T.Bangkok bites

Bangkok bites

Bangkok shopping
Everything is under one roof at Or Tor Kor market, the favourite haunt of the city's top chefs. Picture: Michelle Rowe
Where to indulge in some of the best eating in the Thai capital
STREET food is plentiful in Bangkok. Carts doling out fabulous, freshly prepared meals for a pittance can be found on footpaths all over the city. But there are many other great food experiences to be had in the Thai capital.
The institution: Chote Chitr, a nondescript shophouse near the Grand Palace, has just five wooden tables but its compact size belies a big reputation. Lining the walls of this simple venue, run by the same family for decades, are glowing international reviews.

R. W. Apple from The New York Times sings the praises of the mee krob noodles and banana flower salad, and his advice is right on the money. The mee krob, a crisp bird's nest of crunchy vermicelli noodles with a sweet and sour sauce of palm sugar, ginger, lemongrass and citrus, and a generous scattering of prawns, chicken, bean sprouts and spring onions, is wonderful, full of contrasting textures and bold flavours. Equally good are the banana flower salad and a superb tom yum goong, a hot and sour soup packed with oyster mushrooms and prawns. 

The owner, Tim Krachoichuli, better known as Auntie Tim, sits at a small desk at the back of the room, but comes over for a chat when she sees how enthusiastic we are about our lunch. Her grandfather opened Chote Chitr 90 years ago, she tells us, and Tim helped in the shophouse as a child when her parents inherited the place.

For the past 34 years, she and her sister have been in the kitchen, and they're doing a fine job of carrying on the family tradition. More: 146 Soi Phraeng Phuton, off Tanao Road, Banglamphu, Bangkok.
Som tum special: It may be one of the most ubiquitous dishes on Thai restaurant menus in Australia, but a well-prepared som tum is the stuff of legend.

This spicy green papaya salad hailing from the northeast of Thailand can be found on street carts all over the country, but I am delighted that a restaurant near my hotel is devoted almost entirely to its preparation. Hai Som Tum on Convent Road (opposite Molly Malone's pub) is a simple set-up -- laminate tables and fluoro lighting with overhead fans offering some respite from the heat outdoors -- and serves every conceivable variation of the famous salad.

Som tum with salted egg, som tum with salted crab, som tum with salted crab and pickled fish -- at prices ranging from 30 baht ($1) to 45 baht a plate. We order the salted crab and pickled fish version, which comes with sticky rice served in a small wicker basket and has a chilli kick like a mule. Smarter individuals would have ordered a serve of grilled chicken (75 baht) or some grilled Thai sausage (50 baht) by way of a calming influence but by the time we realise our mistake we're gasping for the coconut ice cream. More: 2/4-5 Convent Rd, Bangkok (near Silom Road).
Use your noodle: Soi Suan Phlu has gone radically up-market since I lived on a small laneway off this road in the business district 20 years ago. Had the excellent khanom jeen shop (specialising in soft, spaghetti-thin noodles with curry sauce) been there in my day,

I'd never have gone home. We choose a spicy sauce for our noodles from one of four silver vats at the front of the shop (mine is an extra hot gaeng tai pla curry from the south) before adding some of the fresh vegetables and herbs that have been placed on two communal tables.

The noodles are super fresh and the sauces enough to have even the most resilient of chilli lovers breaking a sweat. There is no English-language shop sign; simply look for the Alisa coffee cart next to a bright yellow cart selling steamed dumplings and fishcakes, plus more yellow signage on the table on which the metal curry vats sit. More: Soi Suan Phlu (off South Sathorn Road), near Soi Hutayana (Suan Phlu 6).
Shop 'til you pop: Siam Paragon is one of Bangkok's sleekest shopping malls but the jewel in its crown is the gourmet market and food hall covering more than 15,000sq m on its ground floor. If you can't find it here, it's not worth eating.

From sausages to sates, Chinese dumplings, noodle soups and Thai snacks and sweets, there are plenty of pit stops at which to refuel as I load up with supplies (refreshing pomelo from a fruit stall, a coil of piping hot Chiang Mai spicy sausage, a takeaway of roasted pork and rice and a box of one of my favourites, kanom krok, a sweet, crisp coconut pudding straight off the griddle).

Hours could be spent examining the vast array of produce, and if your feet are about to give up, there's always the option of dining at one of the in-house cafes or restaurants.
This expansive food haven -- like London's Fortnum & Mason on steroids, with a healthy smattering of street thrown in -- is an essential inclusion on my Bangkok itinerary. More:www.siamparagon.co.th.
Green with envy: Bangkok chefs, including the newly relocated David Thompson, like to do their shopping at the spectacular Or Tor Kor market. Perhaps it's the convenience of having virtually everything under one roof, from fermented fish to myriad varieties of rice, not to mention the rows of fruit and veg stalls, fish and meat counters, herbs and spices, sweets and savoury takeaways.

Or Tor Kor is massive; I don't think I've ever seen so much produce packed into one space. Arrive early enough to grab a table in the food court where you can get breakfast from one of the many stalls doling out fresh stir-fries and curries. You may need the sustenance: Or Tor Kor is right opposite the famous Chatuchak weekend market in which a person could lose themselves for hours. More: Or Tor Kor, Kamphaeng Phet Road near the corner of Phanon Yothin Road.

Travel on the MRT to Kamphaeng Phet station and take exit 3, which will have you right on its doorstep.
Spicing up the high end: Every now and then a person needs to swap the streetside cacophony for some calm. Two new arrivals in Bangkok, Nahm and Bo.lan -- both run by Australian chefs -- have added a touch of glamour to the city's dining scene.

Nahm, in The Metropolitan Bangkok, is the second branch of David Thompson's Michelin-starred restaurant from London's The Halkin, serving royal Thai food using recipes gleaned from Thai-speaking Thompson's impressive collection of antique cookbooks. At Bo.lan, an elegant eatery off Sukhumvit Soi 26, the philosophy is echoed: presenting to a modern audience traditional Thai dishes.

The similarities between the two restaurants are to be expected. Bo.lan chef-owners Dylan Jones and wife Duangporn Songvisava (Bo) are former Nahm London alumni. More: metropolitan.bangkok. como.bz; bolan.co.th.
Tea with a twist: The Erawan Shrine is a famous landmark in Bangkok. Not so famous is the excellent Erawan Tea Room nearby, which is a good thing, otherwise a person would never get a table.

This chi-chi space in the Grand Hyatt Erawan complex offers an extensive selection of teas and snacks, including a daily Thai-style afternoon tea with such morsels as steamed flower-shaped dumplings with crabmeat, pork satay with peanut sauce, banana dumplings in banana leaf and scones with Chiang Mai strawberry jam. How very civilised. More: erawanbangkok.com.
Best of the rest: Chinatown, lined with heritage shophouses, is home to some of the best street food in the city. Head for Suan Luang night market (behind Chulalongkorn University on Soi Chula 18) for good hawker stall fare. If you're still hungry after lunch at Chote Chitr, turn the corner into Tanao Road and look for the mangos piled on tables outside a small shop.

Kao Neoo Korpanich sells some of the best sticky rice and mango in town. Best vantage point in Bangkok? Head up to Vertigo bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel, an open-air extravaganza on the rooftop offering a bird's-eye view of the city.
Michelle Rowe was a guest of Thai Airways International.

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