If it weren’t for friends and/or visitors who like to stay at the high-end hotels along the river, such as the Mandarin Oriental, the Shangri-La, and the Sheraton, I probably wouldn’t spend so much time in the area around nearby Charoenkrung Road. But I now have a new reason to visit!
Since the Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC) moved into the 80- year-old Grand Postal Building on Charoenkrung Road earlier this year, the once-glorious neighborhood has experienced a kind of renaissance. Old historical buildings have been converted into boutique hotels, small shops, creative businesses, restaurants, and bars—all of which are helping to reawaken the area and reveal the charm of Bangkok’s oldest road (and the adjoining riverside community).
Charoenkrung Soi 32 is lined with friendly street food stands, and among them is Sallim Restaurant, located in a long-standing shophouse. The serene green-coloured walls and the deep orange of the plastic table cloths first draw my attention. The front of the shop has a roti station on one side, and a drinks station on the other. Judging by the eclectic clientele—Thais, a Muslim family, and group of South Asian men—I know that this meal will be interesting, as the restaurant offers halal Pakistani, Indian, and Thai cuisine.
I start my order with salted lassi. It tastes so refreshing and has a good balance between the sour taste of yoghurt and the taste of salt. The television on the wall has an international news broadcast, though nobody is paying attention to it. The food alone is enough to absorb everyone’s attention.
Chicken soup comes first. I always order chicken soup whenever I have a chance, and this one meets my standards. The soup is light and well-balanced with the sweet taste of cooked onion, soft tomatoes, and crispy fried shallots. For main dishes I order chicken korma, beef karahi, and fried whole fish. I add to that order some buttered naan as the server—the owner—recommended.
When everything arrives it gets more interesting, because the dishes all look the same! It is impossible and confusing to identify them from their appearance alone. The only way to know the real taste of each dish is to sample it, which I do by wrapping a bite’s-worth of each in small pieces of naan. Then the secret of flavours, and surprise of the spices and texture are revealed.
The chicken korma is delectable. Its curry, which includes yogurt, is very smooth and mellow, while the beef karahi curry has a more sour and unique taste. Though they look the same, the two dishes couldn’t taste more different. The fried fish is mellow, simple and tasty. I recommend dressing each fish bite with a squeeze of lime and a dab of fish sauce: heaven!
Not only do I devour all the dishes, but I find room for a dessert of roti and condensed milk. Hot milk tea, without any sugar, is also ordered. The creamy taste of the milk in the tea goes along so well with the sweetness of roti.
Sallim serves the right portions and charges the right price. I hope the rebirth of the old river community will bring more visitors to experience both the old and new of the area—and the delights of Sallim.
Address: Sallim Restaurant is on Charoenkrung Soi 32. Open 10am till 8pm, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea time. Tel: 02 237 1060.