Certifiably ill Mama noodles @ Jeh O Chula (Bib Gourmand)

Jeh-O-Chula

Bib Gourmand instant noodles? You betcha! This is the immensely famous Jeh O Chula (written in Michelin Guide as Jay Oh) with queues almost as legendary as Raan Jay Fai. I had the misfortune of dropping by without a reservation and the girl there told me it’ll be a 2 hour wait minimum. I had come from the dubious entertainment district Nana Plaza (claiming to be The World’s Largest Adult Playground) where I indulged in 7 beers and the company of questionable women. I also had dinner at Upstairs at Mikkeler prior to that, so I was still quite full.

Jay-Oh

Jeh O Chula is a surprisingly spacious restaurant with a huge kitchen churning out bowls and bowls of Mama noodles. I imagine such a fast-paced kitchen would have harried staff but they’re all really friendly. The ones closest to me posed when they saw me snapping a photo so I took a selfie with them. It’s like an assembly line of instant noodles to feed the appetite of the masses seated outside.

Dirty-Forty-Beer

It seemed inadvisable to order another beer after a huge dinner followed by a drinking session with unfamiliar women at a go go bar. My stomach was almost at capacity and I wondered if I would be able to finish all the food. I decided to try. This is Dirty Forty Amber Ale (160 baht) – a beer brewed in Perth, Australia but conceived in Bangkok. I drank it with delicious, refreshing ice. Don’t judge me bro, it was hot outside and I have been waiting for a long time.

Jeh-O-Mama

This is their famous Mama tom yam instant noodles with seafood. It’s a huge portion with 3-4 packets of Mama noodles inside. Jeh O Chula’s signature dish is tom yam soup and they use their homemade tom yam soup instead of the flavor packets in Mama, which is what makes this so good. There’s tons of prawn and squid and the noodles are crowned with 2 raw eggs, which adds a wonderfully creamy flavor and cools down the noodles.

Mama-Noodles-Bib-Gourmand

I immediately copied this idea for my cheat meals and I’ve been eating instant noodles with raw eggs since. Jeh O Chula has a beautiful tom yam soup base – it’s spicy and sour and hits all the right notes in whetting my appetite. I told the server I can handle very spicy food, Thai spicy, and this one delivered that in spades. It was almost too spicy but I loved it. I loved it so much I scarfed everything down, even though I was dangerously close to puking from the sheer amount of food.

Thai-Sashimi-Salad

I also ordered a side of their wonderful Thai style salmon sashimi. This is like a ceviche or umai – there is an acidic liquid made with lime that cures the salmon. It’s not entirely cured though, most of it is still raw. It sounds simple but the alchemy that goes into the ingredients produces such a delicious bowl of fresh seafood. This dish is out of control! The addition of mint and raw garlic kicks up the flavor by a few notches! I love it! Not to be missed.

Jay-Oh-Bangkok

I was so enamored by everything that I contemplated declaring Jeh O Chula as my top destination this trip. That would be exceedingly unfair to Gaggan and probably the beer talking so I’ll just say it’s the best comfort food I’ve ever had. I highly recommend their awesome Mama tom yam noodles and their insanely good Thai style salmon sashimi. Do note that Jeh O Chula only starts serving their famous Mama noodles after 11 pm. They have standard khao tom (congee) with cooked dishes before that. Visiting Jeh O Chula late at night for supper is something you must do when you’re in Bangkok. I can’t recommend it enough.

10-course dinner with beer pairing @ Upstairs at Mikkeler (1 Michelin star)

Upstairs-at-Mikkeler

Upstairs at Mikkeler by Chef Dan Bark is a tiny restaurant with only 5 tables that somehow managed to win a Michelin star. This was not entirely surprising as I have heard superlative reviews on the interwebs and from friends who have visited way before the Michelin Guide came to Bangkok. The Mikkeler brand is a craft beer brewer and Upstairs is literally the restaurant above the Mikkeler pub downstairs.

Upstairs

There were way more chefs and waiters than actual diners in the restaurant. The food prep is laborious and Upstairs at Mikkeler is also famous for their beer pairing, a very modern take on the wine pairing at other upscale restaurants. They’re a brewer after all. There’s no menu available – Upstairs only offers a 10-course tasting menu for 3,800++ baht with an optional beer pairing menu for 1,300++ baht. I went for both since there’s no way I’m passing on such an unusual beverage pairing.

Mikkeler-Passionfruit

Dinner started with an amuse bouche that was not listed in the menu. There are more than 10 dishes because of this. My friendly waiter described this as Vanilla whipped cream with lots of passionfruit and a bit of oats. It’s supposed to be an acidic start to whet your appetite since sour is a known appetite stimulant. It works!

Mikkeler-Say-Hey-Sally

The first few courses were accompanied by Mikkeler Say Hey Sally, a 4.6% alcohol pilsner. There are 6 beers in total and they’re mostly from kegs or draft, but the beer pairing guy will bring you the can/bottle so you can see for yourself and take photos if you want. Mikkeler even provides a smartphone tray beside your eating utensils so you have a proper place to place your phone. I thought that was a funny and excellent touch.

Upstairs-Amuse-Bouche

Bacon marmalade. Whole grain mustard. Maple syrup. Quinoa chip. It’s the perfect small bite before the meal proper. The chip was still warm due to the just-in-time preparation in the kitchen. Each course is only plated when they see you’ve finished the previous. The open kitchen and restaurant is small enough that the chefs can see your plates and tables. One caught me staring at her and smiled – that’s how small the restaurant was!

IKURA

IKURA – blueberry, hibiscus, thyme was the real first course. The bottom is thyme infused milk (excellent) with tapioca pearls and chips, hibiscus soaked water, and ikura (salmon roe) on top. It has a very unusual, bright flavor. To be honest, it doesn’t immediately register as good coz it’s so progressive but it’s certainly an intriguing dish.

