Thai eateries with street cred
Tracking down one street food stall or another requires the skill of a bloodhound and the tenacity of a hard-up foodie.
Is it any wonder that sometimes you just give up and make yet another trek to the food court for your fix of pad thai or boat noodles?
The good news is that sometimes, there are places you can go that are clean and offer decent intepretations of the original cuisine.
Krua Apsorn (169 Dinsor Bawornniwes Pranakron, tel: +66 2 668 8788) is not an interpretation but the real thing, and despite its hard-to-find location near the Victory Monument, it's worth making the effort to get there. Most hotel concierges know it and will be able to explain it to the taxi driver.
Sure, the driver may get lost, but trust him to ask the man on the street to point the way.
Translated literally as Apsorn's Kitchen, this air-conditioned, recently renovated no-frills eatery offers excellent home-style cooking with must-order highlights such as the crab stir-fried in curry powder - thick, bouncy chunks of crab meat tossed in fragrant yellow curry powder such that it's more like an eggy gravy than curry per se, with lots of sweet onion wedges, fresh chillis and just a hint of heat.
The food is more Chinese zi-char style with Thai influences, so a plate of Thai flowers (looks more like tiny green asparagus tips) stir-fried with minced pork gets its local twist with fish rather than soya sauce.
And a beautiful deep-fried sea bass is crispy in the right spots and fluffy in others. Topped with chopped fresh chilli and lightly pickled garlic chunks, it's simplicity personified.
If Nara Thai never impressed you, you might have better luck at Kum Poon (Central World, 7/F, Beacon Zone, Rachadamri Road), a somewhat touristy version of Isaan cooking that nonetheless hits the spot for its gutsy flavours and fresh ingredients. Spicy salads and larbs (meat-based salads) dominate the menu, but if sour taste notes are not your thing, go for the grilled meats which Kum Poon does well.
Grilled pork collar is highly recommended, to be eaten with red sticky rice, and for a change from the ubiquitous tom yam, an interesting country-style herbal soup is sinus-clearing spicy but has a delicious fish-based stock seasoned with punchy herbs and the distinctive aroma of bamboo shoots.
The menu is huge and not everything appeals, but there's enough to suit every palate.
Plus, there's a consistency in the preparation and the steady flow of diners means that the kitchen is doing something right.
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