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One Night in Bangkok (or Two, or Three): Eat Your Way Through the City

Bangkok, Food Lovers — By Samya Sattar on December 21, 2009 at 10:24 am
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Paris may be the city of love, but Bangkok is the city of gastronomical greatness. Don’t, however, walk into the first tourist trap near your hotel. Here’s a culinary guide to three days in Bangkok.

Day One

I don’t care what you do with your day – you could elbow your way through Bangkok’s crowded street markets, wander through the pulsing Chinatown, or treat yourself to a foot massage. But save your evening for the Seafood Market and Restaurant. If you take a taxi, don’t get off until you get to the Seafood Restaurant with the giant neon sign proclaiming “If it swims, we have it.” The cab driver might try to drop you off at a lesser restaurant of the same name on the same street (they tend to engage in some sort of commission-based scam with the wrong Seafood Restaurant) but you must insist on getting to the neon sign. Once you do, don’t be put off by the theme park look of the place and the giant plastic fish hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant is divided into two parts: a fish and veg market, and a sit-down restaurant. Go to the market, get a cart, and fill it with whatever looks good.

Wares at the Seafood Market

Wares at the Seafood Market

Get fresh fish that’s still jumping, or ask someone to pull one out of a fish tank. Pick up some fresh greens and get back to your table. Then tell them how to cook it. Ask for recommendations and err on the side of Thai style with chili and lime. Or get grilled, buttery snow fish with fried garlic. Wash it down with Thai beer or white wine, and you can’t miss.

Steamed shrimp at Seafood Market and Restaurant

Steamed shrimp at Seafood Market and Restaurant

Day Two

You need to do a little bit of leg work on your second day, but it’s more than worth it.  Find a place to reserve a car and driver to transport you to Nonthaburi, a Bangkok suburb. With Bangkok traffic, it might take you an hour and a half to get there, so try to leave by 6pm. Your destination is the lovely Thai restaurant known by the Thai name Ban Rabian Nam and by the English name Riverside Treehouse Cafe. Your car will drop you off at a dark parking lot (don’t be afraid, but also don’t forget to tell your driver to wait), and a little, portly boy will probably come running out with a flashlight. He’ll lead you to a cycle rickshaw – you’ll climb onto the rickety contraption and be driven down a dark, narrow lane until you get to the restaurant. At this point, you’ll start to feel safer, probably because you’re being welcomed into a fairyland garden. All the seating is outdoors – apparently the owner took his family home and turned it into the kitchen – directly next to the river (yes, the water is murky and probably filthy, but it’s pleasant enough). Trees sprout out of the ground between the tables, and little lamps give the place a warm glow. And the food is well, terrific. Try the tart coconut milk soup with deep-fried fish and young tamarind leaves (it arrives bubbling atop a tiny flame), the deeply satisfying deep-friend morning glory (greens fried in batter) with dipping sauce, the savory whole fish with green curry, the refreshing pomelo (Thai grapefruit) salad, and the delicious spinach wontons. A taste of any of these dishes, and you will not regret the long commute. Oh, and before you leave, they ring a gong for you. I don’t know what it means, but it makes you feel regal. You know you deserve it.

Cocunut milk soup with fried fish and tamarind leaves

Coconut milk soup with fried fish and tamarind leaves

Deep-fried morning glory

Day Three

Reserve your last day for grazing on the street.  Chicken noodle soup for breakfast? The rich and healing broth is a great start to the day. You can’t beat barbecued pork with pickled greens for lunch. Be sure to go to one of Bangkok’s many night markets for dinner. You can try a variety of treats ranging from grilled, skewered meats to spicy fried noodles to mango with sticky rice. Most importantly, walk around surveying the goodies and don’t be afraid to eat whatever looks good to you. That’s what Bangkok is for.

[Photos: Samya Sattar]
Tags: Ban Rabian Nam, Bangkok, Bangkok street food, Chao Praya River, Riverside Treehouse Cafe, Seafood Restaurant and Market

    6 Comments

  • Legal Nomads says:

    Don’t miss out on Polo Fried Chicken on soi Polo (just off of Wireless rd, nr Lumpini Park). Delicious fried chicken, perfectly sweet and spicy somtam salads and great larb. And it’s really reasonable pricewise! Definitely going back before I leave Bangkok in January. – jodi

    ble fried chicken,

  • Bergen Moore says:

    Samya…. always a’makin’ me hungry. I will be following your advice. My favorite part? “…and a little, portly boy will probably come running out with a flashlight.”

  • jamie says:

    I am drooling for the tart coconut soup and would feel no guilt tearing those young tamarind leaves apart!

  • I may be a foreigner, but I think that I have a Thai spirit. Sanook and Mai ben lai all the way . These views will take us through challenges with a solid heart.

  • I may be a Farang, but I feel I have a Thai spirit. Sanook and Mai ben lai is my belief. These views will take us through adversity with a smile.

  • Muay Thai in Lumpinee stadium is also a must if you visit Bangkok. It’s not sure how long Lumpinee stadium is going to be kept before its destroyed so visit it next time you go to Bangkok.

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