Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Arguably the BEST Park in Bangkok: Suan Luang Rama IX Park

Over the years, I have read many lists pointing people to the best parks in Bangkok and more often than not, they will involve usual suspects like Lumpini Park, Chatuchak Park, Benjasiri Park or Queen Sirikit Park. With no offence towards all these parks or the owners of those lists, why is it that the clear Mother of all Parks in Bangkok is usually not on the lists most of the time? Maybe the name of the list should be changed to "The most accessible parks in Bangkok" instead.

My Daddy's recommendations are always the best

So here's the Stranger in Bangkok putting my reputation on the line to recommend to all my readers arguably the BEST Park in Bangkok, the Mother of all Parks, Suan Luang Rama IX Park. It is also known as King Rama IX Park, or even more commonly as Suan Luang or King Park.

Built in 1987 to celebrate King Bhumibol's 60th birthday, King Rama IX Park is the largest green space in Bangkok (approximately 200 acres), with lakes, ponds, bridges and many different gardens built in reference to many countries in the world like UK, China and Japan. Go during the cool winter where temperatures drop to around 20degC, you will see a lavish annual floral display that coincides with the King's Birthday on December 5th.

Reminds me of our time at Jim Thompson Farm

And our time in the Netherlands and UK

The only thing it lacks is probably a huge plot of sunflowers
We also took family portraits there

Suan Luang Rama IX Park is not very accessible via public transport. Even though it has 2 entrances situated very far apart, both will require a taxi ride of around 20-30 minutes from their nearest BTS stations.

The first entrance is near Srinakarin Road, behind Seacon Square and Paradise Park. There's a huge weekend market on Saturday and it's accessible to the park's playgrounds, so if you are looking for a family day out, that will be the entrance to go to. Go early in the morning to enjoy the weekend market and park before spending the rest of the day chilling the the excellent malls mentioned above.

If, like me, you prefer more peace and quiet, you can head to the other entrance along Suan Luang R.9 Road, opposite Big C Suan Luang, which will bring you closer to the lake, King's museum, pedalos and themed gardens. Finding a bite afterwards is not complicated at all, as there are a handful of restaurants around the Big C Supermarket right opposite.

There are many interesting parts to explore
And fresh things to touch and feel

Just an excellent place to spend quality time with family and friends

So if you are wondering where to bring your family to breathe some fresh air in this crowded metropolis, think no further. Discard all the lists you can find and come here, it's definitely worth the trip.

Oh yeah!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Singapore Food in Bangkok: Chuan Kitchen ชวนคิทเช่น

Update on 20th December 2016



So much has happened since I first featured Chuan Kitchen in May last year (just scroll down and have a look for yourself). However, this might be the best update I will ever have to do for them.

What if I told you Chuan Kitchen has now moved to a brand new, bigger, better place in the vicinity of its old location, but with ample parking space, a pond that will soon be full of koi, cool alfresco dining areas and some really good coffee?


The parking space regulars have been craving for
New bright, spacious and modern dining area
Filled with customers since its opening on the 15th of December 2016

All said and done, regardless of the improvements that have been made, all I want to see is that the food remains the same.


After tasting all my favourites during my first visit to the all-new Chuan Kitchen, I can safely promise you that the food is still the same, but with better presentation. So this just means one thing.


Wah Lau Eh!

Good job Peter, for taking Chuan Kitchen to another level. You have done a lot in a short time and I hope all my future updates will be on new branches opening all over Bangkok (including one nearer to me!).

PS. Chuan Kitchen will be offering a 20% discount from now until 31st March 2017. What are you waiting for?

                                                 *******************************
Update on 19th February 2016:

I am glad to announce that Chuan Kitchen has been officially back in business since 2nd February 2016.

The founders of Chuan Kitchen have found a suitable buyer for the restaurant and are extremely confident they can keep the Chuan Kitchen spirit flying and push it to greater heights in the near future.


At the moment, they are still operating at the same location at Bond Street Road until further notice, so readers, my favourite Bak Kut Teh and Laksa in Bangkok are available again!


*******************************

Update on 2nd December 2015:

With a heavy heart, I made my 1.5 hour journey across Bangkok this morning to Chuan Kitchen.

