Bangkok Sit Down Restaurants

There is a line between restaurants and street food in Southeast Asia; sometimes a blurry line, sometimes clear. Some countries skew one way, some another. Laos seems more restaurant focused. Thailand is all about the street.

Most of the meals we’ve been eating have been at street stalls, but some of the restaurants are worth visiting too. Some clearly started out as street stalls, and haven’t forgotten their humble beginnings. The Chinese roasted goose restaurant we visited is one such restaurant.

frontofhouse

The restaurant must have started as a street stall and only opened inside to accommodate more diners, the cooking is still done in the front area on the street. This place serves one thing, delicious roast goose, sliced, attractively plated with offal and blood cubes and doused in jus. Soup is optional, but the water spinach with crispy goose bits is included, which is a good thing because you can’t miss it. Cold tea is supplied to wash it all down. 

duck

We only two other sit down meals in Bangkok. One was soft serve at McDonalds for 9 baht ($0.30) to get free wifi. The other was the polar opposite, the full tasting at Nahm in the Metropolitan Hotel. Chef David Thompson was the first chef to receive a Michelin star for Thai food. He has been studying Thai food for 30 years and has written three incredible cookbooks; Thai Street Food is one of the best cookbooks of the last ten years. This was my chance to eat his food at the San Pellegrino #16 best restaurant in the world.

The atmosphere at Nahm is ideal. The restaurant patio butts up against a beautiful, serene pool. The banquettes are high backed and section off the room, blocking noise and offering lots of privacy. The music is perfect for the space.

canapes

Nahm’s tasting menu format is unique and works perfectly for their concept. You start with a spread of four canapes. Your table chooses one of each entrée category: a stir fry, a curry, a soup and a dip. This is followed up by an individual dessert from the selection. This allows you to eat the meal in the Thai style, communally sharing the entrees together over sticky rice, balancing the strong flavors of one dish with the subtleties of another.

entrees

The highlights included a perfect rendition of the one bite salad wrapped in betel leaf, a mussel satay and a very tasty crispy coconut cakes for dessert. All for around $60 per person, an amazing deal considering the company they keep.

desserts

Street Eats (pt 1 of many)

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If you have a few baht in your pocket, you can’t go far in this city hungry. Food exists on every street. Markets crowd the avenues and surround the parks. They shift like the tide.

The first day in Bangkok I thought I was lost, only to realize that I was on the right road, the market I’d previously walked through had changed completely in just three hours time.

On Si Lom Road, the 1/2 mile long market running both sides of the street has three distinct phases. In the early morning, it is snacks and food catering to the locals. Mostly take-away food ready to eat, for business workers to snatch up on the way to the office. After lunch time that market has broken down completely and a new one has taken it’s place. New booths and new vendors hawk fruit, baked goods and gifts, things for the local workforce to buy when they get out of work. Once the locals have left for the day, another market appears, selling souvenirs, knock off tee shirts, pot pipes and banana pancakes for the tourists.

Some markets specialize in ladies make-up and clothing, some in tourist trinkets, some in flowers, but the food is always present. I thought I had a handle on the food a couple of days in, but then I started to notice subtle variations in preparations and completely new dishes masquerading as familiar favorites.

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The fried chicken stands are ubiquitous, but upon closer inspection, the one on Convent rd with the long lines is actually making a really tasty fried chicken salad. This one should be pretty easy to recreate at home.

Breaded fried chicken thighs, cut off the bone and into small chunks, tossed with julienned carrot, red onion, white onion, scallion. Dressed with lime juice, fish sauce, chilies, sugar. Served over rice, with a sprinkling of roasted rice powder over it, this dish is simple, approachable and delicious. I’d like to try it with peanuts and ginger at home.

Avoiding Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Syndrome

The backpacker is a common site in airports, bus terminals, tourist sites. The ones that always stick out to me are the overloaded ones. Huge 100 liter pack on the back, filled to the brim, framed, towering over them, extraneous items lashed to the outside. Another, smaller daypack on the front, filled with more crap.

The physical burden is obvious, they toddle around like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I have to wonder about the other burdens. Obviously there is some small financial burden, from checking this as luggage or paying for it’s storage. There is the burden of time spent packing, unpacking, digging through it. Missed opportunities and slipped discs are both things I want to avoid.

The backpack is the lifeline, but also the burden. Balancing this is the challenge. Everything I need, but as little as possible. What do I really need? Here’s what I’ve put together, based on the advice of travel bloggers, friends and family.

First Level of Packing

Clockwise from Top Left: down jacket, sleeping bag liner, folding shopping bag, backpack, sandals, rain jacket, laundry bag

Down Jacket: Montbell Ultralight – 900 fillpower, 8 ounces, packs down to a baseball. Got slightly used from GearTrade.com for $111. Half of the weather protection plan.

Sleeping Bag Liner: Cocoon Coolmax Travel Sheets. Really comfortable but just a bit bulky. I’d love to get something smaller in the future.