Mikkeler-American-Dream

The upcoming carrot course signaled a change to the next beer – Mikkeler American Dream, a 4.6% hoppy pale lager. It was indeed very hoppy and bitter. The beer pairing guy explained that the next few dishes were sweet, so a bitter beer helps balances the flavors. I really like him. He’s a Thai guy who was born in Malaysia and he’s such a beer geek. It’s fun to learn from him.

CARROT

CARROT – goats milk, grapefruit, fennel is next. It’s carrot 6 ways (!!!) e.g. six different preparations of carrot from dehydrated carrot to puree. It’s paired with goat’s milk curd, fennel marmalade, lemon pudding. I really loved this dish! It’s delicious, sweet and goes well with the hoppy beer.

Brioche

There was also an extra course of homemade brioche with black lava salt and olive oil jam. This looks very simple but it ended up being one of my favorite dishes. Nothing beats good bread fresh out of the oven and the black lava salt really highlights the sweetness of the butter. The olive oil jam was delicious too. Very yums, but I know I can be biased coz I love bread.

POTATO

POTATO – bacon, cheddar, leek is the soup course. It’s very fragrant. As is the trend in fine dining, the waiter finishes the dish table side. I could smell it as soon as the waiter started bringing it over. It also has bits of shaved potato (including the skin) at the bottom which provides a nice textural element. It sounds simple but from the waiter’s description, the work that goes into a dish like this is not insignificant. They even make the bacon themselves.

Zeffer-Hopped-Cider

Zeffer Hopped Cider is next, a 5.4% alcohol cider. This ended up being one of my favorite drinks of the night. You know how commercial cider like Somerset is extremely sweet to the point of being off-putting? Other ciders go the opposite route and they’re so acidic it puckers not just your lips, but your entire body. Zeffer Hopper Cider is the perfect balance – it’s not sweet, but not too sour too. It’s also bitter so it’s nicely balanced. Bittersweet, but more bitter than sweet.

CAULIFLOWER

CAULIFLOWER – curry, grape, hoja santa. There’s grapes inside, which was pleasant. It adds a sweet touch to the salty curry. They also have sacred leaf, the Mexican leaf they use for cooking tamales. Upstairs only lists the first 3 ingredients of each dish so it’s up to you to discover some of the others and the waiter will give you a run-down afterwards. It’s a very textural dish.

HOKKAIDO-SCALLOP

HOKKAIDO SCALLOP – finger lime, dashi, cinnamon. This is a very Instagrammable dish.

Scallops

The waiter brought a bowl of cinnamon and stone with a teapot to my table. Upon serving the scallops, he poured cinnamon water over the cinnamon bowl to diffuse the essence of cinnamon over the table. He explained that the scallops were too delicate for cinnamon to be added directly so the chef thought of using smell to add the essence of cinnamon instead.

Smoke

This is also one of the first batches of finger lime they grow in Thailand. I’m familiar with the efforts to grow finger lime in Australia and they’ve started doing the same in Bangkok too. It adds a nice zest to the very fresh scallops in dashi.

Mikkeler-Windy-Hill

Mikkeler Windy Hill, a 7% New England IPA came next and it’s supposed to go with the upcoming 2 dishes. It has a heftier alcohol content to shift the dinner into the second phase. It’s a lighter tasting beer to wash away the fattiness of the next few courses.

WAGYU-BEEF

WAGYU BEEF – sherry, truffle, chive. This is Sanuki wagyu raised with beer. It’s proper Japanese wagyu raised in Japan and flown in, not the much inferior Australian cattle breed. There’s a shockingly delicious truffle paste to go with the beef, as well as chive powder and purple potato chip. I ate one of the slices by itself, one with the chive powder and one with the delectable truffle paste. They’re all yummy! The beef has lovely flavor and it’s not too fatty unlike some highly marbled wagyu. It’s also cooked perfectly – blue, which is raw inside. I love this dish to bits. The truffle sauce is intensely overpowering and pairs well with the beef. I could eat this all day. It’s my favorite dish of this trip.

HONEY-DEW

HONEY DEW – prosciutto, balsamic, white truffle. This is 16 month old prosciutto sprayed with white truffle oil. The waiter comes with a small bottle and sprays the white truffle oil right before you eat this. I was most impressed with the dense flavors within the 16-month-old prosciutto. That’s a long time to age meat! Why honey dew? That’s what it tastes like even though there’s no honey dew in here.

Boon-Lambiek

Boon Lambiek, 7.2% lambic. A lambic is a type of beer from Brussels in Belgium. It’s for the last savory course and the pre-dessert.

DUCK

DUCK – beet, black garlic, pumpkin. This is duck in 4 forms – sous vide, confit, grilled and fried. Upstairs also ferments the garlic sauce for 19 days! There’s pickled kelp noodle to go with the confit duck. The skin is fried. I like the main sous vide duck roll but the confit duck is off-putting to me. It’s so oily and cloying I found it impossible to enjoy it. This is not the fault of the chefs per se but a personal preference. I’m not a huge fan of confit duck and other such overtly rich preparations.

APPLE

APPLE is the trendy dessert called a pre-dessert nowadays to kick start the dessert courses. It’s served on a nice porcelain ring and it’s more like a palate cleanser since the shell of the apple is filled with liquid and it bursts in your mouth the moment you put it in. The waiter also warns you to eat this in one bite since there’s liquid inside.

Mikkeler-Beer-Geek-Thailand

Mikkeler Beer Geek Thailand is the last beer pairing, a 10.9% alcohol imperial stout to go with dessert. It’s the perfect end since the bitterness balances out the dessert dishes well. This beer is inspired by mango sticky rice and it’s brewed with jasmine rice, mango, coconut and lactose. It’s like a bittersweet dessert beer. My second favorite beer after the hopped cider.

