For this month’s column I’m riding the BTS skytrain to an unfamiliar stop in search of some local and secret eateries. As always, I’m seeking out Bangkok’s best gastronomic gems. As the train speeds above the clogged city streets, the concrete jungle of Bangkok expands towards the horizon—its complex angular shapes revealing themselves like the perspective of an unfinished painting.
At Bang Chak BTS Station a vast building site immediately catches my attention. The old market I had enjoyed on earlier visits has vanished, replaced by a dusty building site soon become yet another towering condominium. I couldn’t help but reflect wistfully on the traditional charm and colour of the former fresh market, and on the web of economic and social relationships it supported—as well as all the delicious dishes I had tasted there.
My ultimate destination, however, is a Guangzhou-style restaurant on the other side of the road, on the corner of Soi Sukhumvit 60/2 (not that I really need the address, as the roast duck hanging inside the window display looked so appealing I couldn’t miss it).
First opened 30 years ago, the appropriately named Guangzhou Restaurant has undergone a modern makeover, though the atmosphere created by rows of ducks, eager customers, and busy staff are all clear signals that if the design has been updated, the restaurant’s essential appeal remain unchanged.
Focusing now on the menu, I order up a storm of dishes as if in trance: roast duck with green jade noodles (mee yhok), Guangzhou Sukiyaki, Pad Hainan and shrimp springrolls (Poh Pia Koong).
The first roast duck dish signals its imminent arrival with its fragrance. The five spices in the duck sauce are perfectly balanced, and the meat divinely tender. I dab my mee yhok noodles in the sauce while using my chopsticks to pick out pickled gingers, further elevating this already delicious combination.
The Guangzhou sukiyaki arrives right after the roast duck. The small bowl is filled with goodness. The perfumed soup contains coriander and fragrant spring onion, with a hint of chili. The wonderful broth is crammed full of goodies—tender pork, crispy jellyfish, shrimp, and pork liver. The sweetness of the soup is balanced nicely with the suki sauce, and is so unlike the famous modern sukiyaki shops around Bangkok that the taste of its sauce overpowers the flavour of its broth. Exquisite!
Next up is Pad Hainan (or “pad hai-lum”, the word Thais use for the Hainan region in China). This dish turns out to be quite a star. It surprises me with its unassuming look and screamingly delicious taste! The mix of al-dente vegetables and glass noodles is so soft and tender. And there’s an added bonus in the form of wdried shrimps that I come across from time to time.
The last order, Poh Pia Koong, is supposed to be an appetizer but I decide to give this a try along with the main course, following the lead of some of the tables around me. It’s served flat, unlike most springrolls which are cylindrical. The poh pia is filled with soft shrimp meat, wrapped with thin crispy blankets of flour. It’s best enjoyed by dipping it in an aromatic plum sauce that is a delicate balance of sweet and sour.
Address: Guangzhou Restaurant is at the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 60/2, and is open daily from 10am to 10pm. It’s really reasonably priced for the quality and quantity.