Folding Shopping Bag – Timbuktu. Found it in my bedroom left by a previous tenant. Somehow I found it two years after she moved out. We’ll see how much use this gets. May get replaced by a plastic bag after a month.

Backpack  – Tom Bihn Synapse. 25 liters, well built, nice organization, highly recommended by Tynan.

Sandals – Rainbow double layer hemp sandals. Anti microbial, comfy (after the long break-in) and well built.

Rain Jacket – Marmot Micro-G. Hurricane level protection, packs down to a soda can. The other half of my bad weather gear. That’s it.

Laundry Bag – Fleece lined on the interior so I can turn it inside out, stuff it and use it as a pillow

Electronics

Electronics

Electronics (Clockwise from Top Left: Kindle, laptop, laptop charger, usb charger, camera battery charger, travel mouse, outlet adapter, flashlight, usb cables)

Kindle Paperwhite with plenty of books loaded up. Travel guides are loaded on here and the laptop. No hard copies. Maybe one real book just in case.

Laptop: Lenovo X220 Tablet – this thing is fast and works great but it’s bulky and heavy. I miss my Dell Adamo. The accompanying charger is oversized and has too much cable on it. If I had extra cash I’d scoop up one of these.

USB Charger: 4 ports, two 5V 2A, two 5V 1A. Plug folds away. Works on 110 and 220v. Two Micro-USB cables, one Mini-USB cable. Charges the phone, the Kindle, the flashlight and whatever anyone else needs charged. $15 on amazon.

Camera Battery Charger: I wanted a camera that charged via USB too, but I got a great camera on Craigslist for $70. Can’t say no to that. Guess I’ll lug this stupid charger around.

Travel Mouse: Folds flat, pops up for use. Nifty design, good feel, and it was free. Thanks Charlie!

Outlet Adapter: Converts anything to anything. The size of a deck of cards.

Flashlight: Very bright, long life LED flashlight. The lithium battery is recharged via USB. If I had more cash, I’d pick up this Flashlight/USB Battery Pack

Clothing

Clothing

Clothing (Clockwise from Top Left: 3 merino t-shirts, 3 merino boxers, cotton shorts, basketball shorts, 3 pairs merino socks, merino hoodie)

It’s all merino wool of varying brands and thicknesses. Anti microbial, odor resistant, moisture wicking wonder fabric. One pair of cotton shorts, one pair of basketball shorts for lounging, sleeping, swimming

Toiletries

Toiletries: (Clockwise from Top Left: deodorant, Dr Bronners soap, Lactase, travel toilet paper, Eucalan, sunscreen, shoe anti-stink spray, fish oil, vitamins, q-tips, nail clipper, razor, sewing kit, medical tape, lip balm, toothpaste, toothpaste, toothbrush)

The key to the toiletries set is the Dr Bronners soap. It’s bodywash, shampoo, shaving lotion and more, in one bottle. The Eucalan is special laundry detergent for wool, it replaces the lanolin, natural fats that keep the wool soft, comfortable and durable. The folding toothbrush has been replaced last minute with the Ionic toothbrush that I normally use at home. Small size, easy use, just as effective as all the expensive electronic toothbrushes but for $20. There’s also a minimal first aid kit. Everything ends up in three different Ziploc bags, organized into one thin nylon Dopp kit.

Stuffed into the bag, there’s also the following: Sleep Mask, Earplugs, Travel Clothesline, Sink Stopper, Deck of Cards, Pen and Moleskin Notebook, Maps (torn out of guidebooks, hole punched and key ringed together), Water Bottle, Travel Towel, Breath Mints

On my person: merino t-shirt, boxers, socks, Lucky brand jeans, leather belt, Sorel desert boots, belt wallet, phone, camera, passport, headphones.

That’s it. What do you think I am missing? What do you think I could get rid of and why?

 

When and where. How. Why is unnecessary.

In less than 72 hours, I leave for a journey. Wheels up in Chicago, wheels down in Bangkok. Three months, six countries, five hundred meals and a thousand poorly taken photographs.

This trip will be many firsts for me. First time in Asia. First time traveling for more than a few weeks. First time traveling with no itinerary, no schedule, no plan, no tour group or cruise ship captain.

It will be the longest time I’ve spent in non-English speaking countries. The longest time I’ve spent without a job in a decade. The longest I’ve lived out of a backpack. The longest without a home or a bed or a city to call my own. It will be an adventure.

Food is the main focus. Eating, cooking, shopping, tasting, watching, studying. If I can absorb some things, deconstruct, recreate, then I’ll be happy. This is where the years I’ve spent cooking professionally will pay off, I’m hoping. Beyond that, I’ll spend time outdoors: hiking, riding motorcycles, exploring caves, jungles, mountains. Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam. 24 hours in Hong Kong to cap it off (if I come home in time).

This is also a time for intense self reflection. Time to figure out what I want, what makes me happy, what I value, and what I can do without. If I can nail down these four simple things, I can make some decisions for the future.