Eat, Drink, Repeat
Must-Try Bangkok Street Food, According to TAAN Chef Monthep Kamolsilp
A checklist for all adventurous eaters.
Publish Date: 05 February 2020 / Story by: S@S Insider / Photography by: Monruedee Jansuttipan
At TAAN, Siam@Siam Bangkok’s flagship Thai restaurant, Chef Monthep “Thep” Kamolsilp whips out an innovative take on the cuisine using only the freshest local produce. As such, it’s no surprise he’s something of a living, breathing encyclopedia when it comes to age-old recipes and cooking techniques. So, who better to ask for his absolute favourite street-food institutions in Bangkok? We sat down with Chef Thep and came away with the mother of all appetites. Read on.
Yindee Khao Man Gai (ยินดีข้าวมันไก่ จุฬา)
Open since: 2004
Known for: Off-the-wall khao man gai (Hainanese chicken rice)
Chef Thep says: “This is probably the best chicken rice within at least five kilometres [of Siam@Siam Design Hotel Bangkok]. So special. The rice is well separated. As it’s real jasmine rice, you can taste each grain. The fat content is super light. It’s not too greasy, not too fatty. It’s not overpowering at all. In many cases you find the rice can be too salty or mushy. The house-made dipping sauce is so-so. However, they use good local chicken; I think it’s older chicken—maybe four months old. Bigger. It’s quite chewy. It gives a better texture. Most places use younger chicken as it’s easier and quicker to cook; they mash it and spread it out to look bigger. But not here.”
Address: 1242 Bantadthong Rd.
Opening hours: Daily 6am-4pm
S@S Tip: Still hungry? You can also pick up a mean khao kha moo (braised pork on rice) or guay tiew gai nam (chicken noodle soup) on the same premises. The double shop-house restaurant also sits in front of a tailor shop, Popeye, run by the same family for over 30 years.
Nai Huat Fish Ball Noodles (นายฮวด ก๋วยเตี๋ยวลูกชิ้นปลา)
Open since: 1967
Known for: Noodles brimming with house-made fish balls
Chef Thep says: “This is probably the absolute best out of this whole list. It’s kind of a Michelin-star fish ball, really. You see them scraping the fish out the back. Each team member has their own role to play; like the wife of the younger son always does the noodles. Somehow this makes everything go correctly. Everything is so consistent. My tip for this noodle shop: come as late as possible. If you come at 9am the soup is a bit flat, but come at 1pm and it has more umami thanks to it having had more time to reduce. The fish ball includes three types of fish: Spanish mackerel, yellowtail and wolf herring. These are old-school, handmade fish balls: tender, fluffy and springy. I’d recommend the guay tiew Sukhothai haeng—a dry version with fish balls and meatballs, seasoned with something similar to tomyum chili paste with fresh lime. It comes with long beans, peanuts and a type of sugar. It’s like tomyum, slightly sweet, but even better!”
Address: Soi Phaya Nak, Buntadthong Rd.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9am-3pm
S@S Tip: As there’s no real signage, look for a green and red sign saying “Diamond City Hotel.” Right next to it you should see tables and chairs on the sidewalk leading into a driveway-like dining room painted in eye-popping green.
Thai Dusit Waen (ไทยดุสิต แว่น เนื้อตุ๋น)
Open since: 1960s
Known for: This beef noodle stew, served in an old-school diner atmosphere, come packed with supposed Chinese medicinal benefits
Chef Thep says: “Another place that’s been around for about 60 years, I think, and this is the second generation. With their stew, they use many cuts of the cow, and they prepare each separately: intestine, stomach, tendons, tongue, offal… They’re all cooked on their own before being added together in the soup at the end. Their sign calls it a Chinese medicinal recipe. It’s hard to explain, but each piece is prepared in its own way and it means they have their own character. Like you might try one part and taste a specific Chinese herb, and another part has another herb. The soup is made from really good beef that stands out on its own.”
Address: 674/1 Rama 6 Rd., corner of Soi 29.
Opening hours: Daily 6:30am-4pm
S@S Tip: It’s hard to ignore what’s going on at the humble stall opposite this beef noodle shop as people are always queuing up for Auntie Wilai’s deep-fried banana (gluay keak), a flavourful treat that’s worth the 15-minute cab ride alone.
“Somtam Rim Tang Rod Fai” (ส้มตำรางรถไฟ)
Open since: 1980s
Known for: Fiery classics from Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region
Chef Thep says: “Jack Stein [British chef personality] went here and loved it. It’s good for laab luerd, congealed blood laab. It’s different from many in Bangkok. In fact, they never adjust the taste for Bangkokians, which others like Jae Koi and Jai Daeng do. Of course, you need to eat wisely, but here the beef is good quality and the blood is clean. They clean it with herbs, crushed lemongrass. Other places dilute the blood with water, but this is the real stuff! Of course, there are easier dishes to consume. The grilled meats are great, as is the somtum kai khem [papaya salad with salted egg]—actually, that’s my girlfriend’s pick; it’s not too sweet. Only this one is matched for Bangkokian tastes a little. The other really great thing about this place is they use a lot of local, foraged, seasonal ingredients, like you get in Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region. Many others just give you cabbage, beans and basil. The slightly annoying thing is you need to ask for them, though. They won’t serve them to just anyone automatically. They tell you to go and pick your own.”
Address: Rama 6 Rd.
