Think Bangkok, and most people automatically think of Thai food. There is no escape of it here from the street stalls, quaint hole in the wall restaurant that although might look like they should be avoided can be home to some of the tastiest dishes to the more upmarket fancy restaurants. There are so many dishes and ingredients what to try and eat can be a bit of a minefield.
Even after 18 months here, I am still not very adventurous trying new dishes or new places. You know how it can be, it’s like walking into a local pub in England and feeling a little out of place as everyone stares at you.
Food tours are an excellent introduction to Thai dishes, and even for those who are more familiar with the cuisine, they can be an excellent way of sampling new foods and flavours and seeing a new small part of Bangkok.
Taste of Thailand offers a four hour walking tour around the historic Bangkrak neighbourhood, otherwise known as the city of love. Bangrak is the historic area of Bangkok surrounding Silom Road.
We met our guide Jacob and Poo at 10am at Saphan Taskin BTS. There were six of us taking the tour in total which was the perfect size of group.
We were pre-warned to arrive hungry, so with that in mind, I skipped breakfast. And I am glad that I did!
Thai Curry Puff Vendor: BTS Saphan Taksin, exit 3; 7a.m. – 12p.m.; $
Our first stop was this street food curry stall just at the bottom of the stairs, and we were able to pick 3 miniature curry puffs – I went for vegetable, curry and mushroom – just the right combination of spice and an excellent way to start the morning. Although not necessarily a traditional breakfast for me, my Thai colleagues often eat curry first thing, and I was always a fan of the Greggs sausage roll in England as a naughty breakfast treat, so this seems to be a perfect combination of the two.
Other choices were mung bean, tar filled or black sesame.
It was a lot of fun watching the vendors working as they served us, rolling and deep frying the puffs.
Before heading to one of the most interesting parts of the morning, we stopped in a curry paste shop and could see mounds of yellow, red, green and penang curry paste – I want to come back here and stock up!
We then strolled through the Bangrak fruit market. If you haven’t been to a wet market before, I really urge you to try going to one. Although not necessarily for the faint hearted due to the meat that is on display, markets don’t get much more authentic than this, and one day I will actually have the bottle to start doing my weekly shop in one!
We got to sample many different Thai fruits including mangosteens, one of my personal favourites.
The buildings themselves were also amazing to look at, such old quaint wooden houses, that just seem at utter odds with the towering skyscrapers that one is used to associating Bangkok with. At some points of this walk, we were asked not to take photos out of respect for the residents living their everyday lives – we walked past people homes and could see them having their hair done, ironing and watching tv.
Wa Tow Herbal Drink Shophouse: 1443 Charoen Krung Road; 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m.daily $
For the uninitiated, the appeal of Chinese herbal drinks, is immediately apparent.
But people who believe in the medicinal properties of the drinks, rave about this 70-year-old shop for their juices and other Chinese goods.
I chose honey and black dragon tea for it was going to make me lose weight, give me energy, and give me good skin but sadly it seems that I am one of the uninitiated. Granted my drink tasted better than the bitter famous drink of Gotu Kola (bai bua bok) but I am generally not a fan of things like this. Give me a pepsi max or a beer any day of the week!
Fun fact: this shophouse is also where the famous Yan Wo Yun brand of seasoning sauces, internationally known as the Healthy Boy brand was created.
Nai Sang Rosted Duck: Intersection Charoen Krung Road with Si Wiang; 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily $
We then moved into one of the food stalls that I am always a little nervous of going into on my own, but I would come back here again for the roasted duck served with noodles. I often find duck, particularly on the street in Thailand has a tendency to be fatty, but this was really well cooked.
Fried Banana Street Vendor: Intersection Charoen Krung Road with Si Wiang; mid-morning to late afternoon daily $
Just outside the duck stall is one of the most famous fried banana street vendors, as evidenced by the queue that always surrounds his stall. In addition to bananas he also sells deep fried taro and sweet potato. A bag of these are a firm favourite in my office during an afternoon, but these were better than the ones we buy on Sukhumvit Soi 11.
Boonsap Thai Dessert Shop: 1478 Charoen Krung Road; 7 a.m. – 5 p.m., closed Sunday $$
We then continued with a sweet theme and headed to Boonsap Thai Dessert Shop, where legend has it,Boonsap, the best traditional Thai dessert shop in this area, has been making sweets according to its founder’s original recipes since before World War II. The third generation owners, have renovated the shop and it is now a cosy air conditioned café.
Tatcha Boonpaisarn, is in baking every day at 3am and insists everything is still made in-house with carefully-sourced ingredients, and in small batches — just as it was back in the days of her Grandma Boonsap.
Boonsap Thai Desserts excels in many traditional Thai goodies, but their sweet sticky rice topped with impossibly smooth and creamy steamed egg custard (sangkhaya) is their best seller, and was my favourite dish there.
Baan Somtam: 9/1 Soi Si Wiang, Sathorn; 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily $$
Almost unanimously this was the favourite stop for our group, the food is just tremendous. With a name of baan somtam it was obvious we were going to be treated to the famous Thai spicy papaya salad – we actually got to try two sorts – traditional and deep fried.
The original was tasty:
But for something that little bit different, the deep fried was out of this world, and not at all heavy or greasy:
We accompanied this with two side dishes of larb – moo and ped (pork and duck) together with dishes of sticky rice to dip into the tasty sauce.
Than Ying: 10 Pramuan St., Between Silom 17 and 19; 11.30a.m. – 10 p.m. daily $$$
As their website explains, Thanying is a conversational address to the title of Mom Chao Ying (Her Serene Highness Princess, the usual rank of granddaughter of a King ).
The Thanying Restaurant is named in honor of H.S.H. Princess Sulabh–Valleng Visuddhi who used to be the head cook in the Sukhothai Palace kitchen for her half-sister, Queen Rambhai Barni of King Rama the Seventh.
Specializing in the kind of recipes which Princess Sulabh would once used there, it is run by the princess’s son, M.R. (Mom Rajawong, the fourth royal generation) Sorut Visuddhi and his business partner, Mr. Kriangkrai Unhanandana, a well known Thai actor.
We were treated to three small dishes there:
An appetiser of which sadly the name escapes me, but it was very tasty:
The prettiest served green curry I have seen:
Finished with the lightest yet creamiest ginger sorbet (although some in our group thought it must have been an ice cream it was so creamy) I have ever had the pleasure of trying:
The curry puffs, deep fried somtam and sorbet were my personally food highlights, but the tour itself was interesting and I loved walking around the old parts of Bangrak, seeing everyday Thai life and enjoying old wooden houses against the famous Bangkok skyline.
The amount of food was head was just right too. I was pleasantly full, but not at that unpleasant point, and felt we tried a nice combination of different flavours.
A great way to spend a morning.
NB: although the tour was complimentary, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Taste of Thailand Food Tours
+66 (0) 91 223 7456