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Bangkok's Best Street Food Stalls and Restaurants: Gourmet without the Trappings
Bangkok's street food is legendary, and food critics around the world have sung its praises. It is often said that the one burner vendor sitting on a stool in front of the five star hotel will whip up a better meal than the posh restaurant above it. This may not always be true, but if you know where to look, there are some treasures. Jae Fai has been raved about by just about every foodie and guidebook, and for a good reason, the auntie's seafood pad kee mao is of legend. So are the mangoes and sticky rice at Korpanich, which has been around for almost a century. The curries at Khao Gaeng Jek Pui are legendary, while those seeking Muslim chicken biryani may want to sample the hidden Aisa Rot Dee across town. Food courts are also a great way to sample street food, with all kinds of curries and other Thai classics available from an array at vendors. The day market at Lang Suan is an excellent choice, as is the food court at the Or Tor Kor market up near Chatuchak. Don't forget to leave room for dessert, with Nuttaporn homemade ice cream leading the list, served in a small shophouse and going strong for over seventy years.

Kapoh Pla Namkeng
While most westerners might not like the thought of eating fish maw (stomach or bladder organ), not to mention that it appears a bit slimy, the Thai Chinese savor it, and this Teochew Chinese dish is actually a winner, served up in a claypot along with shitake mushrooms, cilantro, and a great mixture of sweet and tangy together, especially good on cooler evenings. Several of the best stalls selling fish maw are to be found here, one next to the Seiko watch dealer and this spot across the street from the Hua Seng Hong Restaurant, always crowded with patrons buying takeout or occupying the few streetside tables available for eating right away on. (none)

Hoi Tod Chaw Lae
This humble eatery actually does have indoor seating, but it still qualifies as street food. Famed for its pad thai and stir fried mussel and oyster creations, Hoi Tod Chaw Lae has been on countless television specials as noted by all the logos inside the simple fast food joint. The pad thai and fried egg with seafood grills are about triple what you'd pay elsewhere in town, but in trendy Thong Lor, its actually a steal, especially given how tasty the offerings are. Everything is good, but the or-ror oysters, eggs, and rice flour pancakes are a real standout. As of late, Chaw Lae seems to have moved away from having pad thai available, but if you like seafood, they still get the vote for being one of the best no frills food spots in Bangkok, and are a great option in pricey Thong Lor. (085 128 3996, 089 448 6289)

Lang Suan Market
Every day around noon, the small sois (alleyways) that lead east off of Lang Suan Road become a frenzied hubbub of activity. Hundreds of hawkers, of both food and all sorts of shopping items, set up their stalls, and at noon, thousands of office workers spill out from the surrounding office towers to eat lunch and shop. The food selections in here are dazzling, with just about every rice and noodle dish to be found in the kingdom on display, along with a very extensive collection of desserts and sweets. The rice and curry stalls, known as khao raat gaeng, are your best bet, as you can sample and fill up on some of the best Thai street food here for a pittance. Additionally, popular Thai dessert sweets such as pumpkin custard, along with traditional sweet dark coffee flavored with condensed milk can be found in abundance. (none)

Aisa Rot Dee
Aisa Rot Dee is a hard to find gem, and the perfect example of good Thai street food. There is just a simple Thai sign out front, leading into a narrow alley, but once inside this opens up into a rather large open space where a bunch of tables and chairs have been slung together in the courtyard. The fare here is almost all Thai Muslim, with the standout being khao mok gai, known to some as chicken biryani. and Aisa's also does the biryani with beef. All portions are served with a wonderful green minty/vinegary sauce that just adds to the biryani spices already in the dish. Also on the menu is kuay tiaow gaeng, which is a hearty bowl of thick curry and noodles. English really isn't spoken in here, but there are picture signs and the food is displayed. (02 282-6378)

