4 days eating in Bangkok

People have told me that you either love Bangkok or you hate it. I’m the first camp, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for being in the second. It’s bonkers. During our first hour in Bangkok, Murtie and I unwittingly strolled hand-in-hand down the neon lit street of Soi Cowboy, which I’d seen in a ‘things to do in Bangkok’ guide, and somehow missed the minor detail that it is in fact the red light district. On the plus side, it triggered a topical and excellent discussion on the regulation of sex work as we passed a bar called ‘Spice Girls’, which definitely did not have the vibe of a 90s girl power band.

Day 1, 9pm

With rumbling stomachs, we left the bright lights and scantily clad people behind and found a small Japanese restaurant for dinner: Tori Soba Nanase. We both had the special soba, a chicken broth with chicken balls, sliced chicken and egg. Yes, after 12 hours flying to Thailand, our first dinner was … Japanese. Sacrilegious perhaps, but completely delicious and for about £3 it was worth it just to eat food that didn’t jiggle off the tray from turbulence.

Day 2

The next morning we spent 15 minutes at Sukhumvit MRT station trying to get our heads round the ticket system, finally opting for prepaid travel cards, which we later realised didn’t actually save us any money than if we’d just got single tickets. We took the blue line to Chatuchak Park for the Chatuchak Weekend Market and followed the meandering crowd to an entrance packed tightly with stall holders selling fruits, cold drinks, and things with elephants on. Once inside it dawned on us how massive the market was – we were in zone 27, of 27. We walked 9.5km in 3 hours through the bustling melee of sellers and selfie-taking tourists, stopping regularly to try the tempting street food on offer:

Spring rolls

Coconut ice cream

Chilli squid

Mango sticky rice

Toasted brioche with sweetened milk

At dusk we slumped at a table with our bags of wares (tshirts, baskets and Thai spice mixes) and had a fresh coconut shake and a Singha beer for about £1.50.

We freshened up at our hotel and navigated our way through the backstreets to find our dinner venue: Cabbages and Condoms. When we had asked our friends for their food recommendations in Bangkok, Cabbages and Condoms came up numerous times. It’s the most bizarre restaurant I’ve ever eaten in –

Questionable, but inclusive, tips on safe sex

Condom lights

Food guaranteed not to cause pregnancy…

Murtie and I shared a Massaman curry, vegetable fried rice and Thai fish cakes.

The food was delicious although it was one of the more expensive places we ate at whilst in Thailand (£23.66).  The bill came with a plate of condoms as our after dinner ‘mints’. As we left I read a bit more about the restaurant: it exists to promote family planning and raise funds for the area’s Population and Community Development Association. It’s definitely an innovative way of getting people’s attention and money.

Day 3

After a morning sightseeing at Wat Saket (The Golden Mount), Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)  we came back across the river to the Tha Tien Ferry entrance where the street was jam-packed with food stalls. Murtie had a stick of shrimp for 40 baht (£1) and I had spring rolls and sweet potato balls for 60 baht (£1.50). Both were served to us in plastic bags, which was handy but guilt-inducing and we’re now trying hard at home to minimise our plastic waste to make up for it.

Grilled shrimp

Sweet potato balls

We walked to the Grand Palace and Murtie had to buy some fetching elephant trousers because his shorts weren’t long enough. It was heaving with tourists and my neck was sunburnt, so we took our photos and hopped in a tuk tuk to Maha Chai Road. We slumped in a bar that I can’t remember the name of and had coconut shakes and beer waiting for our next eatery, Thipsamaito open.

‘Is this Thailand’s best pad Thai?’ asked the BBC earlier this year – we had to check it out. We arrived at 5pm on the dot and joined the queue of people already winding down the street. As we approached the front of the queue we could see their famous pad Thai wrapped in egg being made freshly outside –  it took 10 seconds in the best non-stick wok I have ever seen. The kitchen was run like a military operation with food cooked and immaculately presented on plates in seconds, whilst servicing an unrelenting queue for takeaways.

Our server had pre-empted our order and our prawn pad Thais wrapped in egg appeared within seconds of handing over our marked menu. We drank the restaurant’s renowned freshly squeezed orange juice, which had so much pulp it was a challenge to suck it up the straw. On the wall behind us were framed newspaper cuttings stating that this was indeed the best pad Thai in Bangkok. I ate quite a few pad Thais during my two weeks in Thailand and it was definitely up there. I appreciated the pot of ground peanut on our table and liberally sprinkled it all over my pad Thai at least three times.

‘The best pad Thai in Bangkok’

Fresh orange juice

All the ground peanut

Day 4

We ventured to the Khao San Road on our fourth day in Bangkok, but we quickly decided it wasn’t our cup of tea. We ventured onto the backstreets instead and chose Krua Apsorn for lunch. We ordered the crab omelette to share, a dish the restaurant is renowned for, which was tasty and incredibly filling. I had a Thai green fishball curry and it was so spicy I had to hide my teary eyes from the locals.