I still remember when I received an email from HQ a while ago inviting me to give her Singaporean food, otherwise unknown to me, a try right across the city. While the robust broth of Chuan Kitchen's Bak Kut Teh gave me a glow in my eyes and the Laksa reminded me of my foodie conquests in Singapore, there were other aspects of the establishment that worried me. With regards to food, their Hokkien Mee, by far my favourite Singaporean dish, left no impression, and can this young lady keep their standard consistent? I have to admit, I only decided to write them a review after eating at Chuan Kitchen thrice to confirm their consistency, which also convinced me that such a great Laksa and Bak Kut Teh should no longer be ignored despite its odd location.


Over the next year or so, I saw a positive transformation of Chuan Kitchen. Through the sheer hard work of HQ, every subsequent visit of mine was met with a bigger crowd of customers, always a good thing, and even the food improved. Their Hokkien Mee has become infinitely more 'shiok' now. 

But with this upward curve came a shocking revelation that HQ had to go home, and that Chuan Kitchen had to close their doors after nearly 10 years in business, when they are almost ready to take their next step. Whatever I wanted to convey to HQ, I already did, the closing date of 14th December remains unchanged nonetheless.

So for us, dear readers, it's probably not the time to ask "why?", but a time to celebrate Chuan Kitchen. I did. Even if my brand new "Wah Lau Eh!" Stamp of Approval sticker will only be gracing their entrance for 12 days, I figured credit must go where credit's due, and I made Chuan Kitchen the 1st ever restaurant to receive my actual "Stamp".


HQ and I on a job well done
In this bittersweet moment, I guess it was apt that some divine intervention ensured that I had my lunch at Chuan Kitchen as well. The Bak Kut Teh and Laksa are still excellent. I even got a little angry at myself for not ordering their shrimp wanton in Szechuan sauce before today.

So dear readers, remember the date. 14th December, no more, and less the Thursdays in between. 

HQ asked me to help her thank all her customers reading this, for your kind support and effort driving all the way down to the 'village' for her food. 

Perhaps there's one more drive to the 'village' in us, no?


**********************************

More and more big Singaporean names are jumping on the Thailand bandwagon. Take Breadtalk for example, you can now see them in every other corner of Bangkok, very much like in Singapore. Other well-known franchises like Yakun Kaya Toast, Crystal Jade and Paradise Dynasty have set up shop here too, but what do you think of when you miss food in Singapore?

Airy bread, foie gras soupy buns, or grilled thinly-sliced bread with egg custard? Nah, not for me. Chilli crab? Ok, getting there, but I believe most who know Singapore really well will agree that the soul of signature Singaporean tastes lie in hawker centres. When I miss Singaporean food (not as much as I should, honestly, otherwise I wouldn't be only blogging about this after 5 years), I think of dishes like chicken rice, laksa, fried hokkien mee, bak chor mee, bak kut teh, popiah etc.

You might be surprised, given the HUGE diversity of cuisines in Bangkok (you can even find Ethiopian, Cuban and Peruvian restaurants here), but authentic Singaporean food is as rare as it can be. Though some have tried with reasonable commercial success, I will gladly tell you that if you see a supposedly Singaporean restaurant named after some famous shopping street in Singapore and wish for authentic flavours, it's better to stay as far away from it as you can.

That brings me to my new mini series, Singapore Food in Bangkok, where I do my best to unearth proper Singapore tastes for you, whether you are locals craving to reminisce your culinary enjoyments in Singapore, or Singaporeans/Malaysians living here, like me, who badly crave for some hometown comfort food now and then.

Chuan Kitchen from the outside

Chuan Kitchen is open and run by true-blue Singaporeans trying to introduce authentic "my-mother's-recipe" Singaporean dishes to folks in and around Bangkok. They have recently introduced an attractive new menu to freshen up their image, but really, it's their food that does the talking.

Katong Laksa style with rice noodles cut into shorter strips, and people who love spicy will love this! 


Small portion of chicken rice for Noah, only roasted chicken is available here, but there's the Singapore chilli sauce, impossible to find that in Thailand.

Char Kway Teow, very shiok! To the sweet side, like a very very delicious Kway Teow from your favourite breakfast economic beehoon auntie in Singapore, just with more liao
Dry Bak Kut Teh. Those who are familiar with it in Malaysia will be shocked to find it here, those who haven't tried it, it's like no other stew pork dish you have ever tried before.

