Many times when I walk down the streets of Bangkok, I feel like a stranger in my own city. The uniqueness of Bangkok—comprised of surprises and contrasts—is disappearing by the minute these days. The city is losing its charm and identity to land developers and government officials so quickly it seems like someone has spiked the city with yaa baa or speed. The old communities and ancestral settlements are being removed all around Bangkok, and when the city has less real life, well… doubly bad news: we get less local authentic street food too.
The latest incident of losing one of these heritage spots occurred at Pom Mahakan, or Mahakan Fort. It is the oldest settlement in modern Bangkok, with a long history of art, culture, and food. However, it’s being attacked by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority and the plan is to replace it with a canal-side park. But once the community—it’s people, architecture, culture—is gone, it can’t be put back.
One small glimmer of hope is that the damaging onslaught is not yet spreading to the street food restaurants nearby. Let’s walk a couple of blocks south of Pom Mahakan, on Maha Chai Road, to go taste one of my favorite Bangkok pad thai dishes at Lung Pa Pad Thai, an eatery that provides a simple juxtaposition to its more famous neighbor, Thipsamai Pad Thai, where so many tourists line up on the sidewalk waiting to eat.
I have always been a much bigger fan of Lueng Pa Pad Thai than its next door competitor. Lung Pa (Uncle Pa) passed away not long ago, but his family members are the same team who cooked side-by-side with Uncle Pa and continue cooking to this day. The pad thai here uses better quality noodles, or sen chan, and other ingredients like eggs, dry shrimps, peanuts, and prawns. The special pad thai to order here is the ‘90 Baht Pad Thai’, known as sen chan noodles with koong sod (big, fresh prawns), mun koong (shrimp fat), and hor khai (egg omelette wrapper). The light-brown and yellow blanket of egg hugs the pad thai inside. When I open it up, I give a little squeeze of juice from the crescent-moon shaped slice of lime, and sprinkle some dry chili on top. The chewiness of the noodles, coated with the light creamy shrimp fat, is divine—it’s neither dry nor oily, like so many others, and it’s perfectly al dente.
The side vegetables, often just an afterthought, are also lovely: banana blossoms, bean sprouts, pennywort, and green spring onions. I like to have a bite of pad thai and a bite of one of these vegetables to harmonize the taste and build more texture into each bite. I found that eating in this style makes me enjoy more of each bite and prevents me from gobbling it all up too fast! Making me reflect on other things that are being gobbled up too fast in this town.
Address: Pad Thai Lung Pa is situated inside the corner Chinese shophouse opposite Wat Theptidaram, on Maha Chai Road (or next door to Pad Thai Thipsamai). Open daily, 10am-2am (Closed every second Tuesday)