Crab omelette

Thai green curry with fishballs and steamed rice

We walked off our food for an hour in no particular direction and eventually I spied a cake shop. Choux Time had tables of treats inside and outside the shop, and Murtie picked something to try whilst I went round taking photos. We had the sweets with yellow and pink in the middle. Still no idea what they were but the sugar fuelled the rest of our afternoon.

Cakes at Choux Time

Selection of sweet goodies at Choux Time

These are the sweets we tried

After struggling to flag down a taxi, we took a tuk tuk to Petchaburi Road and spent the late afternoon exploring Pratanum Market. The women’s fashion was awesome and I haggled away a couple of hundred baht at a stall with some really quirky tops. The market was packed with locals and there didn’t seem to be any other tourists in sight. I loved this area as it felt like authentic, bonkers Bangkok – the overhead wiring being a visual representation of this.

I had my first Thai massage at the Watergate Spa on Petchaburi Road. Despite opting for a head and shoulder massage (heat rash on my ankles was too bad for a full Thai massage) the masseuse put me in positions I didn’t know were possible. My spine cracked with every movement,  but it did the job. I felt like I’d been needing that massage for about 5 years.

Bangkok was face-paced, full-on, and I absolutely loved it. I’m used to London, which is organised ‘don’t you know there’s a queue?’ chaos. Bangkok is disorganised chaos. Crossing the road is a heart-thumping but life-affirming experience.

From a food perspective, Bangkok is brilliant. Whether in a restaurant or served from a cart, my defining memories will be fresh ingredients, big portions, punchy flavours, chilli to make me cry – all served with a warm and welcoming Thai smile.

Hanoi Kitchen, KERB King’s Cross, London

‘My poor chopstick tekkers is making my hand hurt’

I sat in King’s Cross station stretching my fingers because they were aching from my attempt to use chopsticks. In my head I’m a pro, but sometimes the chopsticks just literally fall out my hands. Hanoi Kitchen did provide sporks as well as chopsticks but I was determined to eat my chicken noodle pot with authenticity.

It was hammering with rain when I left my office, but I’d Googled who would be at KERB that afternoon and I desperately wanted noodles from Hanoi Kitchen. I zipped up my coat, donned my hood and put up my red umbrella to walk over to Granary Square. The pavements were soaked but instead of being grumpy about it splashing up my legs I just chose to ignore it. The food market at KERB was a bit of a sorry sight. Most of the stalls had no customers and the traders stood with crossed arms behind their steaming stalls, evidently chilly and soggy. The guys at Hanoi Kitchen were in good spirits though and when I asked them if the rain was ruining their day they said no because their trailer was dry and warm. I tried to take some photos but the rain proved a challenge so these are the best I could do:

I ordered the garlic chicken Bún noodle pot, which was served to me after a few minutes. One of the guys offered to put a foil lid on my pot so it wouldn’t get rained on, which was nice of them. I asked if I could take some photos before the lid went on and they obliged, agreeing that if it wasn’t on Instagram then it didn’t really happen.

I grabbed some chopsticks and made for King’s Cross station, trying very hard not to drop my pot of food or my umbrella, but by this point the rain was easing off and the sun started to come out. I made my way to the mezzanine opposite the departure boards and a well-dressed Italian gentleman let me take the spare seat his table. He later asked me if I wanted his napkin because the broth from the noodles was dribbling down my chin. Not my finest moment.

I was so excited to eat having spent 10 minutes visualising dropping my lunch as I walked back from the market. I pulled the foil off and a steamy aroma of coriander and chilli hit my nostrils. I winged-it with my chopsticks and took sips of broth when I thought fewest people were looking. My favourite thing about this sort of food is crunchy peanuts and to my delight it was garnished with lots. Even as I was finished there were peanuts swimming in broth at the bottom of the pot. The whole thing was delicious, warmed me up, and distracted my brain from my soggy feet.

I’ve never been to Vietnam so I can’t comment on authenticity, but I loved it and I don’t really care about authenticity if it tastes good.

BBQ Dreamz, KERB King’s Cross, London

‘I’m so cold, but this is so good’

When I left my office to go to KERB, the food market in Granary Square, the sun was high in the sky and its warmth took the edge off the cold wind. Minutes after sitting down with my chicken satay curry from BBQ Dreamz the dark clouds rolled in and I regretted leaving my umbrella in the office. I moved from the square to the giant concrete steps by the canal to escape the wind and thought about the last time I’d sat there in July eating sweet and salty popcorn and watching the Lion King with my friend Laura in 30 degree heat. I was grateful my curry was warm and delicious, so I persevered eating my lunch al fresco.

I’d spent a good twenty minutes online looking at the different vendors who would be at KERB that day, trying to decide what I was going to eat. Granary Square was getting busy as I arrived and I decided to do a walk round of the other stalls to make up my mind. I chose BBQ Dreamz partly because the queue wasn’t so massive that I’d have to wait around for ages, but because I’d spying other people’s food and their curry looked big and colourful. I stepped up to place my order, a large chicken satay curry for £9, gave my name which was scribbled on the box and paid by contactless. After a few minutes my name was called and I stepped up to the trailer. It made me smile that the ledge to step up on was a Reebok fitness step, but instead of exercise the reward for stepping up was a steaming box of curry.

