Starry, starry bites3 min read . Updated: 07 Jul 2019, 10:45 AM IST
- Some of Bangkok’s ultra humble street food stalls have received Michelin ratings
- This are low-key eateries with easy, no-reservations access and great food
Sister Mole seems a lot grumpier since the last time I saw her, which was almost a year ago. Her trademark ski goggles—that have earned her the aforementioned moniker—shield 73-year-old Supinya Junsuta’s eyes from the flames that emanate from the propane-fuelled stove she commands. Over this, she deftly coaxes together the egg and crab-meat slurry in a huge wok filled with smoking oil. Legendary for its deep-fried crab omelette, her tiny streetside, dinner-only stall Raan Jay Fai, located on Mahachai Road in Bangkok’s Phra Nakhon area, is the only Thai street-food eatery that has been awarded one Michelin star. A feat that it accomplished in late 2017.
It was in August, while tucking into a plate of the fluffy, generously “crabby" omelette (800 baht, or around ₹1,800) and a side of her equally scrumptious jumbo prawn-redolent drunken noodles (400 baht), that I got my very first taste of her brilliance. And that’s also perhaps why Junsuta—who is known simply as Jai Fai—finds herself leading the Bangkok segment of the new Netflix show Street Food, a spin-off of the popular Chef’s Table series.
I am on a mission to navigate my way through a handful of Bangkok restaurants that have made it to the 2019 Michelin Guide to Bangkok, Phuket and Phang-Nga; they have a few things in common—easy, no-reservations-needed access and that all-important factor, affordability. My first stop is the iconic Go-Ang Khaomunkai Pratunam on the busy Phetchaburi Road in Pratunam, where a plate of khao mun gai will set you back by a mere ₹90. This signature chicken rice dish is a simple preparation of almost gelatinous slices of chicken breast set atop a bed of moist, garlic-flavoured rice and served with rounds of cucumber and a bowl of thin chicken broth. Started in 1960 as a nameless pushcart stall manned by a Hainanese immigrant to Bangkok, the brick-and-mortar eatery has been featured in Michelin’s bib gourmand category.
It’s very hard to miss the Michelin Guide-featured Wattanapanit, where I find myself seated—amidst assorted restaurant detritus like sacks of onions and crates of beer—for an early dinner. And I am not just alluding to the sweet Chinese spice mixture aroma that permeates almost the entire Ekkamai Soi 18 neighbourhood in Sukhumvit, where this old-school Chinese shophouse can be found. It is the sight of the jacuzzi-like cauldron of its famous kuay teow neua (Thai beef noodle stew) for 100 baht a bowl that will leave you a tad intimidated. Using a master stock that has been in the family for 70 years, using unique Chinese ingredients like goji berries and astragalus root along with the ubiquitous star anise and cinnamon, the dish can be customized to taste. You could order a bowl of kuay teow neua stew with sen yai (thick rice noodles) or sen mee (thin, almost vermicelli-like noodles).
Not many local Bangkok residents had heard of Ruean Panya until a few months ago. It was only when the latest 2019 Michelin Guide to Bangkok bestowed upon it a single star that people sat up and noticed this seafood haven. Located in the Bangkok suburb of Samut Sakhon, this family-run restaurant is part painting gallery and part restaurant, expertly blending food and art. Keeping up with the unconventional theme, Ruean Panya is a cluster of four separate cottages, with the main kitchen housed in the largest of the quartet. It is from here that owner and sole chef Pannee sends out one stellar dish after another, which means you can expect a hugely staggered meal service. But this in no way takes away from the culinary mastery and nuanced preparation. Signature dishes such as the sublime lhon pu, or mud-crab dip (300 baht), and the toasted giant prawns with salt (price varies according to catch) are worth the wait and their weight in gold.