Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of my favourite things about moving to a new country is getting to try all the new foods and exploring the local restaurant scene. I had read about Soul Food Mahanakorn when I was in Singapore and saw an article where Chef Julien Royer named it as one of his favourite places to eat when visiting Bangkok and so I knew I would have to visit sooner rather than later. Set up by food writer and chef Jarrett Wrisley in 2010, the premise is simple; to serve authentic street food and regional specialties food in comfortable surroundings. As the restaurant has evolved so too has their philosophy and they now use a variety of fair trade & organic ingredients as well as working with several small farms in the North East of the country to source the very best local and seasonal produce.
I arrived at the restaurant at around 730pm on a Monday night to find most of the tables occupied by a fairly hip young western crowd and made myself comfortable at the bar with a cocktail from their Thai ingredient infused cocktail list. I was sorely tempted by the “Chino Latino” made with Tequila, ginger , coconut syrup & lime with a chilli, sugar and salt rim and Asahi beer however in the end I decided to have the “Lemongrass Daiquiri” instead which was a great example of how to gently “twist” a classic cocktail whilst staying true to the original.
The menu is based on a “small plate” concept in that all the dishes are designed for sharing allowing you to try more dishes than you would typically sample in a traditional plated restaurant. This is something I love to do although it has to be said it doesn’t work so well when you dine solo as I tend to do as you either end up over ordering (and subsequently over eating or wasting good food) or erring on the side of caution and only trying one or two dishes which is what I decided to do in the end.
The menu is split up into several different sections from drinking snacks and salads, to noodles, meat & seafood, curries and “things with rice” as well as a daily changing specials board and dishes cost between 140-300 baht ($5-$10 SGD – it’s funny how I’m still working in Sing Dollars but it’s the best comparison I can think of!) I zoomed in straight away on the “Crab and Lemongrass Curry with Rice Noodle” which was described as being “A spicy coconut, lemongrass and chilli soup, served over soft khanom jeen noodles with crisp herbs and fresh vegetables”
When it came I was surprised to see that the it came in two separate plates as I had been expecting it to all be served already mixed in together however having tried the dish I immediately understood the reason to serve the dishes separately. The hit of chilli and lemongrass when I took my first sip of the soup was so incredibly intense it kind of caught me by surprise, it wasn’t that it was insanely spicy or anything but I cannot recall the last time I ate anything with that kind of richness of flavour.
It was unbelievably good and I could happily have drunk it straight from the bowl however I asked advice from the waitress on how best to eat it and ladled the crab soup over the noodles before adding the fresh mint, chopped beans and cucumber to the top and finishing with a good squeeze of lime. I am pretty sure you are not supposed to eat it by twisting it around your fork like you would do with spaghetti but that was what I did, using the spoon to ensure none of the crunchy vegetables escaped before they made it to my mouth.
It was finished all too quickly (It will be a struggle to order something different next time I visit instead of just asking for a double portion of this!) and so I asked for the menu again to order one more dish . I had also been intrigued by the sound of the “Yam Makura Yao” which was described as “A sour, smoky Bangkok classic with grilled eggplant, soft cooked duck eggs, mint, coriander and bacon” and so decided that I would try this next, again I’m pretty sure this is not the correct order in which to enjoy the food traditionally but as it was what I felt like so why the hell not?!.
It was unlike any of the other Thai salads I have tried before which have been very light and fresh (think som tam etc) This had such big, powerful flavours and it was really interesting to see how the addition of the duck egg had such a big impact on the flavor of the salad, cutting through the tanginess of the eggplant and the saltiness of the bacon beautifully.
It was a bit much for me to manage one my own, a great example of a dish where you only need a mouthful or two and I would say it needs to be shared amongst a few people which not surprising as this is what the concept is all about. Soul food had a really warm & welcoming feel to it and bought to mind one of the trendy “lower east side New York” restaurants, equally it would fit right into Soho in London and would no doubt be drawing even more praise there but I am extremely happy to say that it, like me calls Bangkok home.