Pig’s brain tom yam and the morbidly obese dog.

Austin told me that there would be pig’s brain tom yam. An offal and coconut soup aberration buried in Bangkok’s inner suburbs within walking distance of some of the other rarer gems in Thailand’s food scene. A mere taxi ride from the Gut Feelings safehouse where I was holed up beside the pool. We’d conversed earlier, online, transcript as follows:

Austin: Fancy tom yam samong muu
pig brain tom yam?
me: It all looks great
That whole prion thing puts me off pig brain a little
Austin: prion?
me: They’re what causes mad cow disease. They collect in the brains/spinal cords of animals – although I have a feeling that pigs aren’t a problem. At least ones that haven’t been fed a steady diet of pork
Austin: i’m pretty sure the pigs here eat lotsa pork–the left over school lunch (which was mostly pork) is used as pig feed!
me: That’s bad news.
Austin: Yep

He’d somehow got the idea that I’m a massive offal fan. I do believe that if you’re going to eat meat then you may as well do your butcher a favor and eat the whole animal (just like most of the world’s population) but I’m not always seeking out the best pipe and lung dishes. His confusion of my love for innards was the result of me shooting some of the worst shots of Cambodian offal that I could find while he did his professional photographer “work” in Phnom Penh last year. After a while, I can’t take my own food photography with any seriousness.

After rallying Hock from Gut Feelings to form a mini Southeast Asian food blogging conference, we headed towards Chote Chitr.

Chom Chitr

Chote Chitr had gained a reputation as the restaurant that Bangkok food aficionados go when they want to show off the subtler side of Thai food to visiting journalists. The New York Times has previously given the hole-in-wall joint the thumbs up. The mee krob is a standout dish. Crispy and balancing sweet and sour on a knife’s edge without the tinned pineapple acidity and cheap starchy sauce that I associate with Chinese sweet and sour. According to Austin, the sour citrus note comes from the peel of the local som saa fruit. Hock mentioned that this was how he imagined Kylie Kwong would do sweet and sour pork. Older Bangkok cuisine seems to be more focussed on sweetness and balance rather than just the razor-sharp edge of chilli that cuts through more modern Bangkok fare.

Our stop for pig’s brain tom yam, the ostensible reason for swapping the sin of poolside sloth for freestyle gluttony, was fruitless. The store was fresh out of brains.

We regrouped and hit up Udom Pochana, a restaurant doing what Austin imagined was a Chinese chef’s version of an Indian curry, but somehow turned out much more like the Golden Curry-brand that Japanese people seem to love. It is something of a Thai rarity and appealing as a cultural artefact from a nation that otherwise cooks a mean curry but this dish ends up sweet and altogether a bit dull.


Next, Khanom Beuang Phraeng Nara on Thanon Phraeng Nara for khanom bueang . These sweet crispy taco-like shells are ubiquitous throughout Bangkok, normally filled with a saccharine meringue cream. These were a world apart, redolent with smoke from the charcoal brazier and filled with sweet duck egg paste, coconut meat and dried fruit. This, like Chote Chitr, are worth crossing oceans for. We discussed the possibility of renting a house in this neighbourhood, wondering if each Chinese shophouse had a spare room.


Pad see ew: the boat noodle. Along with char kway teow, this is my favourite fried noodle dish. The dish promotes the wok hei smoke flavour like few others. I took no notes on it and still have no idea what street it was on. With the tom yam with brains tip off, Austin had in his possession a map indicating that good streetside goat stew could be found at Ko Lun restaurant, near a morbidly obese dog on Thanon Mahanop.

The dog was easy to find; a possible result of its inability to move. Ko Lun’s goat stew in “red sauce” was only average, despite being paired with some piquant shreds of galangal on the side. My thought was that they were fattening up that dog with grim intent.

