One of the things I enjoy doing most on my days off (when I have the energy) is exploring different areas of Bangkok and getting away from the daily rat race on Sukhumvit. You can easily imagine how delighted I was therefore to receive an invitation to attend a Taste of Thailand food tour around the historic neighbourhood of Bangrak on my most recent day off. We gathered at Saphan Taksin BTS at 10am where Jacob and Puu, our guides for the day introduced themselves to us and gave us a brief overview of what the day had in store before heading to our first destination on the tour just metres away.
I had already tried the Curry Puffs at Saphan Taksin on www.bangkokgirlblog.com recommendation when we did our recent day trip to Koh Kret and so took the opportunity to try one of the more unusual versions they sell – the black sesame (along with a mushroom one as it had been so good the last time!) The sesame filling was really interesting, sweet as opposed to savoury with the nice gentle nuttiness of the black sesame seeds being a great start to the days eating.
From here we walked around the corner to the entrance of the Bangrak Bazaar where we grabbed a quick Iced Thai Tea (or coffee for me) and watched the southern Thai method of “pulling” the tea basically the same the method as Teh Tarik in Singapore in a nod to its Malay origins. It was interesting to learn that originally tea was initially only drank by Royalty and High Society (or Hi so as we say here) and the dregs would then be sold on to the regular working classes. It was the Swiss (Nestle) who introduced Thailand to condensed milk in 1893 and Jacob also briefly explained about how the dairy system in Thailand was only implemented in 1963 after HRH King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit visited Denmark and worked alongside the Danes to do the same here in Thailand.
Bangrak means “Village of Love” in Thai and as you can imagine it is a very popular place for Thai couples to register their marriage with over 900 couples registering this year on Valentine ’s Day alone! We left the main streets behind us and headed into the back streets where our next stop was to be a fantastic Curry Paste Seller who has been making curry pastes by hand for the past 50 years. The tiny stall opens early every morning and is usually sold out by midday and having smelt all of the wonderful aromas emanating from the little shophouse I can easily see why.
Bangrak is also home to the second oldest Wet Market in Bangkok and whilst we had missed most of the day’s activities a few stalls remained open selling all different cuts of meat and vegetables. When we reached a fruit stall Puu took the opportunity to teach us about a few of the different Thai Fuits and we snacked on rose apple, rambutan and mangoseteen before making our way along New Road Silom to our next destination
Even the road we walked down is note worthy as it was the first road in Thailand to be paved in 1862; interestingly, whilst Singapore’s first road was paved by Joo Chiat to assist with trade routes for his business, in Bangkok it was paved in order to make life more comfortable for the visiting diplomats to the area.
We made our way into a tiny Chinese Grocery in a traditional shophouse , famous for founding the world famous soy sauce brand “Lucky Boy” where we chose a traditional Chinese medicinal drink. I decided to try the “Chinese Bitter Drink” as I was already familiar with several of them and wanted to try something new – it also had the benefit that it seemed to be the cure for everything but I am not sure I would like to drink it on a daily basis – that’s what gin is for where I come from!
Just a few doors down we stopped into Prachak www.prachakrestaurant.com a Roast Duck Stall that has called the neighbourhood of Bangrak home since 1909 and is still run by the great grand children of the original owner. The secret to their much loved roast duck is that they use only 60 day old Cherry Valley ducks (males only) which they stuff with lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves before marinating in a traditional Cantonese style sauce and roasting it over mangrove wood chips . I am not a huge fan or duck but I actually really enjoyed the unusual flavour combinations – so much better than any of the roast duck I tried in Singapore. We also shared a couple plates of fried roasted chicken noodles topped with egg which is another of their specialties along with plenty of Sriacha chilli sauce and I was happy for the chance to visit somewhere I would never have ventured on my own steam.
Moving on from here we made our way back into the “Troks” Bangraks narrow winding passages on our way to Boon Sap Traditional Thai Sweet Shop for a delicious dessert platter with 5 little mini tasters – the black rice dessert you can see in the pictures is topped with dried shrimps! I stocked up on a load of the desserts to take back to my team at work (there is even a discount voucher included in the tour price) as food is such an important part of life here in Thailand there is not a day that goes by without someone buying something for the rest of us to share together.
Leaving the old city behind us we headed down Silom to Baan Som Tam an Issan restaurant specializing in over 20 different varieties of Som Tam where we tried both a regular and a deep fried version as well as a Duck and Mushroom Larb, all of which were exemplary and I will most certainly be returning there! I would definitely recommend Baan Som Tam if you have guests visiting from out of town and you want to take them somewhere a bit different, it was packed with local office workers and I can easily see why it is so popular.
Our last destination was Thanying http://www.thanying.com/ a small, traditional Royal Thai Restaurant run by the son of a former Royal Princess who once worked in the palace kitchens. Royal cuisine is the sort of refined cooking you see at places such as the Blue Elephant (read about my cooking class here https://beirutibrit.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/cookery-class-at-the-blue-elephant-thai-restaurant-bangkok/ ) where food preparations include removing all the seeds from vegetables and also all the bones from fish and meat. This goes as far as to remove all the bones from a whole fish only to “put it back together again” before steaming it “whole” for Royalty to enjoy. I was surprised with how flavourful the green Thai curry we tried was to be honest as I somehow associate royal cooking with blandness for some reason but happily this was not the case here – in fact our only complaint was that we wanted a bigger potion of coconut ice cream to finish with!
I had such a great day on the taste of Thailand Food tour, Jacob and Puu could not have been nicer and it was a really fun, informative and most importantly delicious day! I will definitely be doing the tour again with friends when they visit me here in Bangkok and it is a must for any food lovers itinerary.
Bookings can be made online here http://www.tasteofthailandfoodtours.org/