PISTACHIO

PISTACHIO – cherry, rhubarb, rose. This is my favorite dessert. It’s a mixture of different textures and flavors with bright notes like rhubarb, rose petals and herbs as well and deeper notes like biscuit crumbs, pistachio and cherry. A most excellent and balanced dessert plate. Wonderful stuff.

CHOCOLATE

CHOCOLATE – banana, cranberry, yoghurt is a very sophisticated dessert. There are so many different chocolate preparations here – wafers, molds, ribbons etc. My favorite is the log filled with white chocolate and banana that oozes out when you cut into it.

Oozing-Center

It’s beautiful.

Upstairs-Petit-Fours

You’re served with coffee and a selection of petit fours to signal the end of the meal. I like the apple ribbon the most, followed by the chocolate chip cookie.

Upstairs-Mikkeler

I enjoyed my dinner at Upstairs at Mikkeler. The bill came up to a hefty 6,333 baht (RM 804) for 1 pax inclusive of full beer pairing, coffee and water. It’s half the price of Gaggan. The waiters are all very knowledgeable, friendly and they’re happy to share the preparation and stories that goes behind each dish. I liked the beer pairing guy too, an approachable true beer nerd from Thailand (born in Malaysia!). The food is good and the ambiance is great. You can see the chefs working from your table – that’s how intimate the space is. Definitely recommended if you like beer and food.

J’aime by Jean-Michel Lorain (1 Michelin star)

Jaime-Piano

I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback for this Michelin starred French restaurant in U Sathorn Bangkok. U Sathorn is a beautiful, sprawling colonial style hotel/resort with much of the associated accoutrements. The lobby is an open al-fresco space, which might not be the best option in the sweltering Thai heat, but thankfully J’aime restaurant itself has a more practical approach to air-conditioning. The main feature in J’aime is an upside-down piano as a centerpiece in the restaurant. The entire kitchen is also visible from the dining area so you can see all the chefs inside preparing your food. I thought that was a nice touch.

Jaime-Restaurant

There is a dedicated booth outside the restaurant for reservations. This fixture is usually just for show in similar restaurants and I’ve never actually seen it manned. However, J’aime dedicates a staff member here, which is a refreshing change. Very proper, very French.

Marine-Lorain

The restaurant manager is Marine Lorain. If her name sounds familiar, it’s coz she’s the daughter of Jean-Michel Lorain, the namesake and owner of the original two Michelin star La Cote Saint Jacques in Bourgogne, France. She’s unfailingly friendly and very knowledgeable about the local food scene. She found out I’m here to pay homage to the recently published Michelin Guide Bangkok. I had a nice conversation with her about which Michelin star restaurants are worth a visit in Bangkok.

Jaime-Cocktail

I was here for lunch and ordered their set lunch menu, an excellent value at 1,200 THB. They also have a shorter express 3-course business lunch menu for just 990 baht, but I went with the longer one. I was still mildly hungover from the wine pairing at Gaggan last night so I indulged in J’aime (350 baht) – their signature cocktail made with Ron Zapaca, Captain Morgan rum, Melon liqueur, lime juice and passionfruit.

Jaime-Bread

The bread selection is pretty good too. I enjoyed nibbling on these with butter, which was replenished after I finished the pat.

Orange-Scented-Eggplant-Soup

Orange-scented eggplant soup, ratatouille, and fennel salad. The soup is poured on the dry ingredients table side. It’s creamy and there’s a lot of texture underneath. Pleasant.

Cacao-Nibs-Quinoa

Romaine lettuce garnished with avocado, cacao nibs, and olives, served with quinoa and a lime & cucumber juice. Corn, tomato, and a fresh herb garden. This salad came in two separate plates and you’re supposed to mix them together. I never would have thought salad would taste so good!

Fresh-Herb-Garden

It’s the most delicious salad I’ve ever eaten and that’s saying a lot. There’s a lot going on here – oils, foams, greens, grains. It’s fresh and every element adds something to the plate. I particularly enjoyed the green avocado foam.

Monkfish-Wakame-Plankton

There are two mains you can choose from, either Monkfish, eryngii mushroom, and wakame seaweed, with a rice & plankton emulsion or Duo of Phetchabun cherry duck breast and leg, served with mulberries and morning glory. I went with the monkfish as per Marine’s recommendation. It’s cooked well and flakes off beautifully. I also like the seaweed and plankton on the side – what better to accompany a piece of fish than marine foliage?

Candied-Fruit-Fig-Sorbet

Lightly spiced candied fruit with a fig sorbet, and a walnut & almond cracker ended the meal. I love this dessert! I’ve been moving away from chocolate based desserts recently and find that I appreciate the less sweet and more complex fruit based desserts more. This was perfect! It’s just the right note of sweetness (which is barely) and has nice acidic undertones from the fig and textural elements in the walnut and almond cracker. Excellent.

Amerigo-Tito-Sesti

J’aime does classical French cooking very well and their lunch set is exceedingly good value. I spent 1,590 baht (RM 202) inclusive of a cocktail and water. The service is attentive and the food is delicious. You’ll enjoy this if you like the French approach to cooking. I managed to take a photo with Head Chef Amerigo Tito Sesti too! Please excuse my prosperous stomach.

Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin (1 Michelin star progressive Thai)

Sra-Bua-by-Kiin-Kiin

I scheduled Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin as my last meal in Bangkok. I was flying back in the late afternoon so I made a lunch reservation. Sra Bua is in the beautiful Siam Kempinski Bangkok hotel. I’ve stayed at Kempinski Taschenbergpalais in Dresden and Kempinski Gravenbruch in Frankfurt and I’ve always been impressed by the excellent service there. I left my bags at their concierge for the whole day while I had lunch and walked around Siam Paragon. If the name Kiin Kiin sounds familiar to you, it’s the Michelin starred Thai restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. They’ve opened an outpost right in Bangkok and I’ve heard so many good things about the progressive Thai food they serve.

