Where to eat Asia’s most iconic dishes in Bangkok

Where to eat Asia’s most iconic dishes in Bangkok

Filipino adobo, Burmese mohinga and Malaysian nasi lemak. All these and more in this hunt for the region's most famous eats

Sure, it’s rather predictable to stroll into an Indian restaurant and head straight for the garlic naan and tandoori chicken, or to insist on only ordering spring rolls at your local Vietnamese joint.

But there’s something to be said for the popularity of these iconic Asian dishes, particularly when they’re done authentically and honestly.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of 10 iconic dishes from 10 Asian countries, and some of the best places to get them in Bangkok.

A dish of pork adobo at New Mabuhay, Bangkok’s only Filipino restaurant.The Philippines: Adobo

If you find yourself craving adobo, the unofficial national dish of the Philippines, you’ve really only got one option in Bangkok.

Fortunately, New Mabuhay, a family-run Filipino restaurant in Bangkok’s Pratunam area, does a solid job.

Rich with fatty pork and melted shallots, and boasting both a sharp vinegar tartness and a black pepper bite, this thick stew-like dish may have you booking the next flight to Manila.

New Mabuhay. 1/31 Soi 19, Phetchaburi Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 255 2689. Open daily, 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

Boon Tong KiatA dish of chicken rice at Boon Tong Kiat Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Singapore: Chicken rice

Khao man kai, Hainanese-style chicken rice, is one of the most ubiquitous plates in Bangkok. But there’s one shop house restaurant’s take on Singapore’s signature dish that just might lead you to reassess your relationship with this street staple.

Boon Tong Kiat Singapore Hainanese Chicken offers perfectly cooked fragrant rice and steamed chicken so tender you’ll wonder if they forgot to cook it.

After a meal here you’ll never want to go back to the street stalls again.

440/5 Soi 55 (Thonglor), Sukhumvit Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 390 2508. Open daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. 

CongeeA bowl of pork congee at Soul Food Mahanakorn.

Hong Kong: Congee

Although the dish is found across Asia, Hong Kongers have long laid claim to congee, the rice porridge known in Thailand as jok.

Soul Food Mahanakhorn -- not a Hong Kong restaurant at all, but rather a pub serving food -- serves our favorite bowl. 

With a good stock as its basis, the dish combines smooth rice and generous squares of tender pork belly, resulting in congee that -- dare we say it -- is even tastier than the Hong Kong version.

Soul Food Mahanakorn. 56/10 Soi 55 (Thong Lo), Sukhumvit Road. Tel: +66 (0)85 904 2691. www.soulfoodmahanakorn.com. Open Tuesday-Sunday, noon-2:30 p.m. & 5:30 p.m.-1 a.m.

 

Myanmar cuisineA dish of mohinga, the noodle soup and unofficial national dish of Myanmar.

Myanmar: Mohinga

Bangkok can boast noodle dishes of virtually every race and creed, but mohinga, Myanmar’s unofficial national bowl, is probably the rarest of the lot.

Combining the thin fresh rice noodles known in Thailand as khanom jeen with a thick, fish-based broth, the dish is served topped with deep-fried vegetables and lentil fritters.

Mohinga is available from a handful of Burmese vendors on Soi ABAC; simply look for the Burmese-language signs near the first intersection. 

Soi ABAC, off Thanon Ramkhamhaeng. Open daily, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

 

Kiaw Liaw NingSome of the northern Chinese-style dumplings served at Kiaw Liaw Ning.

China: Dumplings

Despite what we may think in the West, Chinese cuisine is anything but a homogeneous entity and the closest we could come to a single representative dish is the humble dumpling.

Steamed, fried or boiled; stuffed with vegetables or pork; it’s Chinese comfort food at its best.

The only downside is that the dumplings at this no-frills eatery will make you wish Bangkok was significantly colder so you could take advantage of their warming properties. 

Kiaw Liaw Ning. 152/7 Thanon Silom. Tel: +66 (0)2 635 6536. Open daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Click ahead to see five more of Asia's iconic dishes.

Korean restaurant ArirangKorean-style barbecue at Arirang, Bangkok.

South Korea: Gogi gui

Most people associate South Korean food with kimchi, the spicy pickled cabbage. And rightfully so: preserved dishes and piquant flavors are essential elements of this country’s cuisine.

But we feel that gogi gui, South Korean-style barbecue, is the real soul of the South Korean kitchen.

Located in the muti-story complex colloquially known as Korean Town, Arirang is arguably Bangkok’s best destination for South Korean-style grilled meats.

And lest you think that by ordering meat you might be missing out on the kimchi, all dishes are accompanied by banchan, the ubiquitous, plentiful and largely pickled side dishes.

Sukhumvit Plaza, corner of Soi 12 & Thanon Sukhumvit. Tel: +66 (0)2 653 0177. Open daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Nasi Lemak Nasi Lemak at Cili Padi.Malaysia: Nasi lemak

A breakfast staple in Malaysia, this one-dish meal of coconut milk-steamed rice, fried anchovies, peanuts and a spicy sambal (a chili dip condiment) is the closest thing to the country’s national dish.

Yet despite Thailand’s shared border with Malaysia, virtually the only place to get nasi lemak in Bangkok is Cili Padi, a café-like restaurant near Silom Road.

For something heartier, try the version served with your choice of three rich coconut milk-based curries du jour.

160/9 Narathiwat Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 634 2839. www.cilipadibangkok.com. Open Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

 

Thip SamaiPhat Thai with shrimp at Thip Samai.

Thailand: Phat Thai

If we were to choose a single iconic dish for Thailand, the logical choice is the one that bears the country’s name.

Phat Thai is available across Bangkok, but the best place to sample the country’s most iconic dish is Thip Samai.

It may not necessarily be the tastiest phat Thai in town, but served in an aged shop house in one of Bangkok’s oldest districts, it’s an authentically Bangkok experience.

Thip Samai. 313 Mahachai Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 221 6280. www.thipsamai.com. Open daily, 5:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., closed alternate Wednesdays.

Miso ramenA bowl of miso ramen as served at Ton Jing Kung.

Japan: Ramen

Although ramen has its origins in China, it’s been fully embraced by the Japanese and is today the country’s de facto national staple.

Nowadays there are many places to get this hearty noodle dish in Bangkok, but our favorite is Ton Jing Kung, an airy eatery located in the ground floor of a serviced apartment.

Although the location may lack the gritty authenticity of an aged Kyoto ramen joint, this is made up for by a rich miso ramen broth, tender pork and good-quality noodles.

Hopeland Served Apartment, 35 Soi 24, Sukhumvit Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 661 1999. www.tongjingkung-ramen.com. Open 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. & 5-11 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

Indian HutTandoori chicken and naan at Indian Hut.India: Tandoor

Indian vegetarians will almost certainly scoff at the idea, but meats and flatbreads cooked in a tandoor-style oven are probably the most iconic dishes of the Indian repertoire.

Longstanding Indian Hut specializes in this style of cooking, and the restaurant’s perfectly cooked naan and spicy chicken tikka lay claim to why this particular type of Indian food is known worldwide.

311/2-5 Surawong Road. Tel: +66  0(2) 635 7876. www.indian-hut.com. Open daily, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Austin Bush is an American writer/photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand. His photos have been published in variety of magazines, books and newspapers including DestinAsian, Food & Travel, Olive, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, as well as numerous Lonely Planet publications. For an online portfolio and samples of his work, check out www.austinbushphotography.com.

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