo.lan – No. 28 on San Pellegrino’s list for 2015. Helmed by a couple (Duangporn Songvisava and Dylan Jones), this restaurant came by recommendation of a chef friend’s chef friend (did you catch that?), and is known for serving up refined and authentic thai cuisine.

24 Sukhumvit 53 Alley, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

Bo.lan Bangkok Thailand

Bo.lan recently just moved to their new premises a few blocks down from where they were. They’re now at house #24 on the right hand side, barely 150m in from the main road, along Sukhumvit soi 53. On the route the cab driver took us, the Sukhumvit district seemed to be sort of a grid, with the soi branching off to the left and right, the numbers increasing. It’s a long way in and we got stuck in crawling one-lane traffic through what looked like a low-rise residential area. We’d left earlier to cater for the chaotic Bangkok traffic but were still late by half an hour, so you might want to factor in a longer commute.

Damage: $$$

Food in Bangkok is so affordable, especially with street-side hawkers setting up tents whichever way you look, that even the fine dining experience is reasonably priced compared to other cities around the world. At lunch time, Bo.lan (as well as Nahm) has set menus, which are great for people like us who don’t have a lot of stomach capacity but would like to taste everything. The Prix Fixe menus were 980++THB which works out to about $50+ each, and for each course you can pick between two options.

To go: Sure, but just keep in mind that the menu was about equal parts hit and miss

I love Thai food but I find that after a certain point, it’s really hard to differentiate oneself as truly phenomenal, especially if sticking true with an “authentic” approach. There’s bad Thai food, to average, to good – In general, Thai dishes already encompass so many complex flavours that the “very good”s for me span an entire spectrum from casual eateries to high-end restaurants, but of course, you could disagree. Overall, Bo.lan was a pleasant dining experience, but food-wise, it was a consensus that only a few stand-out dishes saved the day. I don’t know why there are so many rave reviews out there, but I figured the only possible reason would be that they are (much) better at dinner.


A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

We disembarked the red taxi on the opposite side of the street. Immediately, I spotted a black sign with white letters spelling “Bo.lan Essentially Thai” against the side of a white house, to the left and just above the brown brick walls which lined the driveway leading to the restaurant. At first sight, Bo.lan immediately enrolled itself into the category of rustic decor, with lots of traditional and old-school elements – charming, really, yet understated and quietly intentional. The inside of the restaurant was more modern, albeit a little dark, with dark wood fixtures and black tables.

Bo.lan Bangkok Thailand

Fine dining at Bo.lan Asia's Top 50 Restaurants Bangkok Thailand

Amuse Bouche Bo.lan Bangkok Asia's Top 50

The amuse bouche was Amazing. If there was one thing that I would say Bo.lan did exceptionally well at, that would be the salads. The amuse bouche was a mixture of local leaves with shallots and chilli, but it was the dressing that hit the high notes – refreshing, intense, tangy, and yet savoury, it was an explosion of flavours in the mouth, singing in harmony. I dare say one of the best salads I’ve ever tried in my life, and I made sure to have the leaves pick up every drop of dressing on the plate.

I had the Salad grilled Ranong squid with lotus shoots and it was just as phenomenal. The dressing tasted the same, but I received it without complaint. The squid was tasty and grilled to a juicy and tender perfection. I had a taste of the Salad of grilled Spanish Mackerel with local rosella which was tossed with crunchy fish bits, and that was lovely too.

Prix Fixe lunch at Bo.lan Bangkok ThailandChicken Soup Bo.Lan Bangkok Thailand

Collectively, we had a mixture of mains which I shall address course by course. We had both the Coconut cream based soup with local chicken, banana blossom and vietnamese mint (above, centre) and the Clear soup of free range chicken and pickled mustard greenI have to be honest – both soups were pretty poor. The coconut cream based soup was surprisingly not creamy. Instead, it was thin and very flat. The only flavour it had was a scarce hint of coconut juice, and it did not complement the chicken (or vice versa) in any way. The clear soup was passable, but the chicken was similarly tough and tasteless. We wondered if perhaps the chicken was just used to flavour the soup, but in a restaurant such as this, we expected that anything served to us would be intended as part of the dish. I really would encourage Bo.lan to reinvent its soup options because these really pulled the grade downwards.

Stir fried prawns with paddy oat leaves at Bo.Lan Bangkok Thailand Asia's top 50

Asia's top 50 restaurants Bo.lan Bangkok ThailandFor the stir-fry option, mom and I went with Stir-fried prawns with paddy oat leaves while my dad opted for the Tumeric fried market fish of the day. The prawns were okay but forgettable, and so I don’t have much to say about them. The fried fish was beautifully presented, but was surprisingly limp when pricked with the fork and lacked the crispiness which we were expecting. The flavour was assisted by the lime but nothing noteworthy, and in fact, could be easily trumped by the Thai restaurants in Singapore.

We all opted for the same curry – Red curry with chicken & winter melon (featured picture) because the curry with pork neck sounded risky. This was a stronger candidate of the meal – the curry was a good thick consistency, very tasty and creamy, with the notes of the traditional herbs breaking through. I happily dished out the curry on the brown rice (which was fluffy and delicious by the way), and had it to help strengthen everything other dish possible. The finale was a Lemongrass ice jelly which was light, refreshing, and packed with strong aromatic lemongrass flavour, helping to end the meal on a stronger note.

