The capital city of Thailand, Bangkok is one of the world’s most fascinating cities to visit. It attracts all kinds of travellers; whether you’re into cultural sightseeing, local shopping or eclectic architecture, you’ll find something here. Perhaps most of all, though, Bangkok is visited for its food, which is not only famously flavourful and delicious, but affordable.
Perhaps for that reason, deciding where to eat in Bangkok can be a little daunting. Not only are there countless eateries on every block, but also thousands of delicious Thai dishes from different regions all over the country. And nowhere is this more true than in Bangkok’s Chinatown, where the main streets and side sois are packed with endless street stalls and restaurants. Unmatched by any other district in the city for choice, quality, authenticity and value, Chinatown is an iconic destination for food-loving visitors to Bangkok, with over 100 vendors cooking up mouth watering delicacies. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t panic. We’re here to help with our top picks of Chinatown’s legendary and unmissable culinary destinations for daytime eats, to help you get the most out of our new ‘hood. Let’s explore them.
Start on Soi Texas, a little alley just two minutes’ walk from ASAI Chinatown, where Texas Fried Oyster has been sizzling up succulent Thai oyster omelettes for hungry locals and tourists for more than 80 years. They cook up more than 100 dishes a day, using mussels and oysters caught fresh daily in Chonburi. Khun Kratae represents the third generation running this charming mom-and-pop shop and, for over 20 years, has used ancient family recipes to cook up the gooey style (soft flour-and-water mix), which is hard to find these days. Keep that in mind, these omelettes are totally different to the more common crispy style, and not really comparable. Texas Fried Oyster has no serving staff: Khun Kratae runs the show with her sister and a little help from the neighbours during busy times. She told us that in the past their clientele tended to be older but now, thanks to social media, the shop attracts a younger, more international crowd, who show up daily to sample their food. We tried fried oysters, fried radish and oysters omelettes and recommend the specialty, which comes in both crispy and gooey style. Top it off with the signature chilli sauce and your evening is off to a good start.
Daily 9 am – 6 pm 77-77/1 Soi Tri Phadung Dao Rd, Samphanthawong, Bangkok Tel. +662-221-3050
A four-minute walk from ASAI Chinatown is Jek Pui Curry. Nicknamed “musical red chair curry stall”, Jek Pui has been operating for more than 70 years in the street right next to the famous Wat Mangkon Kamalawat. With no tables, this pitstop gives you the chance to live like an on-the-go local. When we went to check it out, owner Khun Thammarak sat down for a chat with us and told us his mother, Khun Tassanee, is the talent behind every pot of delicious food, filling four big stoves first thing in the morning with fresh ingredients supplied fresh daily by the local market and directing the 10-strong team to get everything ready. She gets through 200kg of coconut milk every day for the famous curries and 100 eggs for their Chinese braised soy sauce eggs, which are considered something of a delicacy. Hard from the outside, they’re soft inside thanks to four hours of slow cooking. Veteran visitors may remember wooden chairs, then metal and now, it’s the red plastic stools that give the stall its nickname that you squat on, tucking into your plate and watching life go by in the Old Town. Customers come from all over for this famous home cooking and it gets busy, but we have a pro tip: pork curry comes out around 1.30pm, chicken green curry around 2pm and their famous beef curry around 3pm, so time your arrival right and enjoy.
Daily 3 pm – 8 pm Soi 19 25 Mangkon Rd, Pom Prap, Bangkok Tel. +662-222-5229
Hakka-style Chinese restaurants are a bit of a rarity in Bangkok, which makes Yok Hao Restaurant extra special. From generation to generation, the secret family recipes have been passed along for more than 70 years and Khun Sasitorn represents the latest generation, using cooking skills and recipes learned from her mother. To find this little gem, just take a walk along Yommarat Sukhum road and look out for the alley entrance on your right-hand side. Tucked away halfway down, with no sign or restaurant name, you can easily miss the sliding see-through door on your left. Here, in an unassuming shop that could never be described as stylish, the food takes the lead with authentic and hearty dishes like rice vermicelli noodles fried with fermented rice, perfumed streaky pork with Chinese dried vegetables, steamed radish balls and, one of the most popular, fried tofu skin served with pineapple dip in sweet plum sauce. Everything on the menu is reasonably priced—always a plus when you’re travelling.
