Not so long ago, Charoen Nakhon Road was one of Bangkok’s major thoroughfares that enjoyed light traffic while its bordering neighbourhoods, all of them culinarily abundant, are less flocked-to by visitors.
Blessed with the breezy Chao Phraya River to which it runs parallel, the 5km-long road that stretches from Klong San to Dao Khanong district also provides a serene setting for a few five-star hotels and high-end residences. Its pristine local charm seems to have been unspoiled until recently.
Today Klong San has become one of the city’s upcoming swanky districts, filled with art galleries and event spaces. Moreover, a new mega-project establishment comprised of a world-class shopping mall, luxury hotels and fine-dining restaurants is set to open in the centre of the neighbourhood in the very near future.
So before this fragile and friendly locale turns into a beaten track, Life takes you on a gastronomic expedition to check out some of the area’s most treasured culinary masters along the upper part of Charoen Nakhon Road.
Nai Soon Charoen Nakhon Charoen Nakhon 12 Open daily 11am-3pm Call 02-437-9357
This tatty 50-year-old shop house at the front corner of Charoen Nakhon 12 is famous among local poultry fans for its time-honoured rendering of braised duck and goose.
I love the goose especially. Compared to the duck, the meat is more tender and flavourful with thicker and fattier skin.
An individual serving of rice or noodles topped with slices of duck costs around 60-70 baht. An a la carte plate of braised duck meat is priced between 100 and 200 baht, while that of goose costs 150-300 baht.
You can buy an entire duck for 700 baht, and goose for 1,600 baht. Meanwhile, a pair of braised goose webs cost 80 baht, goose wings 120 baht and goose intestines 100 baht.
A selection of piping-hot soups, with options of main ingredients including bitter gourd, bamboo pith, bamboo shoot, white radish and pinyin flower (Chinese daylily) is also worth a try.
Dine-in customers can find a seat either at the tables set in front of the shop on the footpath or in a 20-seat dining room inside another shop house unit a few steps away.
But if streetside eating isn’t your style of gastronomy, a takeaway order is highly recommended.
Guay Jub Jeh Ju Charoen Nakhon Open daily11am-8pm Call 089-698-8666
Next to the braised-duck shop is a noodle shop specialising in guay jub naam khon, or rolled rice noodles in rich brown soup.
The dish here (40 baht) features thick and chewy rice-noodle rolls in a salty-sweet broth infused with various Thai and Chinese spices. Other than lean slices of pork loin, a selection of pig’s organ and wedge of boiled egg, also accompanying the noodles are hefty chunks of moo krob, or flame-roasted pork with layers of crispy skin with soft skin intact, which is what makes the dish so popular.
Sahm Noo Dessert 292 Charoen Nakhon Open daily 10am-3pm Call 084-524-9161
At the mouth of a private alley approximately 50m from the guay jub shop on Charoen Nakhon road stands a street stall much treasured for its rendering of bua loy, a traditional Thai pearl-like dessert made with glutinous rice flour in warm coconut milk.
The shop, widely known among locals as Bua Loy Wat Suwan, boasts a daily-kneaded delicacy in a trio of colours (the yellow hue is from blending with pumpkin purée, faded-purple pearls from taro and pastel green from fresh pandanous-leaf juice). Unlike the starchy version found at other vendors, the bua loy pearls here are soft and silky while the coconut cream, in which they bathe, is very fragrant and not overly sweet.
It costs 20 baht per serving for plain bua loy; 28 baht with an extra topping of salted-egg yolk.
Just recently, the shop launched its new product tako (Thai-style pudding with coconut-cream topping, 20 baht). Options here include tako sakhu (pandan-infused tapioca pudding); phuek (taro pudding); and sweet purple yam pudding. All are delicious.
The roofed dining area is set along the alley so that customers can enjoy the dessert on site amidst the neighbourhood’s rustic yet serene setting.
Ple Guay Tiew Ped Charoen Nakhon 8 Open daily 9.30am-3pm Call 081-485-2629
Only a few steps down the airy lane of Charoen Nakhon 8, fans of guay tiew ped (duck noodle) are promised a true culinary delight from this clean and airy shophouse eatery.
Though pretty new in the neighbourhood, the vendor’s culinary dexterity can be traced back more than 30 years, to when the shop was located in Tha Din Daeng, the city’s best-known location for braised poultry.