We ended the impromptu food crawl at a cafe where Austin ordered two of the most lurid Thai foods I’d seen: a glass of milk with red food coloring and toast with viscous tangerine goop. This is what he eats when he’s not trying to show off to the rest of the world that he is a mature adult, somehow a fitting seventh and final course


Chote Chitr
146 Thanon Phraeng Phuthon
02 221 4082

Khanom Beuang Phraeng Nara
Thanon Phraeng Nara

Ko Lun
Thanon Mahanop

Nonthaburi Market

As an antidote to laziness, I headed out to one of Bangkok’s larger wet markets, Nonthaburi market, at the end of the regular river boat line on the Chao Phraya. Nonthaburi would be hard to beat in Bangkok for the range of produce and regional Thai street food vendors floating about the market, and despite the sheer size of it, the market retains a friendly, local feel.

Cooking satay at nonthaburi

Young satay jockey, overlooked by attendant grandmother.


The old section of the market is barely used and although it hasn’t fallen into disrepair, many vendors shun it for the surrounding streets and alleyways.


Barbecuing catfish over the coals, for that smoked/charred effect.


The resulting fish.


Greenlip mussels, painstakingly arranged.

Squid at nonthaburi market, Bangkok

Small squid.

Getting there: Catch the express boat (the one with the orange flag) up the Chao Phraya to Nonthaburi Pier. Walk 400 metres down Pratcharat Rd and the market is on your right.

The laziest food writer in Bangkok


I’ve never written about eating in Bangkok because my approach to Thai food there has been completely shameful. Living in Phnom Penh made Bangkok a weekend getaway, a 25 dollar sardine class seat on AirAsia and a dash from the cobra-ridden Suvarnabhumi to congested Sukhumvit. I never went there for the Thai food; I went to soak up as much Western luxury that I could fit into my tiny budget and four-day weekend. This involved having as many Mexican meals as possible (Charlie Browns, the absurdly named Señor Pico’s of Los Angeles), hitting Chatuchak and MBK to refresh my BAPE supply, and not much else. There was the occasional street snack and quick side visits to wet markets but little worth writing home about.

This time I had no excuse: Austin from RealThai was involved as were some of the crew from Gut Feelings. I had to represent.

The Gut Feeling’s first portion of eating involved an experience in Thai-German cultural crossover: crispy and moist deep-fried schweinhuxen at Tawandang German Brewery washed down with litres of their disappointing Thai microbrew, while their cover band belted out rock hits not quite execrable enough to be hilarious. Our request for them to play Sweet Child O’ Mine, sadly, did not go unheeded.

Much like Tawandang’s house band, Austin took me out on a greatest hits’ tour, albeit of Chinatown rather than of the guitar heroics of the past three decades, with the added degree of difficulty that Bangkok was in the midst of a vegetarian festival. The street vendors about Chinatown were not taking the festival at all seriously: most had substituted fried gluten for their meats and the fare was distinguished by its complete absence of green vegetable matter. My pick of the vendors – a rehydrated gluten satay vendor – managed to serve as a reminder as to why I eat meat. The attempts to fashion whole chickens and ducks from soy alone happen only once a year for a good reason.

Austin’s picks were far more fruitful and leaning towards the carnivore. At the intersection of Thanon Yaowarat and Thanon Yaowaphanit sits Mangkorn Khao, purveyors of some of Bangkok’s finest kiaow naam, shrimp and pork wontons packed with black pepper and coriander root served in a thin and subtle broth; as well as bamii haeng muu daeng, fresh Chinese-style wheat noodles with succulent barbecued pork. Any combination of broth, wonton, pork and noodle is possible and each is more gratifying than the next. It is always good to find a noodle place where the noodles have a distinctive fresh flavor of their own, not just the fried blandness direct from the Maggi factory.

Just around the corner on Thanon Plaeng Naam, a man conjures hellfire with a charcoal broiler from which he summons wok hei for oily oyster omelettes (hoy tawt(?)), curries and noodles, of which we managed about three chilli-laden plates.

We ended the evening with a few Chang beers at a dive bar whose purpose is to serve as a retirement home for elderly drunken Thai pimps with a taste for singalongs to improbably saucy karaoke videos. I don’t know how Austin finds these places, but he assures me that will make the cut for the next Lonely Planet Bangkok.

Less lazy Bangkok eating to come.