Sra-Bua

I was surprised to see every single table occupied when I arrived for lunch. This is very unusual, especially for a lunch service. I doubt all but the most popular restaurants can boast such a capacity. Sra Bua has a large odd-shaped dining room with chandeliers, water features, starched linens and servers in uniform. The waitresses are all trained well, able to explain the dishes and perform on demand (as is necessary to introduce some of the dishes).

Summer-Menu

I went for the seasonal Mini Summer Journey menu (2,100 baht) which was also promoted by a huge billboard outside the hotel. This is a special menu for summer and they don’t serve their regular (shorter) set lunch menu while this promotion is going on. They hand you a complimentary cup of lemongrass tea while you peruse the menu. I thought that was a nice gesture. Each table also has a huge bound book filled with Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin’s recipes you can read if you’re bored.

Tuk-Tuk

The meal started with the Street Food and Snacks appetizers and a bit of theater – my waitress came with a covered cloche and opened it with a flourish at my table. The smell of burning smoke filled my table. “Welcome to Bangkok”, she said with a smile. “Here’s some tuk tuk smell”. I thought that was quite clever.

Street-Food-and-Snacks

This came as a trio of appetizers – there’s a nacho dusted with their Sra Bua curry dust (which is made from actual curry and dehydrated for a few days before being turned into powder), the tuk tuk skewer bite and some dehydrated lotus root served on real lotus pods.

Lotus

The plating and presentation of everything was spot on.

Magic

My waitress then came with a bowl filled with black grain, which she presented to me. “There’s nothing inside”, she declared. She then shook the container vigorously, applying centrifugal force, before opening the lid with a flourish. “Magic” she said with a smile when a brown nugget appeared.

Wasabi-Biscuit

It’s a piece of bread that you’re supposed to eat with the wasabi sauce they had previously put on your table after telling you the other part is coming. I love this interactivity and storytelling. 10/10.

Smoke-Foie

Roasted Foie Gras, Mushroom Ravioli, Five Spices Pork Ravioli and Mushroom Bouillon came next with a cloche covering a cracker. This was opened so the smoke wafts out and you can smell it while eating. Beautiful. The generous chunks of foie gras was smoky and creamy. I love the mouthfeel. It goes very well with the Thai inspired pork ravioli.

Bouillon

There’s also very clear consommé poured by the waitress before you dig in that tastes intense and delicious. The yellow dabs of sauce have a mustard base to cut through the richness of the foie gras/pork ravioli.

Roasted-Foie-Gras-Mushroom-Ravioli

It’s a perfect dish. The cracker is infused with dust which wafts delightfully when you take a bite.

Nitrogen

Maine Lobster Salad, Frozen Red Curry is the signature dish of Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. It comes with billowing clouds of smoke from liquid nitrogen. It’s a whole lobster that’s been deshelled and served with herbs and edible flowers. There’s a scoop of their curry ice cream (curry sauce made into ice cream) and foam which tastes like the sea. The liquid nitrogen is not just for show – it’s there to prevent the curry ice cream from melting.

Maine-Lobster-Salad

All these components go so well together. The perfectly poached lobster is delicious when paired with their awesome curry ice cream and marine foam. I could have happily eaten this every single meal for the rest of my life. Excellent!

Slow-Cooked-Beef-Rib

Slow Cooked Beef Rib with Homemade Oyster Sauce was served next and it’s the only dish my camera AI recognized as “Food”. All the other dishes didn’t trigger the food AI. It’s so progressive it doesn’t look like food. The beef rib was wonderfully smoky and tender. They also serve a small bowl of rice with it so you’ll have something to pair it with. A thoughtful idea since the oyster sauce is quite salty and this is after all, a Thai way of eating. I love the crispy dehydrated vegetable too.

Mango-with-Sticky-Rice

The meal ended with an interpretation of Mango with Sticky Rice as dessert. It has vanilla ice cream and sticky rice at the bottom and comes served with a cotton candy cover which is dissolved by the application of hot mango sauce. It tasted alright but I’ve seen too many such executions in trendy cafes to be impressed. This is not Sra Bua’s fault though.

Sra-Bua-Petit-Fours

There was also complimentary coffee, which is a refreshing change. Usually coffee is charged at these restaurants for RM 20-30. The petit fours were dainty and unique – I particularly loved the cinnamon looking one, which is actually some kind of raw (as in nama) chocolate. Very unique textures and flavors.

Sra-Bua-HB

I really enjoyed Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. I truly think they deserve a second Michelin star. My experience here was almost on par with the 2 Michelin star Gaggan. My only regret was not choosing this for dinner so I can have a longer menu and dining experience. Lunch cost me 2,472 baht (RM 313) with water. I can’t recommend them highly enough – in fact the only two Bangkok Michelin restaurants I would recommend without reservation is Gaggan and Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. I will definitely be back for dinner next time I’m in Bangkok.

Nahm, Bangkok (1 Michelin star)

Nahm

Nahm is rated as the 10th best restaurant in Asia by the well regarded S.Pellegrino list. They also have a Michelin star in the Bangkok Michelin Guide. I was quite excited to try this restaurant as the owner is an Australian (Chef David Thompson) whose Nahm London was the first Thai restaurant to get a Michelin star. It’s unusual for an Aussie to be regarded as a trailblazer for Thai food in Thailand so the kudos doesn’t come with some amount of controversy. However, he has since stepped down and given over the reins to Chef Pim Techamuanvivit (who owns the 1 Michelin Star Kin Khao in San Francisco).

Nahm-Lunch

I must admit, I’m not an expert in Thai cuisine and I don’t know enough about flavor combinations and classic spices to comment on that. I just know what tastes good to me. I’m hitting up several Thai restaurants with a Michelin star this trip (Nahm, Sanah Jaan, Bolan and Sra Bua) so I can compare between them. I thought my Bangkok Michelin star collecting trip should include an appropriately large sample of Thai food restaurants.