Easily the star of the show, KL-style Herbal Bak Kut Teh. When you come here, order this first then decide on the rest.

On top of the usual traditional suspects, Chuan Kitchen has a full range of Dim Sum as well as some creative dishes like salted egg fries and laksa fried rice to keep you interested if you come frequently. This is by no means a place where you will be content walking in and chomping down a laksa before speeding off to your next errand.

Look at the hustle and bustle during lunchtime

All's not perfect though, as Chuan Kitchen is located along Bond Street Road, a short drive beyond IMPACT Muang Thong Thani, which is incidentally the furthest drive-able place from my office which I will not consider a business trip/short vacation. For those who live around that area, please patronize them frequently so that they will consider opening some branches nearer to my place, for those who don't, an idea will be to visit them when you are going to IMPACT for any exhibitions (or at the Chaeng Wattana Immigrations for your visa applications), since you are already in the vicinity.

If you are lucky, you might find a young Singaporean lady zipping around in the semi-open kitchen making sure you get your dishes quickly. Speak to her and you will know that she is the brains behind this endeavour. She speaks perfect Singaporean English at such a pace that you will struggle to catch up, but it also means that she has all the right credentials to push Chuan Kitchen to greater heights.




stranger in bangkok


Sunday, May 3, 2015

The most delicious Khao Tom (Boiled Rice) in the whole wide world!

Disclaimer: I was given a couple of bowls of free Khao Tom, but the comments are all mine.

For those who came here thinking this is a recipe or a restaurant review, sorry to disappoint you. In fact, this dish wasn't even cooked by a Thai.

The 5 condiments, coriander, fried garlic, fried shallot, chopped chilli in fish sauce and garlic/shallot oil

Khao Tom, or boiled rice, is a simple Thai dish that involves boiling some cooked rice briefly in a pot of hot soup, which is made commonly with minced pork balls, fish or shrimp. I will easily call it my favourite Thai dish (and not steamed fish with lemon or fried basil pork with rice) if not for the difficulty of finding a tasty one. Most versions found here are unfortunately, way too overdosed by chicken/pork essence, but if the right one comes around, this is the kind of food I can eat everyday.

Noah really having fun during his Khao Tom session

God works in wondrous ways. Even though my family has been placed in Bangkok for the long term, a place where we have few friends and no relatives to begin with, He has blessed us with great friends over the years in unexpected ways.

Around 1.5 years ago, my family was having dinner in a popular neighbourhood restaurant with my sister-in-law. Having newly-acquired the art of walking steadily, Noah decided to 'disturb' the table of diners behind us. He was cute and engaging, but after a while, it became embarrassing as they could not eat in peace, so I went over to get him. It turned out that a couple of them (R and I) were missionaries from Singapore preparing to serve in Thailand, so we started to keep in touch even though it would be some time before they would officially relocate.

Ellie enjoying herself as well, though it's just not her style to do any expressions too dramatically

Now, they are finally here for the long haul, and we are so glad. Not only are they friendly, they are really good with kids as well. It's not easy to see BOTH Noah and Ellie warming up to relative strangers that quickly.

However, today, we discovered something else that was completely unexpected. I, a true-blue Singaporean, cooks the most delicious Khao Tom in the whole wide world! This is not an exaggeration. Her boiled rice far exceeded my expectations of how good this dish can potentially taste.

Incredibly amazing Khao Tom

I believe the key to her success is heart. For the standard local cook, Khao Tom is a coming together of a very basic bone stock, coriander root and a lot of chicken/pork essence powder. That's also what most customers expect, so few will think of going the extra mile to 'complicate' their cooking procedure and bring the dish up a notch. As you can see from the picture, I added green marrow, mushroom, pork, shrimp, and prepared from scratch 5 separate condiments to create a Khao Tom so wholesome and balanced, it literally blew me away.

So, thank you R and I, for being hospitable hosts, for being enthusiastic enough to engage a family you got to know in this most unlikeliest of ways, for being confidants in a home away from home, and last, but not least, for letting me know that Khao Tom can taste as good as this.


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