Kuay jap nam sai: The best Thai dish you’ve never heard of
A dish with pork offal as its central ingredient is likely to intimidate even the most adventurous of diners. But kuay jap nam sai, a hearty soup that combines a deliciously peppery broth with chunks of crispy pork belly -- in addition to that offal -- is actually an approachable and tasty dish.
With origins likely from southern China, most kuay jap nam sai stalls are found in Bangkok’s Chinatown -- Yaowarat -- where there are at least nine vendors serving the dish.
Kuay jap nam sai is generally served with carpet roll-like tubes of rice noodles or alternatively as kao lao, with no noodles and a side of white rice. Slight variations on kuay jap nam sai feature additions such as garlic, lettuce, fresh herbs or tofu, but an assertively peppery broth and tender pork offal are constants.
A bowl of kuay jap nam sai should never set you back more than 45 baht. Here are five of the best places to find it.
The kuay jap nam sai served at Mister Jo is probably the most balanced bowl we've encountered.
The cloudy broth is equal parts peppery and meaty, and unusually, includes squares of tender pork skin. Mister Jo’s crispy deep-fried pork belly (also available separately with a soy sauce dip) is one of the better versions available.
313/7 Thanon Chan. Open daily, 8:30 a.m.-4p.m.
This well known vendor’s take on kuay jap nam sai is one of the more refined versions in Chinatown.
The rich, meaty broth has a pleasing peppery spiciness and is a great vehicle for the excellent crispy pork belly, cubes of blood, offal (liver, tongue, innards, stomach) and jing ju chai, a green herb with a flavour and texture not unlike Italian parsley.
As with most vendors, a bowl here is accompanied by an optional seasoning of fresh ground chillies with vinegar, salt and garlic.
Corner of Soi 9 and Yaowarat Raod. Tel: +66 (0)2 226 4651. Open daily, 9 a.m.-1a.m.
Nay Lek (Uan)
Located in the heart of Bangkok’s Chinatown, this longstanding kuay jap vendor is quite possibly the most popular hawker stall in Bangkok.
People have been known to cross town for Nay Lek’s exceedingly peppery broth and tender offal, which includes pork heart, liver, stomach and tongue.
Kuay jap rookies can always opt simply for the crispy deep-fried pork belly.
Corner of Soi 11 and Yaowarat Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 224 3450. Open daily, 7 p.m.-late.
To Kuay Jap
This lauded street stall serves a version that has more in common with kuaytiaw, Thai-style noodles, than kuay jap nam sai.
Unusual additions to To’s kuay jap include lettuce, preserved squid, tofu and a tender pork sausage.
Featuring a mild broth rich with minced garlic, it’s a good introduction to the dish for those who fear offal.
442 Maharat Road (next to the Shell station at Samran Rad Intersection). Open daily, 7 p.m.-3 a.m.
Another portly ("uan" means fat in Thai) Chinatown-based vendor of kuay jap nam sai, Uan Phochana serves a slightly less peppery version of the dish, supplemented with the usual meats and offal and topped with pa thong ko, tiny fingers of crispy deep-fried dough.
The stall is located in front of an abandoned theatre between Soi 9 and Thanon Yaowaphanit.
Yaowarat Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 812 0640. Open daily, 6:30 p.m.-4 a.m.