Nahm-Bangkok

Nahm is located at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, which is a nice hotel in a swanky neighborhood. There’s a private school just up the road. You can see the pool from the restaurant and the interior of Nahm is decorated elegantly. There’s soothing Thai instrumentals playing softly over the speakers and the lighting is subdued, but with powerful directed lights illuminating the tables so you can see your food when it comes.

Nahm-Rice

The service was excellent too. I had a very attentive (in a good way) waiter that anticipated my needs and wants. From our conversation, he found out that I’m a food geek and offered me a tour of the kitchen by the chefs, which I enjoyed very much. I like how some service staff is astute enough to know what you like and provide that proactively without asking. It’s a sign of great service. 10/10.

Chatri-IPA

I ordered a Chatri IPA (360 baht). It’s a collaboration edition between Full Moon Brewworks in Phuket and Stockade Brew Co in Australia. It’s a very hoppy beer, pleasantly bitter and grassy tasting. It goes very well with strong tasting Thai food.

First-Bite

The first bite was a savory crepe made with prawns. It’s crispy and sweet-savory. It tastes very shrimpy and goes well with the sweet toasted coconut topping. I went for the lunch set menu for 1,600 baht. You get both canapes, a choice of one each from the entrée, soup, curry and wok fried, steamed and grilled sections as well as a dessert.

Nahm-Canapes

The canapes was Bright santol dressed with dried shrimp, pork, peanuts and herbs served on crisp rice crackers (470 baht) and Miang of lobster, chicken, green mango, snake fruit and herbs served on thong-lang leaves (500 baht). Santol is a tropical fruit that is shaped like a mangosteen but orange in color. The server recommended eating the santol one first since betel leaf is quite intense tasting. I liked it but I prefer the miang kham interpretation. I love the addition of snake fruit (what we call salak in Sarawak) in the betel leaf (actually Indian coral tree leaf, the other leaf they use for this). It’s very flavorful, complex and appetizing, three characteristics you want people to describe your entrée.

Nahm-Entree

I chose the Fiddlehead ferns from Northern Thailand with songkla wild prawns and delicious tawai dressing (780 baht) as my entrée. The fiddlehead ferns were perfectly cooked, as was the accompanying juicy shrimp. The prawns added the taste of the sea into the dish and the coconut and chilli notes rounded things up. It’s excellent but a bit difficult to eat with the provided spoon. A fork would have been better.

Nahm-Main-Courses

The main dishes all came together next. I’ll go through them one by one. You’re supposed to eat the dishes together with rice, of which two varieties were served. There’s a Thai red rice option that tasted surprisingly good and a white fluffy variant I preferred (Suphanburi young harvest rice). These were topped off promptly too, the waiter will come with the two mounds of steaming rice on banana leaves when he sees you’re about to finish yours.

Tom-Yum

I liked the Tom yum soup of river prawn, blue foot mushrooms, chilli jam (450 baht) with a single large prawn. This was my choice of soup. The spiciness level is quite intense even for me, and I eat Thai bird eye chillis raw by the bunches. It’s very good though. It’s so sour and flavorful! The soup really whets my appetite.

Red-Curry-Duck

Rich red curry of duck with snake fruit, sour yellow eggplant and chilli leaves (770 baht) was decent. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about it. It just had the misfortune of coming out with the stellar fish, which overshadowed it. It’s decent and spicy, just a bit too oily for my tastes. Not my favorite thing.

Steamed-Grouper

The fish was the real star. I went for the Steamed leopard coral grouper with pork, fermented yellow beans and fried garlic (880 baht). It’s red coral steamed perfectly with aromatics. So delicious, I wanted more. There’s a lot going on here, both flavorwise and in the texture department. I saw whole taucu bean split in half and there’s some crunchy elements in the dish too.

Pandanus-Dumplings

Dessert is a sesame crepe and a local Thai sweet with a dish described simply as Pandanus dumplings in fragrant coconut milk (350 baht). I spooned one mouthful and was so pleased I exclaimed “Mmmm…” out loud! I thought it was bubur cha cha or something similar. I expected it to be hot. It’s not. It’s icy cold with shards of tiny ice. The strong and intense jasmine taste is spectacular. You can smell it before you eat it and the jasmine permeates all your taste buds and sense of smell. So awesome! They make it with jasmine scented water.

Nahm-Me

The pandan dumplings are delicious too. They’re not sweet, almost neutral and slightly bitter. It’s perfect paired with the mildly sweet jasmine water. It was so good I ordered another serving a la carte. No joke. The a la carte one came with more dumplings and an additional crepe. My waiter sheepishly told me that the set menu only has 1 crepe and less dumplings but the a la carte has more. This dessert also tastes better when you break the crepe into the dish for a crunchy texture. Such a strong finish!

Nahm-Kitchen

I was given a tour of the kitchen courtesy of my waiter. He introduced me to Head Chef Jan, who delegated another younger chef to bring me around the kitchen. Nahm has a huge kitchen, with a finishing/plating area featuring the same lamps that are in the dining room, presumably so they can see how it actually looks like outside. There’s a dry area, a wet area and a special kitchen for pastries/desserts. There’s even a charcoal grill inside where they can grill prawns for that authentic smoky flavor! I also went to the kitchen they share with the rest of the COMO Hotel F&B outlets. I hear this is where they prepare room service.

Ending-Bite

The ending bite is a small bite they give you when you ask for the bill. It’s the polar opposite to the first bite, the yin to that yang. This cracker is sweet instead of savory but the filling is the same toasted coconut. I thought that gave the meal a nice and symmetrical cap.

Nahm-Chefs

I highly recommend Nahm for Thai food. Their lunch is a great deal at 1,600 baht. I went with a beer (360 baht) and an additional pandanus jasmine dessert (350 baht) so my bill was 2,718 baht (RM 343). Lovely ambiance, excellent service, great food. I couldn’t ask for more. Recommended!

