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Thursday, February 5, 2015

eatBangkok: the Best Tom Yam and Fish Cakes @ Chatuchak Market

Chatuchak market or JJ Market is the world’s largest day market and there is absolutely no doubt about this.  With such a title, Chatuchak has a lot to offer when it comes to feeding the hungry locals and tourists.  If you are unable to visit the food-loaded Wang Lang market or Soi 38 in Sumkuvhit, Chatuchak is easily your best one-stop-has-it all.  The food here might not be the best but coming from so far away, most amateur buds will find it hard to tell the difference.  But if you are here to dig out some of the must eats, these are mine!

The trip to Chatuchak was all about reliving that first mates trip I had 5 years ago.  With the best Tom Yam I have ever tasted, I was excited to be here again.  9.30am is a little early to be at Chatuchak, but this gave me the opportunity  to have a serve of boat noodles for breakfast .  (FYI - the soup is made out of pork blood and bones).

The way I like it topped: thin slices of tender pork, springy pork balls, fresh vegetables and some crunchy pork crackling.
The thought of eating noodles served in a broth made from pig’s blood might sound daunting but with the broth formed from generous amounts of pork bones graced by countless herbs and spices, the broth might be one of the tastiest one yet!   Dark, rich, slightly sweet and over all, just  spectacular! Its a big claim to make and most will definitely give this one a miss, but if you are all about mind over matter this 40 Baht bowl of joy might just be your thing!

The morning heat in Thailand during my trip was a mild one, but I’d make any excuse to stop for a serve of coconut ice cream.  6 years ago, this shop was just one.  Now, there are plenty in the market.  For something like 25 Baht, you get a scoop of ice cream with a choice of three toppings. 
Being in Thailand, I decided to keep my choice of toppings minimalistic and local.  My choice of toppings were the roasted peanuts and sticky rice.  Out of the many possible combinations, I loved my mine for several reasons.  First one though is because I simply love my sticky rice haha.  But there is a reason for everything!!  Just think of the fragrant sticky rice cooked to perfection before being paired with the creamy coconut ice cream and finished with crunchy peanuts. *re-drool*

The ladies serving the delicious coconut ice cream.

After snooping around for interesting shirts which threw me into a limbo of what do I really want to buy, I decided that eating is more important!  (Oh and I ended up buying nothing!)  My lunch was at J-Eung a small little Thai place at the very back of the market near the noodle shop and the rest rooms. 

Seats in this restaurant is limited but when you see locals queue, you know it is worth the wait.  But for us early birds, we were seated like royal customers. The joke though is that the restaurant seated us at 11.30am but only took our orders at around 12pm.  Got time?  No worries, keep eating. So I had  the opportunity to drink some hand squeezed mandarin juice.  
This uncle squeezes every drop of juice by hand.  His effort is every bit appreciated in this amazing juice he makes.  It is fruity, sweet and mildly sour with a pulp content that is neither too over- or underwhelming. Spot on is the word.

But my interest in the juice was short lived as soon as the waitress brought us our first appetiser, Tod Mun Pla or fishcakes.
Across all the Thai fishcakes I have had in Bangkok, this simply comes tops.   The fishy cake was springy, and the spices in there was amazing.  The sauce it came with was no less impressive especially when you considering the amount of chilli, cucumber and peanuts they had in there.  It was not one of those boring adulterated sauces you get elsewhere.  How good was it?  We ended up ordering two plates!  Enough said.

The mortar and pestle kit opposite us was not just for show.  Moments after servings us the Thai fishcakes, the lady walked up to the kit and started making our Som Tam.
The result of the mortar and pestle action is a Som Tam in its simplest form.  Finely chopped young papaya, peanuts, snake beans, plump tomatoes, garlic portions and herbs pounded together before being dressed.  If Som Tam Nua did the salad great, this place does it even better.  The sauce was a vinegary syrup carrying a burst of lime juice and fish sauce. Dress a salad the way this place does, and I could have salad everyday!

We also ordered a fried chicken to share.  
It was yums but nothing to rave about.  I felt that it should be cooked on the spot or re-fried at the very least.    These were just chopped and serve crispy but its lukewarm temperature means it lacked the necessary kick one gets from eating freshly fried chicken!

They say keep the best for the last.  This restaurant takes such advice and served their Tom Yam Gung last.
No questions asked, this was down right the most mesmerising form of liquid I have had during the trip. This tom yam deviates away from the original one which is usually clear.  Here, it was rich and cloudy for most parts and no, this was not Tom Kha.  There was a certain depth in this Tom Yam that no other places seem to be able to achieve.  I would like to believe that the secret lies in the generosity of the chef.  In other places we get plenty of shrimps in the soup, but here there were 6-7 large prawns (legit size check!) in there and boy were they good!   With a bill that totalled below 400 Baht (RM45/$AUD17), we walked away with a big grin.  It could not have been any better!

The internet is a place which presents the food at Chatuchak from many angles.  Some good, some bad, some hype but many still stay traditional.  Coming here guide-less, just think like local and you will enjoy most of the food.  My eats at the market are no less common that what a typical Thai person would eat.  But if you come here and decide to feast on some random Spanish Paella, then I have no more words for you :P!


About eatBANGKOK
I have not travelled to many parts of the world, but Bangkok is easily one of the top cities for eating and in this mini series called eatBANGKOK, I bring you what my homeboys Yobi, ZS and I ate through this bustling city.  Everyone boasts to present the cuisine in this Royal loving city best so the quality of food here can quite easily get diluted.  But are you really eating Bangkok’s best? This is WHAT, WHERE and HOW to eat Bangkok’s  popular and hidden eateries.  Keen on a Bangkok food itinerary?  Look no further.