Student Life

A Food Journey Through Chinatown

45997748 - chinatown, bangkok, thailand - circa may, 2015:  cars and shops on yaowarat road, the main street of china town.

Regardless of where in the world you visit (well I guess with the exception of China), you’ll almost undoubtedly stumble across a Chinatown of sorts. Whether it’s Washington DC, my home town of Sydney, or Abidjan in Cote D’Ivoire, you’re sure to find a pocket of the city filled with Chinese restaurants, shop fronts and businesses. Bangkok is no exception.

However, there are three things that set Bangkok’s Chinatown apart from the rest of the world i.e. its sheer size, vibrancy and selection of foods. Without fail, every day of the week Yaowarat’s (Chinatown’s) main road is a hive of activity with people selling snacks, drinks and knick-knacks. For most people, they make their way down to Chinatown for one reason and one reason only – to experience the delicious food on offer. A magnet to Thai’s, expats and tourists alike, Chinatown is a ‘must-visit’ location for anyone that enjoys good food.

Every time I make the trek to Chinatown with other Webster University Thailand students I find that I consistently visit the same five places. These restaurants are not only excellent value for money, but they come highly recommended from my Thai university friends. As Bangkok locals who have been visiting Chinatown frequently for many years, I have full faith that they know only the best places with the tastiest and most authentic food.

Guay Tiew Kua Gai

Chicken pad thai

Chicken pad thai. Copyright: thesupe87 / 123RF Stock Photo

I normally begin my food journey (who am I kidding it should be called a food binge) at the beginning of Yawarat’s main road. Just a few steps in from the corner of Yaowarat Soi 6, you’ll find a small cart that serves the tastiest guay tiew kua gai (stir-fried noodles with chicken) that I’ve had so far. This family owned business has been situated here for more than 30 years during which time they have perfected this one dish. Opening at 7pm each night, it can get quite popular with lines beginning to form at around 9pm. If you’re hungry, I’d recommend ordering two servings, as despite being 30baht per bowl, the servings are a tad on the small side.

Yaowarat Toasted Buns

Yaowarat Toasted Buns

Yaowarat Toasted Buns. Photo Credit: K. Kaew Siwapat.

When I was first told about Yaowarat Toasted Buns from a friend I was a little sceptical regarding her claim that this place was an absolute non-negotiable stop in the evening’s itinerary.  To my mind, “buns with a sweet filling” sounds like something that I could pick up from the local 7/11 any day of the week. Oh how wrong I was!! With nine different flavors to choose from including chocolate, sugar butter and marmalade, you’ll definitely find something to treat your taste buds. With prices starting at only 15 baht per bun I can guarantee you that you’ll buy a few extras for friends back on campus.

Mu Toon Num Dang Mor Din

If you’re a vegetarian then this restaurant might not be the best choice for you. With a heavy emphasis on all things pork, unfortunately it is near impossible to convert the dishes here into herbivore friendly options. Packed full of pork balls and other various pig parts, their traditional dish (60 baht) is served in a clay pot with a rich and flavourful brown soup. The restaurant starts serving at around 9pm and is generally only open for 2-3 hours each night. You’ll find it directly across the road from the Kasikorn Bank – just look out for the long lines!

Lek and Rat Seafood Restaurant

BBQ shrimps

BBQ shrimps. Copyright: fotoall / 123RF Stock Photo.

Having eaten here on a few separate occasions, I think this must be one of the most popular restaurants in all of Chinatown. In saying that I’ve never had to wait long for a table, as the staff is ninja-like in their ability to serve food and promptly clear tables. Located at the beginning of Soi Texas, you can find just about any seafood dish that you can think of. I normally order the blood cockles, snails, giant prawns and squid, with a couple of standard Thai dishes for good measure. With all dishes reasonably priced, I suggest you order a spread so that everyone can share!

 Sweet Time

Thai dessert

Thai dessert. Copyright: vanillaechoes / 123RF Stock Photo.

I know exactly what you’re all thinking – how could I possibly fit in dessert after visiting four other food stalls already?! Whilst this concern is clearly valid, upon seeing the menu full of delicious hot and cold Chinese desserts, I’m sure you’ll find a small second wind. Open every night, Sweet Time serves desserts that are not only (somewhat) healthy but are just the right size to hit the spot. With English menus available and with photos on every table, your dessert choices range from super sweet to simply refreshing. Situated just west of Yaowarat Soi 9, keep an eye out for the big red umbrella.

The restaurants listed above are but a few of the hundreds of restaurants that are spread across Chinatown. No matter where you choose to eat or how far you stray from Yaowarat main road, I strongly suggest that you look out for restaurants with long lines. Even though this may seem counterintuitive, I can assure you that these places have the best food and are generally worth the wait.

Happy exploring and I hope this inspires you to undertake your own food journey!

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