Raan Jay Fai, Bangkok (1 Michelin star)

Jay-Fai-Crab-Omelet

This crab omelet place with 1 Michelin star has been getting a lot of hype as the first and only street food to snag a star in the Bangkok Michelin Guide. The crowd waiting (in)patiently for a seat in Raan Jay Fai shows that people are still very willing to wait hours for a taste of their famous crab stuffed omelet. I made a booking via email and still had to wait 1 ½ hours to get my food. Some of the walk-ins have waited upwards of 5-6 hours! The wait is excruciating coz Jay Fai insists on cooking every single dish herself over a charcoal fire.

Jay-Fai-Bangkok

There was a Thai man who got rather irate at a group of Caucasians who let another two late-comers join them. They were not part of the original group. However, the well-run front of house politely let the interlopers know they can’t stay. The service side is run by Jai Fai’s sister (as heard from Marine, daughter of Jean-Michel Lorian who runs the 1 Michelin Star J’aime) and she is unfailingly warm and friendly.

Jay-Fai-Queue

People who walk in are expected to stay in the area as she’ll call their numbers every hour on the hour. You’ll forfeit your spot if you leave or fail to respond. There are several tables and chairs outside for people waiting. You can’t enter the premises until your number is up. I had to wait outside until my 8 pm reservation too. You’re only seated once your timeslot is available so the inside is for customers about to eat only. I thought that was a great way of making it uncluttered.

Jay-Fai-Reservation

I can see my name and email at the reservations list. They’ll ask you to show the original email to confirm that you’re indeed who you say you are. There must have been cases of people trying to pass themselves off as someone else in the past due to the exceedingly long wait.

Thai-Airways

It’s probably the only Michelin starred restaurant in the world to use cutlery nicked from Thai Airways though. I thought that was pretty funny.

Crab-Omelet

I ordered their famous crab omelet. There are no more small and big sizes, it’s now 1 size only for 1,000 baht (RM 126). It came beautifully brown and glistening. Jay Fai only uses 2 eggs in this omelet, the rest of the bulk comes from crab meat! There are no fillers either so everything inside this huge roll is de-shelled crab meat. I thought it’ll be very oily since it’s deep fried in a wok filled with oil but it’s not. The crab meat inside is still succulent too. It goes so well with the slightly acidic sweet chilli sauce they serve on the side.

I really enjoyed this dish. The luxury of eating massive amounts of crab meat without having to go through shells is not something to be scoffed at. I felt like a maharaja who had servants de-shelling the crab for me. It tasted delicious too. 10/10.

Drunken-Noodles

I also went for the Drunken Noodles (500 baht or RM 63). These are flat pieces of chewy noodles cooked with tender squid, delicious crab (the same de-shelled crab found in the omelet), soft cuttlefish, juicy huge prawns and toothsome mushrooms. It’s a seafood bonanza. I thought it tasted good too, for the first few bites at least. Then the sodium hit me. This dish is unbearably salty! This is coming from someone who smashes 3 packets of Mi Sedaap in a single sitting so when I say something is salty, it probably means it’s excessively so. I had to struggle to finish eating this. It’s good but Jay Fai should really work on the sodium content.

Jay-Fai

Raan Jay Fai is one of those Bangkok experiences you have to go through. The bill came up to 1,525 baht (RM 192) with the crab omelet, drunken noodles, and water to drink. I enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with waiting with total strangers. I had a nice long conversation with my tablemate, an Indonesian programmer working in Africa. One highlight was a Caucasian girl clapping her hands excitedly when her crab omelet arrived. “I’ve never waited for something this long”, she exclaimed.

She’s been waiting since 3 pm and it was 9:30 pm when her food arrived. “Let’s order another beer to celebrate,” she proclaims and the whole restaurant started cheering whenever everyone got their food, including me. I thought that was pretty cool, a shared bond that you’ll only get after hours of being cramped together in a small non-air conditioned shop lot on a hot Bangkok night.

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Scam

damnoen saduak floating market

or how we got scammed in Thailand and ways to avoid it

I have vague memories of people being scammed at the Damnoen Saduak floating market in Bangkok but never really researched it. Thus, when our taxi driver offered to take us on a full day tour for just THB 1,200 (RM 120), I didn’t bargain and thought it was a pretty good deal.

boat tour

I didn’t want the extras, I just wanted to cram in two floating markets (Tha Kha and Damnoen Saduak) for the day. It takes about 40 minutes to an hour to reach the latter and there’s a reason the taxi driver gave a lot of excuses not to go to Tha Kha (it’s too small, you won’t like it, etc).

floating market

Damnoen Saduak floating market is basically a well known tourist trap. It’s what you see on the postcards and has lost it’s original meaning of being a floating market for locals but rather a scam to bring tourists there for the same trinkets and souvenirs you’ll find on the streets of Bangkok.

tha kha floating market

Tha Kha floating market is the one that locals go to.

scam floating market
Unhappy tourists who were conned before us

Anyway, the way the scam works is that taxi drivers offer you a really good price for a day’s tour (you can hire the cab to go anywhere for the day) and bring you to a pier where you’re forced to take a boat tour. Our driver kept insisting that there isn’t a way to go to the big Damnoen Saduak pier, which isn’t true as we found out.

salt farm

It took us an hour and you can see lots of salt flats where they farm salts on the way to Damnoen Saduak floating market. It’s quite interesting to see the locals harvest salt and sell it in bulk by the roadside.

damnoen saduak scam

We got shuttled to Shang 2 Pier. I later found out that there are heaps of “private piers” like this one – they arrange a commission with the cab drivers to bring tourists here. A woman immediately approached us as we pulled in and told us it’s THB 3,000 per person or THB 5,000 per boat for a 1 hour boat tour of Damnoen Saduak floating market.

