Sunday, July 15, 2012

food (court) porn in bangkok

Warning: This blog post will make you hungry.

Terminal 21 is now my favorite shopping mall in Bangkok not just for its over the top cuteness, but more importantly because of its food court on the fifth level, Pier 21. It's the only place I'm aware of where I can get this particular noodle soup with the incredibly addictive broth. There are a dozen other stalls where the selections are pretty exciting, too.

Lemony, spicy, good to the last drop. The first bowl I had was the fish ball and fish fillet one. The one in this photo with three different kinds of pork meatballs was equally ambrosial. I'd fly back to Bangkok in a heartbeat for this soup.

Fried chicken cutlets smothered in veggies with sweet chili sauce. The Thais do this type of thing so well: balancing heat with sweet and salty. Very nice with rice.

Pier 21 has supplanted MBK's Food Center on the sixth floor which used to be on the top of my list of best food courts. But MBK is still worth a stopover, especially for the mango sticky rice which is the best I've ever had in Bangkok.

Yen ta fu noodle soup with red sauce, chock-full of unrecognizable nasty bits. Too funky for me, couldn't finish it.

Bite-sized charcoal-grilled pork kebabs. Like eating candy. The best pork BBQ ever.

Rice flour rolls filled with shrimp, leafy greens and vermicelli. Healthy and yummy. The dipping sauce was da bomb.

Bunny Rabbit's inevitable khao pad. I'd say it was the second-best we had in Thailand, and we had a lot.

MBK Food Center's raison d'être: super sweet mangoes, fluffy sticky rice coated with smooth coconut milk, topped with crisped rice for texture.

The Emporium was just a 10-minute walk from where I was staying. The Food Hall is on the fifth level, right next to the home decor department, strangely enough. The options are comprehensive and may tempt you to order more than you can actually consume.

Tom yam noodle soup. Sour and spicy tom yam broth, noodles, minced seafood, sliced beef, some token greens and yes, chopped peanuts-- everything but the kitchen sink. I enjoyed it. 

Stir-fried beef slices with morning glory. The meat was amazingly tender and succulent. 

Stewed pork leg and pickled cabbage. A great hit for people who like anise flavor and melt-in-your-mouth pork skin and cartilage. Reminded me of grandma's cooking. 

A decent version of pad thai, although I felt that it was too sanitized.

Sukiyaki-style beef soup. This was not so good. I should have ordered the dry version with the soup on the side. 

I went to Central Chidlom, one of Bangkok's oldest department stores (since 1973), because I was looking for an Aeon ATM-- the only one in Bangkok that doesn't charge any transaction fee. Unfortunately, Aeon had not updated its website and the ATM was long gone. Since it was lunch time, I figured we might as well eat at the food court in the basement. There were very few stalls and the options were dismal.

Very simply boiled pork slices and morning glory with chili sauce. Doesn't look like much, but surprise! I liked it.

 I never thought that fried rice could ever be sad, but this one was a pale shadow of what khao pad should be.

All of these shopping malls are accessible via BTS Skytrain:
Terminal 21 at Asoke Station
MBK at National Stadium Station
Emporium at Phrom Phong Station
Central Chidlom at Chit Lom Station

Applying the Michelin star rating system to these food courts, I would rank Terminal 21 three stars "worth a special journey", MBK two stars "worth a detour", and Emporium one star "very good in its category". Central Chidlom? Save your calories.

During Bangkok's oppressively hot and humid summer months, the food court is a necessity and a blessing. There's air-conditioning, the food is usually tasty and you never have to spend more than 70 baht on a satisfying meal. Maybe 100 baht if you want dessert.

Some might say that it's superfluous, but I find their coupon system (buy coupons-- or in the case of Terminal 21, a stored-value card-- to pay the merchants and exchange the excess back to cash before you leave the food court) kind of entertaining, like using Monopoly play money. Shouldn't eating be fun?

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