Bangkok transforms after the sun sets. The warmth of the street lights meets the chromatic glow of the shop signs. In the dark, the city’s secrets unfold.
This is most true in Talad Noi, the neighbourhood around Charoenkrung Road. By day, it’s busy, unsettled, and cacophonous, a medley of traffic and old-school commerce — shops selling snooker tables, oxygen tanks, and tin boxes; hole-in-the-wall noodle joints; lives being lived as they have for generations. But by night, it relaxes and a hush descends.
I love walking down New Road, as Charoenkrung Road is also known. When the shophouses close at sunset, food vendors arrive with their carts and magic happens. Recently, on my way to see live music at nearby Soulbar, my food radar began receiving delicious signals. I followed the smoke trail of a hot wok and found a white, neon light shining down on a menu above a cart on the corner across from Loftel 22, next to an oxygen-tank shop.
I was told this street stall, with no formal name, is commonly called “Khao Pad Puu Talad Noi,” after its bestselling item: khao pad puu, or crab fried rice.
When the khao pad puu made its way to my table, it looked simple and pallid. But its brilliance became clear with the first bite. Not just any fried rice has this kind of texture and flavour. Like well-prepared pasta, it was cooked al dente, or “to the tooth,” as they say in Italy. The ingredients, including pieces of cooked egg, rice, and crabmeat, were well-blended. Sprinkling it with white pepper and a squeeze of lime enhanced the taste.
Still spellbound by the smells, I ordered pad mee Hong Kong, or Hong Kong fried noodle. At first glance, it didn’t excite me, but the taste blew me away. The noodles were also cooked al dente. Rounded out with shiitake mushrooms, julienned cabbage, and crabmeat, the plate of wok-fried noodles was so exquisite that I lost track of time and nearly missed the live music I had come to see.
Address: Khao Pad Puu Talad Noi is located on Charoenkrung Road, opposite 7-Eleven and Loftel 22. It is open daily, except Monday, from 6pm-10pm.