Friday, December 10, 2010

Adventures in Southeast Asia Part 2

Bangkok is rich in its street food culture, but the next best thing seems to be the small hole-in-the-wall restaurants, simple affairs that are spare and family run. Any basic research on food in Bangkok turns up the name Chote Chitr, a tiny restaurant that has been around for 90 years. There are tons of recommendations for it, but as with any popular place, also many mixed reviews. But nevertheless, I put it down as a must-try, to find out for myself.

After touring Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, I successfully guided my skeptical family to the shadowy doorway of Chote Chitr. The place was empty but for a woman sleeping with her head down on a table — my heart sunk. And it was then I noticed the sign posted on the door: Closed for renovation until Dec. 1. That was the next day. So, that would have to wait until my next visit.

With the Lonely Planet city guide in hand, I tried to find a replacement lunch spot on Thanon Tanao, along which the guide suggested an eating tour. I struck out on the first couple, which appeared to no longer be there. But we managed to find Kim Leng, a place specializing in the food of central Thailand. It was filled with locals who all turned to stare when we stepped inside. A short, round man pointed to the only empty table in the middle of the room, still topped with dirty dishes from its previous occupants. He came over and asked what we wanted, but not being quite that well versed in Thai food, we asked for a menu. He brought over a few, but kindly recommended two dishes — mee krob and the minced catfish with shrimp paste. So we ordered those along with a few tame dishes.

The mee krob was a sticky jumble of sweet, crispy noodles. A few pieces of tasty shrimp hid among them. On its own it was a bit too sweet, but it helped to tame the heat of the spicy catfish.

The minced catfish was fried and tossed with incredibly hot chili shrimp paste and topped with some fried basil. A little bit with rice was tasty, but my lips were soon burning.

The fried rice was good and hot. Nearly everything in this part of Asia seems to be flavored with limes.

A hearty bowl of noodle soup was peppery, hot and delicious.

And tofu tossed with bits of meat and chili. 

I admit that some of why I loved this was the feeling of eating in a place that Thai people were eating in, away from the hotels and the more touristy zones of the city. Even if I didn't love every bite of every dish, I loved the experience, which is half of why I eat in the places I do.

No comments:

Post a Comment