"Volcanic fried mussels" and pre-World War II-era shophouse restaurants dominate this walkable Bangkok stretch
The area formerly known as Bang Rak market should not be left off any food lover's Bangkok travel itinerary. The easily walkable stretch between Taksin BTS station and the junction of Charoen Krung and Silom Road is a cultural mash-up rife with history that's worth exploring on foot.
It's also home to several great food shops and stalls run by second- or third-generation cooks who are proud of their culinary heritage.
Here are 10 of our favourites:
Thip Hoi Thot Phu-khao Fai
A plate of Thip Hoi Thot Phu-khao Fai's mussel/oyster pancakes, which have the perfect gooey to crispy ratio.
This maker of crispy mussel/oyster pancakes is one of the best in the city.
According to co-owner Chakrawat Chira-apakul, the shop got its odd moniker (the name means "volcanic fried mussels") when it was a just a humble outdoor stall.
A diesel stove the owner used often caused flame flare-ups dramatic enough to attract the attention of foreign tourists.
The restaurant has been dubbed "volcanic fried mussels" ever since.
Having moved indoors and using a tamer gas stove these days, Thip no longer pulls pyrotechnic stunts, but his place remains much loved by locals and visitors.
Served atop a bed of bean sprouts wilted to tender-crisp and accompanied by sweet and sour chili sauce, the flat cakes of battered, pan-fried fresh mussels, attain a hard-to-achieve ratio of gooey to crispy perfection.
Thip Hoi Thot Phu-khao Fai (Volcanic Fried Mussel and Oyster), 3 Soi Charoen Krung 50 (next to Robinson Bang Rak). +66 (0)89 775 1958. Open Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Prachak Pet Yang
No seasoning necessary. Prachak Pet Yang's duck is just that good.
Two Chinese-style roasted duck restaurants vie for supremacy in this neighborhood: Pet Yang Nai Sung and Prachak Pet Yang. Both are long renowned for their roasted ducks with dark, spiced sauce over rice (khao na pet). We, however, are a little partial to the century-old Prachak.
Here, you see the fusion of Thai and Chinese flavors at its best. Gutted Cherry Valley ducks are stuffed with fresh Thai herbs, such as kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass, before being marinated in Cantonese flavors and slow-roasted in a mangrove wood coal oven until the skins take on deep mahogany color and the meat becomes succulent and tender.
Their sauce, served generously over a mound of duck-topped rice, is so flavorful that the seasoning caddy on the table pouts furiously from neglect.
Prachak also serves various other dishes including Chinese barbecue pork, roasted pork, assorted noodle dishes and fried rice.
Prachak Pet Yang, Charoen Krung Road (across from Robinson Bang Rak). +66 (0)2 234 3755. Open daily from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
Nothing to joke about here. Jok Prince's congee is among Bangkok's best.
Don't be scared by its location in a dark, narrow alley leading to Prince, a now-defunct small theater that used to show dodgy movies.
Jok Prince has served up the best rice congee with all the trimmings in this area for over 50 years.
Viscous, semi-smooth jok comes with tender, generously sized balls of minced pork.
Offal lovers can ask for assorted stewed and poached pig parts in their jok too, as this place is the best.
A side of Chinese crullers, pa thong ko, are also available at an additional cost.
Jok Prince, Charoen Krung Road, entrance to Prince Theater. +66 (0)89 795 2629. Open from 6 a.m.-noon and 4 p.m. to the early morning hours. (Closing times depend on availability and change from day to day.)
Boonsap Thai Desserts
The quintessential Thai dessert: mango and sticky rice.
Here's another shop with a long history. Boonsap, the only noteworthy traditional Thai dessert shop in this area, has been making sweets according to its founder's original recipes since before World War II.
Under the management of the young third-generation owners, the shop has recently undergone renovations, making it resemble an intimate café where patrons can enjoy plated desserts and beverages in an air-conditioned room.
Modernization has not, however, changed things. Tatcha Boonpaisarn, who left her flight attendant career to make desserts, 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 simply extraordinary.
Boonsap Thai Desserts (boonsap.com), 1478 Charoen Krung Road. +66 (0)2 234 4086. Open Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Khao Kha Mu Trok Sung
Kamou Tokzung has been serving up stewed pork legs and knuckles for over 40 years.
You need to deviate for a few meters from Charoen Krung into Charoen Wiang in order to find this nondescript home of what the locals consider one the best stewed pork legs and knuckles on rice (khao kha mu) in the area for the last four decades.
They also have storefronts at MBK and Central World food courts; just look for the "Kamou Tokzung" sign.
Kamou Tokzung, 106/5 Charoen Wiang Road. +66 (0)2 235 4930. Open Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Jao Long Luk Chin Pla
Jao Long Luk Chin Pla's fish balls are made with fresh halibut.
Next to a bright red pawn shop a few doors down from the Charoen Krung entrance to the Shangri-La hotel is this shop renowned for superior fishball noodles.
There is another fishball noodle shop right across the street, but we favor Jao Long's homemade fishballs, heavy on fresh halibut meat, which come in various shapes and avatars: round, rugby-shaped, poached, deep-fried.
Joa Long, 1456 Charoen Krung Road, near entrance of Shangri-La hotel. +66 (0)2 630 6060. Open daily from 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
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