I love the duck noodles here for the way the meat comes in thick slices, its skin supple but still retaining a flavourful fatty layer. The pungent brown broth, prepared with Chinese spices, tastes very subtle and soothing, while neat pieces duck-blood jelly that also garnish the dish offer a tastily silky finish.
A noodle dish is priced at 35-40 baht. An individual serving of rice topped with braised duck costs 50 baht, and an a la carte order of braised duck costs 130 baht for a small portion and 200 baht for a large portion. An extra order of braised duck wing costs 30 baht per pair; three braised duck webs are 20 baht.
As much as I love the food, I’m also impressed by the amiability of the shop owner, who’s a duck-noodle master himself.
Guay Tiew Look Chin Pla Near Charoen Nakhon Saphan 2 Open daily 7am-1pm Call 02-438-2871
Not so long ago, the sight of waiting crowds in front of this family-run noodle shop, whose history dates back more than half a century, was very common for customers and passersby.
But today’s bad traffic due to the mega construction of a nearby shopping plaza has apparently scared most of its customers away. As a result, the shop owner has decided to move its opening time to a much earlier hour (it used to open at 9am and close in the late afternoon) so that its regulars don’t have to face so much of the traffic ordeal.
Other than the shop’s folksy-style cordiality and service, which reflects the long-preserved charm of this local community, I guarantee that connoisseurs of guay tiew look chin pla (noodles with fish ball) will love every element of the dish here.
Fish balls and heu guay (flash-fried fishcake stick) are prepared in-house following a secret family recipe using only prime-quality ocean fish to yield a pleasant gummy texture and tasty mouthfeel.
A regular order of fish-ball noodles (40 baht) features a noodle of your choice (my favourite is yellow egg noodle, which is fine and soft) with the crisp-white fish balls, slices of hue guay, a soft and thin patty of fatty minced pork, and a crispy, neatly made pork wonton.
You can have the noodles in the crystal-clear pork broth or enjoy the subtle-tasting soup on the side. Both ways are pleasant.
The shop is run and attended to by an all-lady sibling team — the third generation of owners — thus it is very clean.
Tee Oan Por Pla Nam Taohu Between Charoen Nakhon 17 and 19 Open daily 9am-11pm Call 086-544-7778
Despite the word nam taohu (soybean milk) in its name, this shophouse vendor selling the ivory-hued drink from a large bubbling pot set at its front is the place where I flock mainly for pa thong ko or Chinese deep-fried conjoined doughnuts.
The shop offers the deep-fried bread as an accompaniment to its popular soy milk (8 baht per serving), which I found rather mediocre in taste. But on the other hand, its less-famed crispy golden pa thong ko is among Bangkok’s best.
The pa thong ko here (4 baht per piece) is recommended to be enjoyed with house-made sangkhaya (dipping custard, 15 baht per portion).
And just as at most pa thong ko joints in the city, the savoury pa thong ko is sold with its sweeter, rounded counterpart, variously known as kaew ta bo, salapao thord or pa thong kee (the female version of pa thong ko).
Je Ju Yentafo and Phorn Charoen Ice Cream Charoen Nakhon 19 Open 10am-9pm Call 081-565-0175 and 086-396-6681
This noodle shop specialises in Hakka-styled meatballs, with yentafo, aka red noodles, prepared to a Hakka recipe as its highlight.
The noodle dish, whether you have it with broth or in a dry version, is flavoured with sweet-and-sour reddish-pink sauce with toppings including fish balls, fish dumplings (minced pork wrapped in a thin fishcake sheet), deep-fried prawn balls, flash-blanched morning glory and crispy deep-fried pork wonton.
Thin, pasta-like strips of gummy fish cake are also on offer as a substitute of noodles for those who shun carbs. Prices for the noodle dish are 40 baht for a regular serving and 50 baht for a special, slightly larger portion.
The shop seats up to 50 customers, but if you’re there at lunch hours be prepare to queue up for a table.
Also popular is the house-made coconut-milk ice cream which comes with raw egg yolk. This rarely found dessert costs 42 baht per scoop or 30 baht without the egg. Choices of toppings include roasted peanut, sticky rice, cream of sweetcorn, red bean, candied yam, jelly and candied mango.