Bangkok: Gai Pad Med Mamuang or Death

I need to go ahead and get something out of the way before I write another sentence. I am not a culinary adventurer. I am not curious about smells wafting from foreign sidewalks, about the brightly colored bowls being handed over from behind faded white carts, about what the people who are crouched over miniscule tables, sitting on the ground or a bucket, are eating. When in London a few months ago, I broke into a cold sweat when faced with the idea of eating fish and chips for the first time. Yes, it tasted very good, but there is no way I would have chosen a new dish by myself, let alone anything fish-related. I have never eaten paella. I only eat salmon sushi and sashimi, although this will have to change when I move to Tokyo next month. I once went, at the age of 20, 4 months on only KFC. When I was 25 I lived for half a year on Hormel’s Chili and half a year on Taco Bell burritos. I’ve eaten at, and enjoyed, 10 course menus at the finest 3 Michelin star restaurants in the world, Guy Savoy, Pierre Gagniere, etc., but in my heart of hearts, I have an extremely cautious and trashy palette. I travel the world by myself, but I don’t want to take a bite of anything unknown. I think it comes from the food-poisoning I caught in San Remo, Italy, when I was 21. A tainted mussel was the cause, handed to me by a suspiciously smiley Canadian. I spent 3 days in the hospital.

When I find something I love to eat, I will eat it every meal until I get sick of it. I randomly chanced upon Gai Pad Med Mamuang, or as I like to think of it, chicken with cashew nuts, during my first trip to Bangkok in 2009. It was immediate infatuation. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. “No, this is wrong,” I scolded myself, as I ordered it meal after meal. “Fight the temptation!” But, the allure of Gai Pad Med Mamuang was too strong. I wanted it too badly. I craved it. The seduction was fast-acting and potent. I gave in, somewhere after the third day of eating nothing else, and stopped fighting the odorous wafts of chicken that I could imagine each time I read the name of the dish on the menu. Guy. Pad. Med. Mah. Moo. Ong. It is a fun dish to pronounce. Even in late 2011-early 2012, when I went through a vegetarian phase, I would still order Gai Pad Med Mamuang, “but without the chicken”. So many waiters must have thought I was an idiot. I didn’t care. I had what I wanted, my Gai Pad Med Mamuang, whenever I wanted it. If Gai Pad Med Mamuang had a Facebook page, I would like every post it put out, or at least one post a week. A typical Thai dish, it consists of stir-fried chicken, tossed together with onions, bell peppers, dried chillies and cashew nuts. It comes in its own bowl and one always orders a bowl of rice with it, on which to dump it on. I think I love this dish because of the cashew/chicken combination, but there is no point trying to dissect a random passion this deep.

The Precious

The Precious

With my love of Gai Pad Med Mamuang and my lack of interest in trying new foods firmly established, let me tell you about the restaurants I have been to in Bangkok. Sometimes, rarely, greater forces than myself keep me from eating Gai Pad Med Mamuang. In that case, I have Italian or French food. I have, on exceptional evenings, had a few other Thai dishes, but Gai Pad Med Mamuang always lurks in the back of my mind, half-hidden in the shadows, waiting for attention.

In this post, I’ll list only Thai restaurants, focusing on French/Italian restaurants in the next one. That seems only fair.

Aldo’s at Ascott | 187 South Sathorn Road, Bangkok, 10120, Thailand +66 2676 6969
Opening Hours: Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm | Dinner: 6 pm – Midnight

Aldo’s does both Ascott’s room service menu and a pool-level restaurant at the property. Their Gai Pad Med Mumuang is stingily-portioned and skimpy on cashew nuts, but it is fun to eat it out by the pool, in one of the little draped cabanas, as a fan whirs lazily overhead. It is so on the down low that it doesn’t even have a website. I recommend checking it out, if only for the fun of sitting in the little cabana. Dinner for 2, without wine, will set you back about $100 USD.

Aren't the cabanas cute?

Aren’t the cabanas cute?

The view, as best experienced while eating Gai Pad Med Mamuaung

The view, as best experienced while eating Gai Pad Med Mamuang

Blue Elephant | Yannawa, Sathon, Bangkok 10500, Thailand +66 2 673 9354
Opening Hours: Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm | Dinner: 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm

I’ve been to Blue Elephant numerous times, as their Gai Pad Med Mamuang is enormous and delicious. Bonus points for the fact that it is a 5 minute walk away from my favorite hotel, the Ascott. Blue Elephant occupies a gorgeous three-storey Thai colonial style house, and exudes an air of relaxed sophistication. If I had a Thai grandmother, I would want her to have a house like this. All of the tables are good, there are never too many other guests there, and there are all sorts of beautiful objets d’art to look at while waiting for the food to arrive. Blue Elephant enforces a dress code, so if you come in wearing shorts, you will be made to wear a Thai silk skirt or, if you are a guy, silk trousers. This leads to hilarious fashion catastrophes that are as delightful as the food, as the skirts and trousers available to be borrowed are quite bold, in every sense of the word.

