Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Stranger in Bangkok's adventure at Jok's Kitchen

Update: I visited Jok's Kitchen for the 2nd time in August 2018, you can read all about the 2nd experience here.

I went through my last few blogposts and realised that this has almost become a foodblog. As much as I do not want to flood you with another post about food, I think I have to do this, as I have been waiting for this day for a long time.

I do not know about you, but private kitchens have always been something of an alluring mystery for me. I remember when I just arrived in Bangkok, my standard weekly dose of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods brought Jok's Kitchen to my attention. The food was certainly not the bizarre part, but the whole setting of the place - set deep into one of the dark alleyways in Yaowarat (Bangkok's Chinatown), only serving 2 tables per meal (which results in a need to reserve your seat 2 months in advance) and only presented what the chef had to offer depending on the day itself. In my heart I told myself I have to try it one day since I am based here anyway, and recently when the opportunity finally presented itself, I just could not say no.

The road leading to the private kitchen, certainly impossible to locate for a non-native!
Thankfully, with the help of my good Thai friend Nueng, we managed to make the trip there possible. 2 years down the road, the rules have changed, and it might still be the toughest table in Bangkok to date:
  • Both lunch and dinner are served, and seating capacity has increased to 4 tables per meal
  • A minimum of 6pax per table, final number to be confirmed 3 days before the actual meal, costing at least 800baht per pax, if not more, depending on what's served on the day
  • A choice of menu (not so much of a choice), basically just selecting which way to cook the ingredient Ah Hia Jok has already chosen for you, and this has to be confirmed 3 days in advance too
  • Reserving your table way before hand, we had to wait nearly 1 month for the meal
So 6 curious hungry souls soldiered through the dimly lit, wet soi until we reached our table, but not before walking through 2 sets of sliding doors too. We were looking at each other with a sense of relief and interest when we finally sat down, as it felt like a hidden hideout for some very important personnel in the underworld.

So now to the food, which I will present in a chronological order, with credits to Liang Xinyi for 2 of the pictures without my watermark:

Extremely delicious shrimp dumplings covered with an obscene amount of fried shallots and garlic, simple and fresh, easily my second favourite dish of the night

The legendary steamed crab, which many come specially to eat. Never have I been served crab that's been made so easy to handle. Sweet and meaty, but for a whopping 2900baht, I will stick to my Sri Lanka crab in Singapore
Grilled shrimp with salt, surprisingly my favourite dish. The shrimp was plump, succulent and cooked to perfection.
Crowd favourite, braised goose web with egg noodle. Deliciously tasty noodles with goose skin dying to fall off the bone. A winner.
Salted fish fried rice, the only dish I didn't care about. Mediocre at best, but not a dish to judge the kitchen by.

A simple yet delicious peppery grouper soup to summarize Jok's kitchen in a nutshell: Top quality fresh seafood presented in its simplest form
Yam Paste with dates and (lots and lots of) gingko nuts. Divided opinion. It could do with more yam, but to me, as long as you do not view it as a yam dessert, it's a tasty sweet treat to end the meal.

After a satisfying meal, we asked Ah Hia Jok to come out to take pictures with us, convincing him with a cover story that we were Singaporeans coming specially to have a meal in his kitchen (there were actually 3 Singaporeans, 2 Thais and 1 Malaysian in the group, all based in Thailand), which he obliged willingly to our pleasant surprise.

He went on to explain that he owns a few seafood farms in Thailand and exports his produce to many countries, and that he was just a huge foodie who started off cooking for his friends, and the friends managed to share the 'good news' to enough people to make Jok's Kitchen what it is today. He has had media coverage not only by Bizarre Foods on Discovery Travel and Living, but also by CNN and BBC, to name a couple. It was extremely amusing for me to hear that a certain powerful lady from Temasek Holdings ate there for a few times already, but knowing the satellite issues in Thailand, it all made sense.

Ah Hia Jok standing straight and proud amongst a group of happy diners.
Lastly, the damage was 840baht per person (35SGD per head), which is considered expensive in Thailand, especially for the location and setting. However, though this is not the top table in Thailand, it might certainly be the toughest one, and you will definitely enjoy good service and the freshest seafood prepared in ways to preserve their natural goodness.

If you are frequently spending 25-30SGD in places like Cafe Cartel, Swensen's and Fish and Co., please do not give Jok a miss, especially if a (very very) rare opportunity presents itself. I wouldn't.


  1. Oh I love this! And what a great price. Continue to write about food!

  2. Is this Miss Bright Sparks Everyday? I am your ardent reader! Thanks for commenting, sigh... I have just allowed myself to almost become a food blogger, need to snap out of this streak.


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