That’s RM 500 for the boat!

floating market scam

I said no way and walked back to the taxi driver and told him to bring us straight to the Damnoen Saduak floating market pier. He kept insisting that there’s no roads to go there except by boat. His English was pretty bad but I told him I don’t want a boat tour and finally the woman (who followed us over) said she’ll do it for THB 2,000 (about RM 200) per person.

That’s a ridiculous price and not knowing if there’s actually a way to the pier of the Damnoen Saduak floating market, I finally bargained with the woman and got us a covered motorized boat for a 1 hour tour for THB 1,700 (RM 170) per boat.

private pier

I realized later that we could have gotten it for much cheaper had we bargained more but there’s no way out of this scam, the driver will just drive you to different “private piers” which are just fronts for scamming people into expensive boat tours.

boat vendors

The driver of the longboat to Damnoen Saduak floating market was nice though and even helped us take a photo (which we learned some other less scrupulous drivers will charge you for).

damnoen saduak us

Damnoen Saduak floating market is a tourist trap but it’s worth a visit for the experience if you don’t mind paying the over-inflated price. It’s like the Venice of Asia with the canals and waterways. The shops are right beside the canal – it’s now concrete after the tsunami and floods but still interesting to see shops where you literally have to row up to.

coconut sugar farm

There are also various boats selling food and a coconut sugar farm inside.

coconut sugar

I liked the coconut sugar – it’s exactly like those brown sweets from primary school except this is a large, hot wok and the taste straight from the paddle is incredibly sweet and nostalgic. They also offer a tour of the coconut factory but we didn’t go for that one.

It’s quite a nice experience sitting in a boat while traversing the waterways of Damnoen Saduak floating market but getting scammed into the boat tour took some of the fun out of it. You can get a (much) cheaper boat hire by getting to the Damnoen Saduak floating market pier itself. The pier bit in that last sentence is the most vital part – that’s where the regular boats depart.

floating market stalls

I hear it is near impossible to get a taxi to go to the pier itself since they have lucrative deals to scam tourists into the private piers for the commission (the lady consulted with our taxi driver on the THB 1,700 price before agreeing). There are also tours which scam you into the private piers so be careful of that.

damnoen saduak pier

My suggestion is to go to a floating market that the locals actually use e.g. Tha Kha floating market and take a boat to Damnoen Saduak floating market from there. I got quoted THB 200 an hour per boat for a tour (RM 20) departing from Tha Kha before bargaining.

floating markets

That’s a huge difference from THB 1,700 and closer to the real price. Tha Kha is more of a pier and not the postcard picture perfect floating market you think of but it’s a nice market where practically no one speaks English and meant more for locals. It’ll be hard to convince a taxi driver to go there though.

grilled bananas

Ours didn’t want to go to Tha Kha at all until much coercion and asked for THB 100 for lunch which I absolutely refused to give after the scam he pulled. I only gave it to him when he said it’ll come out of the THB 1,200 price we agreed upon (e.g. I’ll just pay THB 1,100) coz he didn’t have any money for lunch.

damnoen saduak

When it was time to go back, our taxi driver put the meter on so I thought he wanted to scam us again (it’s THB 2,000 from Damnoen Saduak floating market to Bangkok if you follow the meter) but I was quite hostile to him and paid just THB 1,100 and left.

damnoen saduak photo

The Damnoen Saduak floating market scam is pretty well documented. Be careful of the private piers and go straight to the Damnoen Saduak pier. If you want a more local experience, get a taxi that’ll bring you straight to Tha Kha and head to Damnoen Saduak floating market from there, which will cost just THB 200 (RM 20) per boat.

One day in Bangkok!

bangkok

I applied for a debit card before I came here coz I always felt that having a debit card when you’re traveling is essential. I also thought that since I’m gonna be spending more often than I would while back home, it would be apt that I tried to win prizes every time I swipe my card. ;)

cash connect

Speaking of which, RHB is currently running a ‘Spend Small, Win Big’ contest, and the prizes up for grabs are pretty attractive:

  • 1 x Nissan Almera 1.5E(A)
  • 1 x Honda CBR250R Mugen
  • 3 x iPhone 5 (16GB)
  • 5 x Mini iPads (16GB)

I’m eyeing the iPhone 5 myself. I just needed to spend the equivalent of RM 30 to qualify for an entry – it’s all done automatically so you don’t even have to fill out any forms! I’ll have plenty of quirky places to do just that on my vacation so I figured it would be nice to bring it to Bangkok! :)

Jatujak Market

jatujak market

The place is heavily commercialized now but still fun to go to when you’re in Bangkok. Contrary to popular belief, this is no longer a “cash only” market – you can also use cards. I applied for the RHB Debit Cash-Connect MasterCard and put cash in it so that I can manage my spending.

jatujak

You know how hard it is to do that on vacations if you have a credit card. I figured it’ll be much safer to bring my RHB debit card instead of lots of cash and use that instead.

shop

I bought a couple of shirts and souvenirs here. There are boutique shops that will even customize attire for you! I spent THB 400 in just one shop (about RM 40) – it’s one of those witty t-shirt places and a bunch of Americans (I presume) were laughing loudly at all the funny words and pictures on the shirt.

Internet access

hotel

Our packaged tour got mixed up and we stayed at 3 different hotels over 5 days (!!!). The first one doesn’t have internet access so I bought a 24 hour net access card for THB 600.

pool

That’s around RM 60

net

…and the worst part was we shifted hotel right after I bought it. -_-

Oh well, at least that got me a contest entry.

Groceries at 7-Eleven

thai easter eggs

Now, the 7-Eleven in Bangkok has a lot of interesting stuff. I’ve mentioned it before on one of my posts. I only got the equivalent of RM 10 at the time but on the last trip (we went to 7-Eleven each night) I spent almost THB 500 (RM 50).

frozen pork burgers

I mostly got a lot of these microwave pork burgers to bring back home. :)

security

My check-in luggage got opened by customs – probably due to the suspicious package – so it’s a good thing I had a TSA lock (which allows customs to open your lock with their special key without damaging it).