Opening hours: Daily 5pm-2am
S@S Tip: This one is for the adventurous travellers. Run by a family originally from Roi Et, this humble shack-like restaurant has only a very limited English menu and, well, doesn’t even have an official name! “Somtam Rim Tang Rod Fai” literally means “papaya salad next to the railway,” and true to that, your meal may be accompanied by the squeal of a siren alerting traffic to a train crossing. To visit, we suggest hailing a Grab taxi to “The Toscanas,” which is nearby, and walking a couple of minutes. If you want to try any of Chef Thep’s suggestions, be sure to brush up on the following phrases (or simply show the staff the Thai script):
Laab luerd (congealed blood beef salad) - ลาบเลือด
Somtum khai khem (papaya salad with salted egg) - ส้มตำไข่เค็ม
Nom nuea yang (grilled cow breast) - นมวัวย่าง
Lin nuea yang (grilled cow tongue) - ลิ้นวัวย่าง
Nam tok khor moo yang (grilled pork neck and herb salad) - น้ำตกคอหมูย่าง
Tom saep nuea (spicy beef soup) - ต้มแซ่บเนื้อ
Samong Moo Nang Loeng Chao Kao (สมองหมูนางเลิ้งเจ้าเก่า)
Open since: Over 60 years ago
Known for: Chinese-style pig brain soup made from a 100-year-old recipe and in-demand sides
Chef Thep says: “Actually I like to think I can eat everything, but in this pork shop I think ‘woah.’ It’s not about the idea [of eating brains], but the smell. There’s a kind of fatty smell, here. They use all the secondary parts of the pork. They use brain, heart, soft palate and all the parts inside. I had to try this restaurant ‘cos it looks so old. The recipes are traditional Chinese, Hakka. I think it opened more than 60 years ago. The price is not that cheap compared to normal noodles, but I recommend the gao lao [noodle-free soup, THB80] with steamed rice. It’s strange. It’s a kind of peppery soup; full of umami, collagen. The brain part is only tiny; fatty, fluffy and with no taste. But you feel like, “oh, the brain is coming.” A place like this is really rare, even for Thai people, so me it’s a must-try. I wanted to understand it; even if it’s not to my immediate taste, there’s a reason it’s been around so long.”
Address: 5/22 Chakkraphatdiphong Rd.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9am-4pm
S@S Tip: For those feeling a little squeamish, the sides here are just as impressive as the brain soup. If you want to try the delectable moo yang (Chinese barbecue pork), arrive early or call ahead to book. On our last visit, they were all sold out before midday. We also love options like the deep-fried taro dumplings and the sticky pork and squid balls. The restaurant is right across the road from Seven Spoons, an enduring Mediterranean favourite that’s a chic place to shelter from the heat.
Kua Gai Lab Jab (Shane Shuan Shim) (เชนชวนชิม หลับจั๊บ)
Open since: 1952
Known for: Super-smoky guay tiew kua gai (stir-fried chicken noodles)
“I think this is the best place for guay tiew kua gai. It’s got the deepest, nutty taste. They burn the whole thing and just keep going. It’s truly smoked. They’ve been around for nearly 100 years. There are two brothers and they both have different wok styles. The older one is calmer but the younger one is kind of like, “I’m the god of the dish.” They really opened my eyes to this dish. I never thought I could eat this kind of burnt food. But two plates is a little too much. At many places, like nearby Ann Guay Tiew Kua Gai, you would eat more than one, but maybe not here. I recommend going with pork.”
Address: 372 Chan Rd.
Opening hours: Daily 10am-10pm
S@S Tip: It would be remiss to visit here with ordering lab jab (rad na with mixed meats), from which the restaurant takes its name. Your deliciously gooey bowl will come piled high with prawns, grilled red pork, marinated pork and squid. While the third-gen brothers are in charge nowadays, keep an eye out for their dad, who still lights up the premises and, with a little prompting, is happy to discuss the Guangzhou-style recipes on offer.
Ko Lim Gao Lao Nuea Toon (โกลิ้ม เกาเหลาเนื้อตุ๋นหม้อไฟ)
Open since: 2018
Known for: Beef noodle soup with a twist
“This one is new on the scene. I think the owner is about 35 years old. It’s not the best noodles, but it’s the best soup. I have to recommend the bull penis [served in a rich, Chinese-spice broth]. Yes, the bull penis. It’s really, really good, and only THB80. In Thai we say, ‘tua daew un daew.’ It’s a much nicer way to order it; meaning something like “one piece, one cow.” It’s not the same texture as a tendon, but it’s like “oh yeah!” Not many Thais eat it, but they know about it. The quality of beef here is great—they use Ko Khun Beef, not wagyu. It’s a Thai cow that’s been raised the same way as wagyu.”
Address: 9/11 Sathu Pradit Rd.
Opening hours: Daily 5-11pm
S@S Tip: This one is located just round the corner from Kua Gai Lab Jab (see above). In fact, the area surrounding the Chan Road and Sathu Pradit Road intersection is a thriving street food hub. It could be a good idea to set aside a full afternoon for grazing, finishing up at Ko Lim, which opens at 5pm. Not sold on the bull penis? There are plenty of other beefy delicacies on offer—we’re a sucker for the juicy ribeye, a steal at just THB20 per skewer.
Bonus street food tip
Be Wary of Seafood
“Personally, I never eat seafood in Bangkok, on the street at least. There’s a high chance it’s been contaminated somewhere along the line, whether on the boat or in storage. Even in Chinatown, though it might be better there. I would drive a little further out for fresh food. Same day caught is not the same as one or two days later. Seafood is very sensitive. In general, even when I travel to Cha-am or Hua Hin, I wouldn’t get seafood in the touristic spots.”