I would never have thought to check out Thonkrueng Thai Restaurant if not for my friends who've been living in Bangkok since mid-2011. It's in a relatively obscure neighborhood not frequented by tourists. From the BTS Skytrain Thong Lo station, you still have to take a cab. Their signboard is barely readable, and they don't have a strong online presence. Their website
is woefully inadequate, but no matter-- the food is more than satisfactory.
|Started with my favorite Thai dish, som tam. This time with breaded and fried slices of salted egg.|
|Super tender stir-fried beef with holy basil. Often imitated outside Thailand, but never equalled.|
|Crisp morning glory (kangkong) sautéed with garlic. Seemingly effortless and yet so perfect.|
|Deep-fried crab or fish cake, can't remember exactly. Must've been overshadowed by the other dishes.|
I refused to eat the great Pinoy favorite chicken in pandan leaves the whole time I was in Thailand, but as a concession to our being Filipino, we agreed to get the other Pinoy favorite, pineapple rice. At this point, I was starting to worry that we may have ordered too much for our measly group of five, but we steadfastly soldiered on.
|Fried rice served in a carved out pineapple. I think I ate too many interpretations of this back in the '90s.|
|Thonkrueng's Thai fresh spring rolls were quite good, but I much prefer the Vietnamese version.|
|I actually liked this catfish salad because the dressing was served on the side. Great idea.|
|Tom kha gai, or chicken soup with coconut milk. Impeccable balance of creamy, salty and mildly spicy.|
The most unusual dish of the evening was the... uh, the little clay covered thingys. I don't know what they're called, but they were absolutely sublime. I can't even describe how it tasted because everytime I think about it, I fall into a swoon. I would go back to Thonkrueng just for this dish.
|I could have eaten all of them, whatever they were. So good, and not available in other Thai restaurants.|
|ARRRGGGGHHHHH!!! I wanna go back. Right now!|
The second most unusual dish was the raw veggies with sweet and salty dip. Again, I don't know what this dish was called or what was in it exactly, but it was lip-smackingly delicious. I especially liked the fresh young lotus root. I had never eaten them that small before. They're usually much bigger and you can see the distinctive Swiss cheese holes when you slice them. These were only as thick as a finger, and had the most wonderful texture: crunchy but delicate.
|Yummy sliced young lotus root between the cucumber and the cabbage.|
By the end of the parade of dishes I was actually too full to eat anything else, but when someone said "mango sticky rice", I couldn't resist. Thai mangoes are more fibrous than the Philippine variety, but I find them to be consistently sweeter. It's like the farmers submerged them all in a vat of sugar syrup before they went to market. I did not have a single bad mango in Thailand.
|Whoever invented this simple dessert is a genius. Totally worth the extra calories.|
Verdict: Ah, Thonkrueng. You have become my favorite Thai restaurant. Never mind that you're out everyone's way, you look like a retro German beer garden transplanted to the tropics, and your wait staff are almost impossible to communicate with. When I go back to Bangkok, this will be my first stop. Fresh, fast, cheap, delicious. Three stars.
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