Saturday, July 11, 2015

Traditional Hong Kong Wanton Noodle in Bangkok: Gokfayuen 菊花园面家

Update March 24 2016:

Half a year after my first visit to Gokfayuen, the texture of their house-made noodles (initially the Achilles' heel) has improved beyond recognition. The soup and wanton are still fantastic, and the char siew still smokily tasty.

And they have decided to reward more customers with the opening of their whopping new branch at Petchaburi Soi 19, right smack in Pratunam a few steps beyond the over-rated Sabx2 Thai-style wanton noodles (Note: Gokfayuen's noodles are cheaper).


Look out for this sign
Then this simple shopfront

I could have this every other day

Kudos to Donald, who has made such great improvements over a short period of time. I guess it's about time for me to announce Gokfayuen as the latest restaurant to grace my exclusive "Wah Lau Eh!" list.

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Some time late last year, a random Facebook page caught my attention. It was about a Hong Kong native trying to start a proper traditional wanton noodle shop in Bangkok. As I followed his journey, from the sourcing of raw material, learning from experts in Hong Kong and practising of various cooking techniques, until finally opening his little shop at Thong Lor Soi 9, I felt extremely curious and equally compelled to try his food some day.

Not the easiest place to spot, but as long as you make your way into Thong Lor Soi 9, you should see it on your left.
Yesterday, I found the time to visit Gokfayuen with my wife and her friend, and even got to meet Donald, the 'mysterious' man behind the mentioned Facebook page. I was intrigued as he explained his journey in his own words. Donald had no prior cooking experience, and simply wanted to recreate the perfect traditional wanton noodle before the art disappears. From the Canadian flour, to duck eggs, to the huge noodle-making machine on show at his shop, Donald left no stone unturned in his quest to make the perfect noodle.

Don't forget to look up as you enter the shop
On top of that, he also makes every element of all his dishes in-house. That includes the chilli sauce, the wanton skin, and even the dried halibut in his soup base is painstakingly grilled and dried (they buy halibut fresh from the market) in-house before use. All this, in hope to reward customers with the most satisfying experience every visit.

So, you will ask me, how's the food?

Braised beef noodle

Wanton noodle

Charsiu aka Roast Pork

I personally feel that most dishes we tried were very good. 2 elements that jumped out were the roast pork (charsiu), which was intensely smoky, tender and well-seasoned, and his soup base, which is clear yet so packed with rich goodness that I am sure every wanton mee lover will find it a waste leaving even a drop behind.

He also serves one of the most authentic glasses of Hong Kong iced milk tea in town

His noodles were significantly softer and less chewy than those I got used to during my trips to Hong Kong. Donald explained that making noodles has been his biggest challenge. Even though he is using the best flour and duck eggs (which are used in the most traditional recipes), other variables like lye water and even the humidity in Bangkok is still affecting Gokfayuen's ability to consistently churn out the perfect noodle.

However, Donald is a perfectionist. When he first sat down with me, there were still strands of noodles stuck to the side of his mouth. He comes to the shop everyday to taste his noodles in a bid to ultimately create the perfect product, and with his attitude, I am sure he will make sure every trip to his shop will be better than the previous one.

Donald and me!

In the meantime, I find it important that lovers of the traditional Hong Kong Wanton Noodles and other street fare (he already sells Cantonese-style chicken rice and will sell congee soon) support a passionate entrepreneur like Donald as he continues his quest to achieve perfection. Besides, with his dishes priced between 79-139THB and a location right smack in the middle of the bustling expat haunt of Thong Lor, you will be hard-pressed to find a better deal elsewhere.


stranger in bangkok

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