Blue Elephant

Blue Elephant

I call this "Thai Colonial" style

I call this “Thai Colonial” style

Blue Elephant’s website describes itself as follows: “Experience the very best in Thai hospitality and cuisine at Blue Elephant, Bangkok. With a reputation of authenticity and excellence, Blue Elephant stays true to the culinary culture and influences of Thailand. Typical of a classic, our restaurant in Bangkok is housed in a century old building, creating a feeling of time travel in addition to the exquisite dining experience that awaits you. The menu at Blue Elephant, Bangkok is a palette of traditions and novelties, and delights even the most discriminating palate. You can choose from a variety of unique dishes, from the past, present and future of Thailand’s gastronomic culture. Having travelled the world, Khn Nooror Somany Steppe, our star chef and Khun Chang, our corporate chef, use their experiences to take you on a culinary journey, the Thai way.”

Dinner for 2 at Blue Elephant, without wine, will set you back about $80 USD.

Celadon at The Sukhothai |13/3 South Sathorn Road, Bangkok, 10120, Thailand +66 2344 8888
Opening Hours: Lunch: Noon – 3:00 pm | Dinner: 6:30 pm – 11:00 pm

Like Blue Elephant, I have been to Celadon repeatedly. I find the decor soothing. I like the lotus pond. They serve excellent Gai Pad Med Mamuang and have bountiful Diet Coke. While there, I also sampled numerous other Thai dishes, all of which I have forgotten the name of, all of which were delicious. What more do I need to say?

Celadon at The Sukhothai

Celadon at The Sukhothai

Traditional Thai cuisine

Traditional Thai cuisine

The Sukhothai’s website describes Celadon as follows: “Named as the “Best Restaurant in Bangkok” by Travel and Leisure magazine, Celadon is a celebration of the senses – in true Thai style and service. One of the city’s most iconic Thai eateries, Celadon serves authentic Thai cuisine in beautifully crafted air-conditioned salas. Submerged in a picturesque lotus-pond with open-air terraces overlooking the water, guests are spoilt both by the choice of tastes they can discover and the tranquil atmosphere. The extensive a la carte menu offers a selection of the finest dishes from all over Thailand, prepared just as they were meant to be enjoyed throughout the ages. The lush green herb garden caters another memorable evening, where a two special dinner set menu is served in this exclusive setting. Guests can also choose to add a personalized touch with an optional choice of a private butler who is at your service at all times, along with a Chef’s demonstration at your table whilst you are serenaded with traditional Thai instrumental music.”

All of Celadon’s different menus (Celadon, Dok Cha-Ba, Dok Khem, Dok Kaew, Celadon Herb Garden, Business and Traditional Thai Khao Chae) are in the link that I attached to the restaurant’s address at the beginning of this description.

A meal at Celadon, for 2, without wine, will set you back about $120 USD.

Ruen Urai |สุรวงศ์ Bang Rak, บางรัก Bangkok 10110, Thailand +66 2266 8268
Opening Hours: Noon – 11 pm

Looks aren’t everything, people often say. Please keep this in mind as the taxi drives you behind Le Méridien, through a warren of twisted little streets, and into a parking lot that looks like it has been bombed. Once you look up and see the Ruen Urai sign, you can breathe easy. It will all be okay. Of all of the Thai restaurants I have been to, Ruen Urai is my favorite. The service is fantastically slow, the staff are so relaxed that they would give coma patients a run for their money, but there are only 20 seats and the cozy little room is magical. Their Gai Pad Med Mamuang is scrumptious, as expected, and bountiful. I was in such a good mood when I visited it recently that I even branched out and tried other Thai dishes, including fried watercress, fried corn fritters and papaya salad with prawns.

The entrance to Ruen Urai

The entrance to Ruen Urai

A restaurant can never have too many fairy lights

A restaurant can never have too many fairy lights

Ruen Urai, which I cannot pronounce correctly, describes itself on its website as follows: “Experience exotic Thai flavors at Ruen Urai, set in a century-old traditional Thai house in the heart of Bangkok. Come and savor our finest delicacies of Thai cuisine in an unique and elegant ambience. Enjoy sumptuous meals and cool drinks in an urban oasis, hidden among the lush tropical garden of the Rose Hotel.”

A dinner for 2, without wine, will set you back about $65 USD.

In summation, Bangkok is an excellent place to eat Gai Pad Med Mamuang. If someone as apathetic to the cuisines of the world as me can find something to truly love eating here, you have no excuse not to do the same. Stay away from KFC, McDonald’s and Burger King. Venture off of the main path. Stumble into adventure. Find your own Gai Pad Med Mamuang, whatever it may be.

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Comments

  1. Love your blog, Rebecca! I feel like I’m traveling with you – your descriptions are wonderful! Looking forward to reading more and living vicariously through you. 🙂

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