As I stepped up I could look into the wooden bowls that were on the counter top and they were filled with fresh ingredients to top the curries – peas, slaw, coriander, spring onions, pineapple, lime wedges, crushed peanuts and chilli flakes. I asked for everything, although to go easy on the chilli because I am a wimp.

The final result was a box of curry with every colour of the rainbow in it. I took a photo but the wind was getting stronger and I was getting hungrier, so I headed for the canal to sit down. The curry was delicious despite having to fish my own hair out my mouth thanks to the wind. I’m not a massive fruit fan, so I admit that I ate one cube of pineapple and left the rest. Fruit with savoury just doesn’t work for me (pineapple on pizza is a no no), but if it is your thing then I’m sure you’d love it. The chicken was full of satay flavour, the rice was cooked perfectly and the array of toppings provided crunch, freshness and punches of flavour whether lime, chilli or peanut.

I will definitely be donning my thermals and coming back to KERB (once I get paid) over the coming months. The vendors change from week to week and I look forward to trying out the other feasts on offer. If you have any recommendations then leave me a comment.

JC’s Kitchen, Bath

‘Do you reckon he’ll let me go off menu?’ 

Thankfully the server at JC’s Kitchen was happy to oblige to my cheeky request and, in seeing my immense box of food, my husband opted for exactly the same thing. We’d spent the morning exploring Bath together in our 2-days married candy floss bubble. We walked arm in arm down the aisle in Bath Abbey joking that we were now experts in aisle walking. I felt quite emotional sat in a pew at the front thinking about the past few days; next to me my husband was Googling where we could go for lunch. I’m sure Jesus didn’t mind, I’ve heard he loves a feast.

I‘m a big fan of street food or any kind of foodie place that serves from a shed/ tent/ shack. We could tell we were in a cool place walking through an old bus station, past a barber with a feminist slogan on its door and a neon signed record shop with man-bunned hipsters flicking through brimming boxes on trestle tables outside.

As we approached JC’s Kitchen we could hear sizzling and see smoke bellowing, and a meaty, spicy smell filled our nostrils. The Filipino menu was a simple choice of bubble & squeak or spicy beans with an array of meats, cheese and sauces on top. For £7 the man serving filled up my box with half bubble & squeak and half spicy beans, grilled chicken, salad and chipotle sauce on top.

We sat on picnic benches outside the shack and tucked in whilst ogling at the pictures in a Filipino recipe book left on the table. Every mouthful was flavoursome and filling and the portion was deceptively large – the double carbs of rice and potato did me in though, and I couldn’t finish my box.

We headed over the road to The Bath Brewhouse for a beer garden pint and G&T, and to let our food settle. After a little while our sweet teeth beckoned and we went in search of baked treats. I chose a raw cacao slice and Murtie chose a giant chocolate brownie slice thing from Mokoko Coffee. We sat in the sun listening to a busking jazz trumpeter with the Abbey turrets making jagged shadows on the ground around us.

Googlemaps told us it was 2.5 miles back to our AirB&B, which we decided to walk. It turned out to be 2.5 miles up a giant hill, although we crossed a canal just as a boat was going through a lock, which was exciting for us city folk. At least the walk burned off some of the inordinate amount of calories we had consumed in 2 days.

Singtong Burger House, Leather Lane, London

‘I’m being good, the wedding is 6 weeks away’. 

I’d just picked up our wedding rings from a jeweller in Hatton Garden and wondered what to do for lunch. It was the beginning of a half day off work and I was in a really good mood. I walked through the food market on Leather Lane, each stall sizzled and popped and gave off delicious smells. I dodged the queues of city workers and passed giant pans of paella, pizza slices and gourmet kebabs but couldn’t find what a wanted. SINGTONG BURGER HOUSE. I made a beeline to a small corner restaurant with lots of guys sat in the window stuffing their faces and chugging cans of Diet Coke.

I ordered the cheeseburger, not particularly adventurous considering they do a rather fabulous sounding chicken burger, but I was in the mood for greasy beef and fries. I got the lunch meal deal – burger, fries and a drink for £10. I sat at the bar and a few minutes later a try landed in front of me with fries spilling out a bag and an oozing cheesy burger.

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It felt kind of wrong having been in a fancy Hatton Garden jewellers 10 minutes earlier and now I was taking mammoth bites into my cheeseburger. I’d text my husband-to-be about 8 minutes earlier saying ‘I’m finding lunch in the Leather Lane market, I’m being good, the wedding is 6 weeks away’. By ‘good’ I clearly meant good at finding somewhere incredible to eat, and at that I was successful.

I marched off half an hour later, fancy wedding rings safely in my bag, slathering my hands in sanitizer and a big smile on my face.