Daily 11 am - 7 pm 376 Soi Maitri Wanit, Chakkrawat, Samphanthawong, Bangkok Tel. +662-226-2525
Chong Kee Pork Satay. This family-run shop near Wat Traimit in Chinatown has been grilling their smoky pork satay for 85 years and they’ve even served them to the Thai royal family. Owner Khun Wichai told us that he’s been cooking with his father since he was six years old. Such is the demand for their pork satay, they’ve had to resort to upgrading their technology, using a machine to cut the pork loin, which is fed with corn from local farmers. Marinated overnight at just the right temperature, each cut is smeared with coconut milk right before being put on the charcoal grill for no more than five minutes. Though you might expect a smoky stink, this place is fresh thanks to the smart idea of putting the grills in the back of the house with a good pipe system sucking all the smoke out. As soon as you walk in, you’ll notice the mostly-local clientele. Their citywide fanbase doesn’t have to travel anymore since the delivery services hit the city. Besides the signature pork satay, try the grilled pork liver satay if you’re feeling adventurous. One of the secrets here is they boil the pork livers right before grilling them so they’re cooked inside out, keeping the softness in the middle. Dip your satay in their sweet and sour relish of cucumbers, shallots and mild chillis, which goes so well with their homemade satay sauce and a side of toasted bread. For sure, you’ll come back for more.
Mon 9:30 am – 2 pm, Tue - Sun 9:30 am – 6:30 pm 84-88 Soi Sukorn 1 Mitrapharp Thai-Chinese Road, Bangkok Tel. +662-236-1171
Sure, Pad Thai and Massaman curry are must-haves when you visit Bangkok, but don’t underestimate the power of a simple fish-ball noodle soup. New Yuen Yong Noodles is a great example. We chit chatted with third-generation noodle soup chef, Khun Valin who turned her back on a travel business to continue the family legacy, which was established in 1939. This place is all about fresh fish and they make all their delicious morsels in-house, packing way more real fish meat in than their competitors. They use three different kinds of fish: king mackerel, swordfish and yellowtail and combine them with their neighbour’s soup, which is made with dried shredded pork, pork bone and fish balls. This dynamite flavour combo gives the soup here a distinct umami taste. The most popular dish is steamed Chinese fish sausage (hue-guen), a long white chubby stick filled with seaweed, Chinese celery and steamed shrimp: for sure you will find it here and nowhere else. Other noteworthy delights are fried Chinese fish sausage (hue-guay), fish balls, fish cakes and shrimp balls. Whether you order egg noodles (made fresh every day), rice noodles or Giam ee, thin rice noodles and vermicelli, stop here for the perfect afternoon bowl of fishball with egg noodles or grab a few of their signature balls to take home.
Daily 11 am - 7:30 pm 103-105 Song Sawat Rd, Bangkok Tel. +66-2224-4212
Talking about carrying on the legacy, Thai Heng restaurant is a century-old Hainanese hotspot. Just a one-minute walk from Yaowarat soi 8 (Trok Tao) and two minutes from Charoen Krung soi 14, it’s located in the peaceful area next to Wat Kanma Tuyaram (Wat Yo Khan Tue), home to many cats. It has been operating since 1920 and now the third generation is in charge, bringing their Hainan-style cuisine to Chinatown. “Ancient Recipe” is what locals dub it and there’s high praise for its consistently delicious food. From a big family of 14 siblings, Khun Ronnachet is big boss in charge these days, having inherited the family recipe from his father. A busy man, he’s part chef, part lawyer with his wife, Khun Pennapha and their 14 staff members running the show when he’s in court. One of the signature dishes here is Sukiyaki and you can get it with soup or pan-fried complete with a nostalgic smoky smell from the Chinese wok stir fry pan. Whichever style you choose, it comes with Hainanese-style sukiyaki sauce, which is the highlight of this place: made from pink fermented tofu paste, it’s very different from other sukiyaki sauces and not easy to find elsewhere. Also worth mentioning is the chicken rice with soybean paste mixed with chilli. In case you’re looking for tasty treats at your next bash, Thai Heng occasionally does. catering.
Daily 10 am - 5 pm 67/4 Soi Yaowarat 8 or Charoen Krung 14, Yaowarat Rd, Bangkok Tel. +662-222-6791
There you have it. Kick your daytime munchies and get a feel for the real Chinatown as you explore our top picks.
Check out all six legendary restaurants in this video:
Stay tuned for the next one.