Zabrina Alexis C at Bo.lan Bangkok Thailand

Jatujak (Chatuchak) Weekend Market, Bangkok, Thailand (Gallery)

Jatujak Weekend Market is one of the world’s largest weekend markets, with 27 sections and more than 15,000 stalls. You can find anything and everything from household items, to fragrances, jewellery, food, clothes, and handicrafts (the one shown below is AMAZING). This was my first visit to Jatujak, and honestly, I found it to be overcrowded and touristy. Many shops sell similar things, so it’s challenging to discern between them and even if you wanted to go back, you might just get lost in the maze of shops! Nonetheless, it remains a must-see when in Bangkok, so here’s a little taste (:

Coconut Ice-cream at Jaktujak Chatuchak weekend market

Zabrina Alexis C at Chatuchak Bangkok Thailand

Red Ruby desserts at Chatuchak weekend marketFood at Jaktujak Bangkok Thailand

Jaktujak weekend market handicrafts

Or Tor Kor Market, Bangkok, Thailand (Gallery)

Or Tor Kor Market is known for being one of the best markets in the world selling the region’s freshest ingredients. I was there, took some photos, and so here’s a quick peek around the market (:

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Or Tor Kor Market, Bangkok, Thailand

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Category: Thai

I put the Or Tor Kor Market on the itinerary because we’d planned for Jaktujak and I’d read that this market was one of the top 4 fresh food markets in the world known for selling some of the freshest fruits and vegetables from the country. Although we couldn’t take these perishables back with us, we still wanted to take a look, and so we went early at 8.30am on a Saturday morning.

Kamphaengphet Road, just opposite the Jaktujak Weekend Market

It was no trouble at all finding this market. All the taxi drivers know where it is, and if they don’t, you can just tell them it’s the market next to Jaktujak. If they still don’t, I suggest you get out of that cab and flag another one, because that fella is just trying to scam you (I’ve had one too many experiences with many of these dishonest cab drivers). If you’re coming from Jaktujak itself, just head to the metro station and walk through the underpass, past the metro, and once you’re out the other side, you’ll be standing right at the doorstep of Or Tor Kor.

Damage: $

Can I give half a dollar sign?? The food here was so incredibly affordable – a plate of noodles and the coconuts were only about $2+ each. If only the coconuts in Singapore were just as inexpensive and tasty – I’d have them every single day!

Or Tor Kor Market Bangkok

To go: Definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re also going to Jaktujak

With really inexpensive and good food, it’s a good place to go if you don’t want to have a meal at Jaktujak which is incredibly crowded (and where prices are higher too). Hardly any tourists come here, so it’s quite an authentic experience. There are many stalls selling meat and vegetable dishes, but we didn’t try those. Instead, you can head to the back of the market, towards the right, and you’ll find a section full of hawker fare and tables at which you can enjoy your meal.


A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

Or Tor Kor Market Bangkok

Arranged in a grid-like fashion, this marketplace sells all sorts of things – from cooked food for takeaway, to vegetables, to fruits (giant durians and cherries imported from Japan included). If you head to the right side of the market and walk to the back, you’ll find a collection of hawker stalls. We ordered from middle stall below, on the rightmost row of the market. We ordered a dry kuay thiew (feature picture) with beef slices first, and it was really delicious and so affordable that we ended up ordering a second dish of Kale stir-fried with crispy pork.

Or Tor Kor Market

Kale with crispy porkThe Kuay thiew was moist with a good amount (but not overwhelming) of sauce, and a very generous serving of tender sliced beef and stir-fried vegetables. The bits of crispy shallots sprinkled over the top were great. The Kale was cooked perfectly – tender but still keeping a good crunch, and did I mention, very tasty? The crispy pork bits were a let down, however, because they weren’t crispy at all, and were slightly tough perhaps because they were in pretty sizeable chunks. The pork serving, like the beef, was still very generous.

Opposite the stall was another stall styled in a push-cart, serving up a hot and soupy Duck Kuay Thiew. The bee hoon (a type of thin noodle) was soft, and the beansprouts were left quite raw to provide a contrasting crunch. On top of that, thin duck slices were laid – tender, and nicely braised in what I think is a soy-sauce base. The soup was light but extremely tasty. A simple dish but delicious, and a total bargain at just over $2.

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Robata Renga 炉ばた煉瓦, Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan

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Category: Japanese – Barbecue

3-5-3 Nishikicho, Kushiro, Hokkaido 085-0016

Hokkaido is well known for its fresh seafood, and when we heard about Robata Renga being famous for its do-it-yourself seafood charcoal grill, we wrote it down into our itinerary right away. Ordering was a bit complex for us because none of the staff could speak any English, but we survived with some guessing and pointing, and had a fine meal. There was a good range of seafood from which we could pick out our ingredients for the grill, but I’d say you definitely need some skill going at the charcoal barbecue.

Damage: $$

Robata Renga isn’t cheap, and by that I mean it averaged around $25 to $30 per head for us to feel full, but the seafood is fresh and the cuts are generally good.

To go: Maybe, if you like barbecue and would like to have a go at it yourself 😐

On the whole I’d say the meal was a good one, and because the beer was really inexpensive all the men were more than happy. The mixed platter had mostly one of each kind of ingredient, so it wasn’t the easiest to share (i.e. you’d have to slice it all up to each have a taste) – I don’t think this had to do with the two different sets we ordered because all the pictures seemed to feature only one or two of each item, but perhaps that could be the point. The meats were pretty ordinary. In the end, I think whether it’s worth your while really boils down to who is working the grill. If you’re not a fan of a do-it-yourself, I’d be all for leaving the barbecue to the Japanese chefs because they’re often plenty good at it.

Robata Renga seafood charcoal barbecue