For two weeks, Jay and I ate our way through Thailand to celebrate our birthdays and first wedding anniversary. We stayed in three gorgeous hotels, that I’d HIGHLY recommend in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket.
As for food, we ate EVERYTHING. We ate fancy, we ate cheap. We ate the unidentifiable and the things we still don’t know what they were (Mal, babe, that was def chicken feet). We had a lot of hits, one major miss and only minor stomach issues, so as far as a food-based vacation, I’d consider it a win.
Let’s start with the bad. The bad was so disappointing, it has its own post. We were so excited to eat at Gaggan, the #1 restaurant in all of Asia (do you know how big Asia is?). It’s also #10 in the world. The horror….the disappointment….the amount of money we spent on it. So much sadness. Click here to read about it.
But this is a happy place – so let’s talk about the things I ate that made me HAPPY. My top eats in no particular order:
Namsaah Bottling Trust– we went here on a sleepy whim because it was our last night in Bangkok. The Wagyu Beef Dumplings in Black Pepper sauce were spectacular. They had way more flavor and depth than your average dumpling. The Salmon Tartare Wonton Tacos were phenomenal. And the lavender infused gin and tonics were perfect. But more on the G&Ts in the booze post.
Nahm– Nahm was THE place I’ve been dying to go to for years. We went for my birthday and I’m so glad it did not disappoint. If you find yourself in Bangkok, please go. Located in the Como Hotel, this restaurant is considered the #8 in all of Asia and #37 in the world. The blue crab curry was absolutely divine and exactly what I wanted to be eating on my 32nd birthday.
Chicken Tikka Masala at Gaggan– yes, the place I hated had one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. IN MY LIFE. Ugh. You can read more here, but if rumors are true and Gaggan is considering a curry house, that would be the best news of all.
The Okura Hotel Room Service Pad Thai– We stayed at the gorgeous Okura Prestige Hotel in Bangkok. The food we had there was great, including the room service. I love pad thai. I love room service. The Okura Pad Thai was damn good, as were the spring rolls that I ordered with it. I was so sad their French-Japanese fusion restaurant was closed. As much as we loved being there for Songkran, we ran into some road blocks.
David’s Kitchen–David’s Kitchen was the most unexpected delight of all of our meals. We went on Jay’s birthday. We were hesitant on going to a French place in Chiang Mai, but the reviews were so stellar. And my goodness, did the meal live up to the hype. The highlights were the Spicy Pomelo Salad with fried dory, shallots and toasted coconut. It was bright, salty, sweet and the fish gave it crunchy depth.
Jay loved his Veal Cheek, slow cooked in red wine with potatoes. The bread was also divine and it was so sweet how David made his way around to all the tables to introduce himself.
Roadside Papaya Salad – I don’t know the name of this place, but I can tell you where it is. We got some crazy awesome crispy chicken and a funky, tart, sweet, spicy papaya salad that was amazing. My only regret is that we didn’t get the pork neck. Dammit, have to go back now.
Random Street Meat Pork Skewer – The woman that we took a cooking class with advised against eating a lot of street food, due to the intense heat and the drought. Not going to lie, even before she told us that, I was not as street food brave as I’d imagined I’d be. But as we walked through the first day of the Songkran celebration, we ate an amazing pork skewer from a street vendor. And promptly felt like shit an hour later. Correlation v causation, I do not know. But it was really freakin’ good.
Dim Sum Brunch – So, Bangkok has really expensive brunches. Like I’m talking $150++ brunches – not what I was looking to spend on day one. Luckily we discovered a dim sum brunch at the Mandarin Oriental. On a quest to stay awake for a few hours after landing, we dragged ourselves over there and had an amazing experience. A few of our favorites were the suckling pig, a delicious tea with black jelly (it was so good, I asked them to bring me a whole glass of it, instead of the tiny mug they were serving it in). But the highlight was the carrot XLB dim sum that they were serving. I’ve previously mentioned my love of XLBs but to be eating one THIS GOOD, IN ASIA, blew even my jet-lagged, barely functioning mind.
Our own Cooking School Creations – We discovered a service called Traveling Spoon that connects you with people who you could cook in their houses. We cooked with a woman named Pea who was amazing. She took us around her garden, showing us everything she cooks with and then gave us a personal lesson on how to make Green Curry, Naam Prik Ong, an awesome pork and tomato paste dip, and Tom Yam Koong soup. When I got back to the states, she even sent me her pad thai recipe which turned out to be absolutely perfect. After some googling, I learned that Pea was a self-made success story who ran her own business, then retired and now does this for fun. Pea is my feminist role model.
Noodle salad with Foie Gras – Pea’s son, Jae, runs a boozy, cheap food stall party at a nearby mall. We checked it out and loved that it was full of locals and there were like 5 other foreigners in attendance. I ended up getting a noodle salad that was salty, limey and delicious. I also took a picture with this owl. I also think we ate chicken feet. One of those things was really upsetting.
Purple Mango Sticky Rice at Eathai– At the mall across from our hotel was a huge event going on called Eathai. It was literally the Eataly of Thailand. Our first time through, we had just eaten and were so upset that we missed this, but we had room for dessert – and there was a mango sticky rice stall full of colored sticky rice.
Full disclosure: when we were heading to Thailand, I thought I’d eat a ridiculous amount of pad thai. And I did. But I think I ate my weight in mango sticky rice. I had to try it everywhere we went. And this one was so yummy. The rice was purple due to butterfly pea violet. It was perfectly sweet, the mango was ripe and succulent, and the condensed coconut milk accented it perfectly. I ate this the way a 6 year old obsesses over an ice cream cone. The worst part was that I had this at the beginning of the trip and never met another mango sticky rice that lived up to it. Thankfully, I’ve taught myself how to make it!
Do I have food regrets??? Yes, I do – my biggest one is that we didn’t get Khao Soi, a popular Thai coconut curry soup that Chiang Mai is known for. But in our defense, it was 105 f*cking degrees when we were there. Every time I considered getting the soup, I started sweating even more.
Part of me wishes I’d eaten more street food, but after Pea advised us to stay away from it, I was happier in my decision. I am sad we didn’t get to go to La Gaetana, an Italian gem in Phuket Town, which we attempted to eat at, but was CLOSED (Songkran strikes again!).
Thailand felt like a once-in-a-lifetime trip. However, after this trip, I’m convinced that I’ll definitely be back. I’m so lucky to live in a city that has some wonderfully authentic Thai dishes (I’m looking at you, Thai X-ing, Baan Thai, Alfies). But ain’t nothing like the real thing.
Click here to read about my favorite drinks!
If you’re heading to Thailand soon and have questions about where to stay or visit, please feel free to reach out to me. I researched so much, I could probably work for a Thai travel agency at this point.