Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand
‘Prik’ and ‘Phed’ or hot and spicy, that’s the way Bangkok food has been since the traders introduced chili some centuries ago. Sukhumvit Road is one of many diverse areas of Bangkok and is a main thoroughfare in the CBD which is home to about six million primarily Buddhist people.
It runs basically east/west to the CBD and is home to many shopping centres, markets, nick knack shops, bars and restaurants. Sukhumvit Road is easily traveled on foot, by motorcycle taxi or the skytrain that runs directly above the road; the latter is especially good for saving time away from the traffic. Peak hour seems to occur from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and clogs the three lane divided road – stop/start travel on Sukhumvit is the norm along with the choking haze that hangs with the humidity against the backdrop of buzzing plastics (motorbikes). If you can get past the bikes, smells and noise, Sukhumvit is truly the Asian melting pot for cultural and economic integration of east meets west.
Sukhumvit boasts many leading beautiful hotels, the Landmark, Amari Watergate, Hilton, Le Royal Meridian, Sheraton Grande and the Imperial Queens Park. Sukhumvit is a busy business centre that really doesn’t have the ‘stuffy’ Collins Street presence – quite the contrary. Collins Street does not have the ‘Nana’ Entertainment Complex near Soi (street) 4 or ‘Soi Cowboy’ Complex near Asoke Intersection, both have an assortment of bars with an equal assortment of lagers on offer. Try a cold Kloster, Chang, Singha or Carlsberg lager, just what the doctor ordered from walking around in the hustle and bustle of Sukhumvit – but wait, Sukhumvit is also a culinary gastronomic centre for cheap, delicious mouth watering Thai food.
Two top restaurants among dozens in Sukhumvit is one, the Nipa Thai Restaurant on level three inside the Landmark Hotel near Soi 5. Beautiful teak abounds with waitresses wearing Thai silk uniforms, whilst other silk wearing beauties play traditional acoustic instruments to drum up the customers appetite. Attention to detail at the Nipa Thai is to be commended; the Thai decorations down to the carpet makes for a pleasant classy surrounding. For $50, two can dine until stuffed like a Christmas turkey, with several lagers to wash down the well presented and flavorsome Thai (aharn) food. This restaurant would make a small fortune if nestled in uptown Collins Place; this is one where any good Aussie Shiraz or Merlot would dazzle the palate against the spices of the Bangkok cooking. For starters try ‘Toon Ngern Yuang’ or Fried Minced Pork and Prawns wrapped in a Bean Curd Pastry’, these little packets come with plum or sweet and sour sauce for dipping and tantalize the taste buds, they are certainly equal to South Melbourne Market’s ‘Cricket Ball Dimmy’ only a smaller size but equal on taste.
Next try the Thai staple, Tom Yum Gung’ or Spicy Soup with Prawns and Lemongrass, this soup is very spicy so have a cold beer or beverage of choice on standby; this is a very popular dish in Sukhumvit among the locals. Next, this restaurant out does itself with ‘Kao Ob Sabprarod’ or Fried Rice served in Pineapple, the half pineapple is finely cut by the chef and beautifully produced with other delicately sliced vegetables including carrots that resemble an award winning ‘David Austin Rose’ and finely shaped cucumber and tomato, perfectly laid out on a presentation Thai style plate with accompanying dipping sauces – perfect. These dishes alone would overprice such treats in Melbourne with all the time taken to present them with their intricately cut vegetables and service staff that hover like on-ballers at the centre bounce at the MCG. The main course of ‘Kuay Tiew Phad Kee Mow Talay’ or Spicy Fried Noodles with Seafood is a real seafood pleasure with prawns, squid and fish pieces along with whole scallops balanced with fish sauce and the familiar Thai spice. ‘Aroy Mar’ – Very Yum.
If you enjoyed your dining experience and fell in love with the ‘Prik’ and ‘Phed’ of Thai aharn, then try the cooking course offered by this restaurant. You can choose the one day or full week of cooking all types of popular Thai cuisine, both fun and rewarding; where else could you cook, consume and learn without having to do the dishes?
For more information contact the Landmark Hotel at 138 Sukhumvit Road Bangkok, 10110, Thailand, Tel: (662) 254 0404, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For Sukhumvit succulence another top food fest would have to be the Raan Derm Restaurant off Soi 22. This is more your lunchtime venue, but simply some of the best tucker in Thailand. It has a fairly contemporary style inside and rather simple, judged solely on its quality of food and it is king. It has a 10 page menu written in English, the artwork on the walls is for sale and it is owned and operated by two Thai sisters. About $15 for entrees, mains and couple of beers for two people, no hassle atmosphere and well air-conditioned. This place is a great oasis from the Soi’s of Sukhumvit. ‘Aharm Saluck’ or appetizer we began with ‘ Gai Hor Bai Toey’ or Marinated Chicken in Pandan Leaves, these begin the taste process by easing you in slowly as the sauce is a mixture of ginger, soya sauce, vinegar, palm sugar and sesame seeds, the pandan leaves wrap it up in a nice package.
‘Aharn Luck’ or main course, give the ‘Panaeng Gaeng Gai’ or Chicken Panaeng Curry a try, it is a very smooth Malay influenced curry that is well balanced, not too spicy not overdone by chili and comes with Jasmine Rice of course. This curry has overtaken my usual favourite and prince of curries the ‘Gaeng Kiew Wan Gai’ or the Thai Green Chicken Curry. To balance out the Thai flavoured palates, we delighted with ‘Tab Tim Grob’ or Water Chestnuts in Coconut Milk with Crushed Ice, hailing from the central region of Thailand.
Some other great notable Thai Tuckeries are the Cabbage and Condom Restaurant (started by the Thai Family Planning Minister to heighten safe sex awareness) on Soi 12, the Old Siam Restaurant on Soi 23 and the Seafood Palace near Soi 24. For a cheaper alternative to your expensive hotel breakfast, try Took Lae Dee Restaurant inside the Foodland Supermarket on Soi 5, for $2.50 you can get an American breakfast with all the trimmings – ‘Mai Pang’ – Not expensive.
Some other quality food places are the Old Dutch on Soi Cowboy, Baan Sukanya Soi 23, both great places to dine – lets also not forget Burboun St Restaurant on Soi 22 Sukhumvit – their baby back ribs are worthy of a trip without a doubt – this place is divine with their Cajun and Creole food – a must visit.
Now you have seen those side cafe places along the street where many locals eat and are wondering – are they safe? You be the judge, but give them a try – for 20 baht one can taste a full bowl of chicken soup, a meal within itself and at that price it is dirt cheap – ok the surroundings are a little drab but taste – can’t go past it.
Now you have heard of the Thai fruit durian, it is a taste that westerners have to get used to; especially the smell of the fruit – give it a go to say to have tried it, but hold your nose because the smell is repugnant. So bad is the smell many hotels have banned it from their premises – a cross between a mango and a banana perhaps.
Sukhumvit is serviced by the Skytrain, an easy way to visit Mah Boon Krong (MBK) Shopping Centre, Pra-Tu-Nam Market where cheap clothing, silk and handcrafts can be found to the World Trade Centre where on Level 7 you’ll find Bangkok’s principal Duty Free Shopping. If its all too claustrophobic, step inside Starbucks near Soi 23 for a piping hot coffee that slows the heart rate as the residents from the ‘Land of the Smiles’ race past outside.
Check out the author’s book: A Different Brand Of English – a travel guide to Singapore and Thailand.