Fresh noodles, delectable seafood and unusual ice cream flavors await at Yaowarat in Bangkok’s Chinatown
By day, Chinatown’s hub, Sampeng Lane, is one of the world’s great markets: a narrow but epically long passage of stalls and shops, heaving with porters, revving mopeds, fruit and snack carts, serious buyers and dazed tourists. At night, the alleys go dark and business shifts to the lamp-lit main streets, especially Yaowarat Road, where restaurants and eateries spill onto the sidewalks and hawker stalls encroach on the roads.
Though the food scene at night is exceptional — one of the best in all of Asia — at breakfast I avoid the hurly-burly of central Chinatown and head to Che Pui Noodles, a small stall in a covered alley on the way to the Hua Lamphong railway station. The star of the show here is the humble fish ball: good bite, moderate pepperiness and served with a savory but light pork-bone stock. My friend Aun thinks it could be the best in town. “In the past it was awarded ML Thanatsri’s Shell Shaun Shim prize — our equivalent of a Michelin star!” he says, pointing to a photo of the much-respected aristocrat sitting with our host “Sister Pui”. “That is ML Thanatsri’s autograph,” Aun explains. “He describes the fish balls as ‘super delicious’.”
There’s an equally satisfying bowl of soupy noodles in next-door district Pahurat (or Little India). Arrive mid-morning at Ji Jong Hwo and they’ll be laying out the fresh yellow noodles and wrapping wonton. Both of which, when served with a few ladles of duck-drumstick stew (a Cantonese-style natural broth), make their best dish — just ask for ba mee bpet toon.
At night, the epicenter of Chinatown’s seafood scene appears to be the junction of Yaowarat Road and “Soi Texas”. This is where two eateries — Rut & Lek and T&K — face off on opposite corners, ever-buzzing and as lively as the street life that radiates out from here. Be liberal
with your use of antiseptic wipes before you eat, because you’ll want to lick your fingers all the way up to the elbows. T&K knows how to grill shrimp so it’s juicy and smoky, while Rut & Lek’s squid with lime, chili and garlic is sensational.
Round off a calorie-laden day and partake in a gastronomic adventure at Itim Morefire Yotse, where they devise oddball ice creams — think beer, Yakult jelly, Red Bull vodka, durian cream cheese — and serve them in a “hot pot”.
Che Pui Noodles
Maitri Chit Rd; open 8am–3pm
Ji Jong Hwo
872 Maha Chai Rd; open 9am–4pm
Rut & Lek and T&K
Yaowarat Rd cor Phadung Dao Rd; open 5:30pm–2am
Itim Morefire Yotse
In front of Elvis Suki, Soi Yotse; open 7am–11pm
This story first appeared in the November 2017 issue of Smile magazine.