The Ultimate Thai Dinner

52400_1647272182930_3475421_oOn October 9, 2010, my brother-in-law and I ventured out into the dark streets of Bangkok in search of a remarkable dinner.  We found it at Chote Chitr (pronounced, roughly, “Choat Chit”), a divine hole in the wall at 146 Prang Pu Thorn, Tanao Road.  It was a bit hard to find.  We had to call the place in advance and have them give directions to our cab driver.  But the experience was well worth the journey.

The New York Times food and travel writers have enjoyed this tiny restaurant so much that they’ve featured it twice in their pages in recent years.  Everything amazing they say is true!  Food does not get any better than this.  Enjoy my photos of the occasion, interspersed with excerpts of the Times reviews.

57337_1647272622941_4222111_oChote Chitr, which has been around some 90 years, prides itself on cooking recipes developed by ancient Thai royal courts, and its wall menu lists hundreds of dishes. These often rely on traditional ingredients tough to find today, and Chote Chitr’s cooks say little about how they uncover them. Dodging longtime customers and a small dog in the tiny dining room — just five simple rectangular tables packed together and open to the street — the chef brings out a plate of mee krob, crunchy stir-fried vermicelli flavored with a caramelized sauce of palm sugar, ginger, lemongrass and som saa. A fragrant, tart variety of orange now almost extinct in Bangkok, the som saa balances the sticky sweetness in the dish, which in the hands of a lesser chef can taste like strands of rock candy.56003_1647272342934_3243993_o..

That Chote Chitr would prove a culinary revelation shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise: small places often prove to be the best eating spots in many cities. But for historical reasons Bangkok may boast the finest street food on earth. The city has long attracted migrants from across Asia, so its street cuisine, both at vendor carts and in tiny restaurants, blends many styles of cooking. Even a simple snack like murtabak mixes Malaysian-style roti pancake with curry fillings that betray Indian and Burmese spices.

Joshua Kurlantzick, January 6, 2008

Spicy banana flower salad. The hot pepper was balanced by a citrus tang and sweetness in the sauce and the intense aroma of cilantro.

Spicy banana flower salad. The hot pepper was balanced by a citrus tang and sweetness in the sauce and the intense aroma of cilantro.

The banana-flower salad was stunning indeed, another example of a standard transformed. Prawns, chicken and the shredded red buds of the banana tree, among other things, went into the dish, but its brilliance, as with all the best Thai dishes, lay in the complexity of its seasonings – sour in the front of the mouth (tamarind pulp), fiery in the back (dried chilies), and sweetly nutty at the top (coconut cream). Eating it left me punch-drunk with pleasure.  — R.W. Apple, Jr., October 12, 2005

Red curry with fish, steamed in banana leaves. The curry had the tender consistency of custard.

Red curry with fish, steamed in banana leaves. The curry had the tender consistency of custard.

 

Spicy eggplant salad. The tiny Thai eggplant had a pungent smoky flavor.

Spicy eggplant salad. The tiny Thai eggplant had a pungent smoky flavor.

But for me, the pièce de résistance was a salad made from long green eggplants, makheua yao, heady with smoke from the grill, plus shrimp, red shallots and palm sugar. An addictive sour tang was added by fermented shrimp and lime juice.R.W. Apple, Jr.

Sweet and sour curry with river prawns. The prawns were as big as my fist, and the curry was filled with thin slices of coconut.

Sweet and sour curry with river prawns. The prawns were as big as my fist, and the curry was filled with thin slices of coconut.

Mock duck. Half of this restaurant's menu is vegetarian, meaning that the dishes are prepared and named just as their meat-filled counterparts, but the meat is replaced with a soy protein substitute. This was delightful.

Mock duck. Half of this restaurant’s menu is vegetarian, meaning that the dishes are prepared and named just as their meat-filled counterparts, but the meat is replaced with a soy protein substitute. This was delightful.

Panang curry with mock chicken. We never missed the real chicken, and the curry was as flavorful as we've ever tasted.

Panang curry with mock chicken. We never missed the real chicken, and the curry was as flavorful as we’ve ever tasted.

Customer satisfaction!

Customer satisfaction!

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