Gourmet Market @ Siam Paragon

durian chips

This is an awesome place that first visited 7 years ago. Siam Paragon was a new mall then and the Gourmet Market was newly opened. It’s an import specialty shop.

hello kitty rice

We bought loads of stuff to bring back. Everything from Hello Kitty rice flavoring (it’s supposed to be sold only in Japan according of the label on the back)…

durians

…to durians!

hokkaido milk

I also got some awesome Hokkaido milk! The total cost was THB 857.50 – about RM 86.

Mango Sticky Rice Blizzard

dairy queen

You can only get this Blizzard at the Dairy Queen in Bangkok. :)

thailand dairy queen

It’s a country-specific specialty that goes for 690 baht (about RM 6.90) for the large version. It has a lot of sticky rice on top of mango ice cream and it tastes really good – a great twist on the street vendor version.

dairy queen mango bar

There’s also Mango Bars – only available in Thailand. I figured since we were going to freeze the pork burgers to bring back, we might as well try bringing this back too. The total amount on the bill was around 350 baht (RM 35) – bought an extra couple of sticks of ice cream to bring the total over RM 30.

dairy queen mango sticky rice

My RHB debit card also has a 0.5% unlimited cash back in addition to the contest. You just need to apply for the RHB Debit Cash-Connect MasterCard and tell them you’ll be traveling so the card will be activated for overseas spending. The best thing about the contest is that you only need to spend RM 30 and entry is automatic! No more filling in long and bothersome forms while you’re on vacation! :)

Eating Fried Insects in Bangkok: Beetles, grasshoppers, frogs, crickets, worms, red ants!

fried insects

It’s a veritable feast of creepy crawlies! The first thing I think of when I see, say, a spider, is to throw a shoe at it. The Thais go about it in a completely different way. The immediate thought seems to be “I’ll fry and eat it!”. smirk

fried insect stall

I found this street vendor selling all sorts of deep fried insects on the streets of Bangkok. Okay, frog is not actually an insect but she also had grasshoppers (huge and small ones), crickets (not the sport), beetles (which I am secretly scared of) and even red ants! Deep fried red ants! Imagine that!

deep fried insects

I bought a pack of large grasshoppers for 20 THB and a mixed bag of every single insect she had for 30 THB (RM 5 total). The street vendor laughed and complied with my request – a deep fried cricket here, a sprinkling of deep fried red ants there. There’s even two types of beetles (water beetle and weevil). It’s supposed to be a delicacy here.

fried bugs thailand

I ate it sitting on the steps where my girlfriend took this video of me eating all the deep fried insects:

I also made her eat some, much to her disgust, but at least now she’s tried it. :)

I’ll give a quick review of the insects:

fried grasshopper

Deep fried grasshopper
Surprisingly crunchy and delicious but the legs can have spines that can cut your tongue.
Deep fried frog
These are tiny frogs that can fit in my hand. They don’t even remove the bowels! Tasty and crunchy.
Deep fried beetle
The wings can be hard to swallow coz it sticks to the top of your mouth like peanut butter.
Deep fried cricket
Tastes like grasshoppers but has more of a bee-like texture to it.
Deep fried bamboo worms
Tasty and creamy!
Deep fried red ants
Highly toxic when consumed in large quantities. It makes my mouth itch just thinking about it.

eating insects bangkok

I’m not a huge fan of deep fried red ants – it’s hard to pick up (they’re tiny) and I find their venom to be a bit hard to take. It actually made me sick!

snacks insects bangkok

I was feeling slightly unwell after eating all these, she thinks it might be coz of the fried grasshoppers, I thought it was the toxin from the deep fried red ants. It’s an interesting experience nonetheless! :)

Posted: 10:30 am Bangkok time (GMT +7)

Bangkok: The airport security incident, RM 1 Red Bull and pork, pork, pork!

breakfast

Sawadeekap! I’m in Bangkok, Thailand! Six of us flew in late last night – it was supposed to be a couples trip planned after a HCMC trip was cancelled. We’re staying at Indra Regent Hotel, which is just a stone’s throw away from the overrated and commercialized Platinum Mall.

hotel room

Oh! I’ll tell you an funny incident last night. I was going through airport security, and took off my belt to go through the metal detector. I don’t know what happened, but it must have been stuck in the machine coz I didn’t see it – worse – didn’t realize it until the plane landed in Bangkok, I reached to tighten my belt…

belt

…and noticed it wasn’t there. -_-

sliced milk bread

Anyway, we hit the local 7-Eleven opposite the hotel as soon as we finished checking in. The 7-Eleven over here is really quite good – it has a lot of interesting stuff and it’s cheap!

red bull

The Red Bull over here is particularly cheap – all of them going for THB 10 or less. That’s about RM 1 – a price which you’ll be hard pressed to find in Malaysia! In fact, I paid less than the equivalent of RM 10 for all my purchases!

pork tom yam noodles

There’s a lot of nice pork wares too – even the store branded instant noodles is Pork Spare Ribs with Tom Yam Flavor. It sounds very Thai. ;)

pork pocket sandwich

We had this Shredded Pork Mayonnaise Pocket Sandwich for breakfast just now. THB 12 or RM 1.20 for a sandwich stuffed with pork floss and mayo with the edges (crust) sliced off, just like your mom used to do for you when you were a little kid. smirk

sliced butter bread

I also found this interesting bread product that goes for 7 baht each – around RM 0.70. I don’t know how to translate it properly coz the writing is all in Thai. It’s just a slice of bread with either butter or milk spread on top but it’s super delicious!

Posted: 11:42 am Bangkok time (GMT +7)

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