I love strolling around the multi-cultural areas of Bangkok. One of my favourites is the zone that runs from Pahurat market, where a local Indian community sells textiles and spices, to Pak Khlong Talat, the famous flower market, packed with every imaginable kind of tropical flowers. These areas are also enlivened by local schools and arts academies that add a dose of youthful energy and dynamism.
In addition to being fun places to be, these areas are also hubs for delicious and reasonably priced local food.
It doesn’t matter what time of the day you arrive, the streets and alleys are always crowded with makeshift shops, food carts and, of course, throngs of hungry passersby. Many of these restaurants cater to students, teachers and locals who expect the best food at the most affordable prices.
After making my way through the churning crowds and running a gauntlet of various gastronomic temptations, I find myself in a little alley called Soi Kan Fai Fa which is my destination for the evening.
The air is suddenly infused with rich and smoky aroma of fried beef, emanating from Nittaya Neua Thod (fried beef). Owner and cook, Khun Nittaya greets her customers with a smiling face as she holds out her menu, which features special prices for students.
She has been selling her fried beef for many years but only recently moved to her current location. Her Neua Thod is perfect in texture, effortlessly soft and tender. Unsurprisingly, Khun Nittaya said she uses only the best quality beef and pays a lot of attention to cleaning the meat before marinating it for 20 minutes in fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar. There is no secret to the marinating process. The most significant part of the process is knowing exactly how to fry the beef in hot oil while maintaining its tenderness.
“It’s not complicated to fry beef but observing and understanding its temperature and colour require some experience and skill,” explained Nittaya.
When the oil is hot, she lays the freshly marinated beef in the hot wok while checking the colour of the meat and measuring the cooking time to ensure that the beef is fried just long enough for it to become a rich and tempting shade of golden brown.
To maximise the experience, Nittaya’s dipping sauce is unique, enhancing the flavours and elevating the whole experience to another level. Her dipping sauce is made with sugar, fish sauce, roasted red chili and aromatic sawtooth coriander.
There is not only Neua Thod but also cow tongue and liver. She slices the portions into manageable bite sized chunks and serves them up with the mouthwatering dipping sauce. Sometimes her clients call to place their orders and other times they travel to this area just to buy her famous Neua Thod. “It is my pleasure to make my customers happy for having my food,” declares Nittaya.