When I feel the first cool breeze of winter on my skin I know it’s time to revisit one of my favourite dishes, served in one of my favourite street stalls, in one of my favourite parts of Bangkok—Chinatown.
Chinatown is full of life at any time of the day or night. The streets here are always lined with colourful vendors, selling everything from DIY tools and expensive imported fruits, to Chinese porcelain and all manner of tschotskes. And like everywhere in Bangkok you are never more than a few steps from the next delicious snack—be it duck, noodles or sweets.
After nightfall the buzz remains in this part of town but the mood changes. The street scenes are played out in pools of yellow light, while dark shadows create intriguing shapes on the walls of nearby buildings. The whine of Chinese music and the smell of roasted chestnuts fills the air. A tangle of neon signs in Chinese and Thai scripts dance above the shops, marching like a luminous parade down the main drag.
But it’s not all noise, movement and light, one of the things I love about Chinatown is how one can transition from hustle and bustle to moody tranquility just by crossing a road or turning down an alley.
Siang Ki Khao Tom Pla (boiled rice soup with fish), my destination for dinner tonight, is nestled in one of those quiet alleys. To find it, walk past the Grand Tourist Hotel (to your right) and take the first side street on the right.
Though Siang Ki is off the beaten track, its prices are worthy of some of Bangkok’s fancier restaurants. You can pay anything from B300 to B500 per bowl, but rest assured you will get what you pay for. The quality is among the best in the city, and the flavours are outstanding.
My go-to dish is khao tom pla jaramed (white pomphet) and hoy nangrom (oysters). It is served in a tasty clear broth with big chunks of fish and a generous helping of oysters with homemade seasoned fermented soy sauce (known as tao jiew) on the side.
The taste is so good I don’t need any extra seasoning. I prefer to savour the soup just as it’s served. I use my spoon for the rice soup, and my chopsticks to pluck the oysters from the rich broth. Nothing is better than a big sweet oyster bathed in a salty sauce. More happiness awaits when I bite into the fish. Its sweet flavour and firm texture instantly brings a smile to my face.
Like many of Bangkok’s best eateries, Siang Ki has been a family run restaurant for generations. Every bowl is still prepared by the “aunty” of the family, who makes sure that the fish and oysters are absolutely fresh.
I’m pretty picky when it comes to khao tom pla, I won’t settle for anything less than super fresh. If I walk past any fish place and my nose picks up a fishy smell I’ll walk right on. But at Siang Ki I never hesitate to place my order right away, knowing just how fresh it always is.
I recommend sitting outside on the sidewalk so you can enjoy that cool winter breeze and take in the theatre of life that is Bangkok’s Chinatown.