Khao niaow mamuang, Thai for mangoes and sticky rice, is one of the most popular dishes in the kingdom. Fresh mangoes combined with coconut milk and sticky rice make for both a fantastic dessert as well as a full meal due to the heavy sticky rice. Korpanich is considered to be one of the best purveyors of this lovely dish, and the proprietors claim that their recipe comes from the Royal Palace kitchen, which is where the grandmother of the clan that owns this establishment once worked. Royalty aside, Korpanich has been in business for over 80 years, they use the finest mangoes, combined with coconuts from Chumphon Province and everyone who walks in here gets pretty bowled over by just how good the dish is. (02-221-3554)

Nuttaporn is Thai old school at its very best. Located in the super atmospheric Phraeng Phuton Square, which looks more like an Italian piazza than something in Bangkok, this homemade ice cream shop has been going strong for over 70 years now, dishing out superb mango, coconut, and other flavors like coffee, and even durian. The mangoes they use for the ice cream here are the best in the country, and they don't put an excess of sugar in, letting the fresh fruit flavors do all the work. While the ice cream itself is the main draw, now made by the third generation of the family that started this place, it is also worth coming here just to stroll around the neighborhood, which is full of gaily painted row houses, an old antique car garage, tables spilling out onto the street, and a collection of outstanding long running restaurants and shops, all of which are now marked by plaques telling a bit about what each place is famous for. (02 222-2686)

Nai Mong Hoi Tod
If you like oysters this little hole in the wall serves up some of the best street fare to be found anywhere in Bangkok. Winner of the prestigious Shell Shuan Shim star award, the lady running this joint whips up divine plates of fried oyster or mussel crepes that have fans of the small shop lining up to get their fix. You have a choice here of ordering regular or super crispy, and the super crispy oyster plates seem to be the winner in popularity. There are only mussels and oysters made into crepe/omelets here, so don't expect anything else, and English is not spoken, although there is now an English menu to help deal with all the foreign foodies who make the pilgrimage here. The oysters are served up fresh off a hot griddle and a dipping sauce made of sweet chilies is served up alongside each portion. (02 623 1890, 089 773 3133)

Jae Fai
Pad kee mao, or drunkards noodles can be found at many street stalls for 30 baht a plate, but for an experience that has been written up by food critics around the world, head over to the Saochingchao District of Bangkok to Jay Fai. Stuck in one of Bangkok's last timeless neighborhoods, where skyscrapers and designer malls don't exist, Jay Fai is a small no frills shophouse eatery, but what sets it apart are the 280 baht drunken noodles that come with ultra fresh monster prawns made by an auntie who has been serving the faithful for 60 years. Jay Fai is also renowned for its rad na, which is a close cousin of pad kee mao, made with a gravy that is thicker and nowhere near as spicy as the drunkard's noodles. It also is served with giant prawns, as well as squid and scallops. (02 2239384)

Or Tor Kor Market
Or Tor Kor (Marketing Organisation for Farmers) Produce Market is popular for its colorful and top notch produce, with all of the high end restaurants in town coming here to stock up on what is arguably the town's best fruit and veggie selection. However, many overlook the food courts in the back, several of which serve up some of the most excellent selections of Thai curries and other local street food or khao raat gaeng (curry over rice) dishes that you'll find anywhere in Bangkok. You'll pay at least double what you'd pay on the sidewalk elsewhere in Bangkok (around 70-80 baht for 2 toppings with rice), but the quality again is probably at least twice that of most places, and the various curries, ranging from Massaman to gaeng kiaow waan green curry are just outstanding. (none)

Khao Gaeng Jek Pui
Khao raat gaeng, or curry over rice stalls, are one of Bangkok's most iconic fixtures, always packed with hungry workers. But at Khao Geng Jek Pui, not only won't you not get a table, you might not even get a seat. At this seven decade old street venue, customers line up around the block for a bowl of rice with curry toppings, and the restaurant has been nicknamed "musical chairs rice and curry" due to the fact that it has no tables, and only individual stools lined up against a wall in an alleyway, where every time someone gets up, someone else moves in and snatches their stool! At this vintage Chinatown street food eatery, the third generation owners said they considered installing tables as part of modernising, but that they realised they would slow down service and customer turnover, and besides, the regulars who flock to this delicious spot everyday seem to be thrilled about having games to play while they eat. (02 222-5229)


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