Yaowarat Food Tour

9 Jan

I had a bit of writer’s block with this post ~ my brain is enjoying the last few days of winter break currently ~ so I enlisted Orestes’ help to get me going. “Basically, we had a few extra days before going on vacation, and we wanted to have a new experience. You’d been wanting to do this for a while, and Chinatown is an under-explored place by us…” Ok, good start. Yaowarat is Bangkok’s Chinatown, as well as the name of the major road running through the neighborhood. On the first Saturday of our winter break, Bridget, Vince, Jessica, and Jeffrey joined us for a walking/eating tour of Chinatown with Bangkok Food Tours. Our guide took us around to several popular spots, some of which were full restaurants, others were smaller street food stands, and we got to sample many items. She also gave us a bit of history along the way. It was a great way to explore a new neighborhood and get a full belly in the process!

Yen Ta Fa Thai Rung Rueng 

Our first stop was a street stall (like many in Bangkok) that specializes in one thing, and does it really well. This stand served up a rice noodle soup with a red broth that included beetroot, greens, and a variety IMG_5489of seafood. Due to a bad experience our first year, I’m not usually a huge fan of fish balls, but these weren’t bad. There was also squid bits, which were odd, and shrimp balls, which were tasty. O’s verdict? “The broth and noodles? Loved it. If it had been with pork, it would have been perfect.”

 

Canton HouseIMG_5503

The next stop was a popular dim sum restaurant that does dim sum Thai-style. There are a zillion options to choose from, but our guide had pre-ordered two items involving green egg noodles. The green color comes from an herb, the name of which I can’t remember. The left one was a type of noodle dumpling filled with pork, and the right one had a shrimp filling. Both were delicious.

Kan Kee Nam Toua Thong

After filling up on dim sum, our guide took us down a side street to a famous tea stand. They make two brews: a chrysanthemum tea, and an herbal drink that is believed to even out the IMG_5507balance between hot and cold in your system. (The Thais believe too much hot in your personality is bad. Cold is calm; a popular saying here is yai jen, “cool heart” which is a good thing, very different from the Western idea of being coldhearted.) The tea stand is so popular that the royal princesses have been patrons. Orestes and I chose one of each beverage to try. The chrysanthemum tea was super sweet, but fairly tasty. The herbal tea on the other hand… our guide warned us it was bitter, but we still weren’t prepared. The bitterness was so strong that it made my mouth feel dry. We tried mixing the two drinks, hoping the sugar would balance out the bitterness, but to no avail. Orestes’ summary: “It was disgusting.”

L & R Seafood

After the bitter tea experience, we headed into the crowded heart of Chinatown. Our guide explained that Yaowarat road curves around like a dragon, the head (beginning) and tail (end) are less crowded, while the belly is the busiest section. We jumped the queue at a popular seafood restaurant and settled in to sample multiple items, including shrimp curry, stir-fried mimosa greens, hot and sour soup, and a spicy salad of cockles. The cockles were prepared much like one of my Thai favorites, spicy wing bean salad, and the shrimp curry was very similar to our favorite crab curry from Pink Sheep/Ploy. The restaurant also made for great people watching!

The fifth stop on our tour was a stall making black pepper soup. It is apparently a Chinatown staple; our guide said it would be tragic to leave Chinatown without trying it. IMG_5520The line for the stall was huge. The standard version of the soup contains fried pork, thick rice noodles, cilantro, and an intensely peppery broth. You can personalize the soup by adding organ meats; Orestes chose pork tongue and I tried the liver. I usually enjoy liver from various poultry but I’d never had pork liver before, and the texture was odd. Orestes also found pork tongue to be inferior to beef tongue. The fried pork was delicious, but the broth was so strong it was difficult to finish. I think Jeffery is the only one who managed.

IMG_3598Tipparot Ice Cream

Our final two stops were sweet to balance out the savory. We got ice cream from an ice cream stand, and then “eyeball soup”, which turned out to be balls of dough filled with sweet black sesame paste, in a warm ginger broth. The sesame tasted very similar to peanut butter, and the ginger broth was delicious.

 

In addition to the official stops on the food tour, we also sampled some random items as we passed by. We grabbed steamed pork buns from our guide’s favorite spot, and Bridget tried some freshly roasted chestnuts, but the highlight of our sampling may have been our durian experience. Durian is a big spiky tree fruit native to Southeast Asian, known as the king of fruits. It’s also one of the smelliest edible substances known to humanity. None of us had ever eaten durian before, but I have plenty of experience with the odor. IMG_5524It’s impossible to walk by a stand selling durian and not noticed the pungent smell as it smacks you in the face. The scent is so intense that durian is banned in many public places, including hotels, taxis, elevators, and the subway. People either love it or hate it; those who love it say it’s creamy and sweet, like a good cheese or a custard. Those who hate it describe it as putrid garlic, rotten mushy onions, etc. Chinatown was filled with stands selling durian (I believe it’s in season currently) so we couldn’t not try it. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this series will say volumes.

In all honesty, it wasn’t that bad (I did take a second bite just to be sure of my feelings), but I highly doubt I will be purchasing a durian again any time soon. The others had similar feelings – not as horrible as we all expected, but not a new favorite either. We also tried durian ice cream, which I thought was worse than the actual fruit.

To finish up, a few shots of Chinatown and our lovely friends. Great food tour, can’t wait to try another one!

 

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2 Responses to “Yaowarat Food Tour”

  1. Elaine McCormick January 18, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    WOW, I didn’t know there are food tours there. I will definitely add that as something to do on my next trip to Thailand! Love Ya!

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