Apr 14 2012
Thai people are not known for being overly serious about too many things, but when it comes to food, Thailand means business. So when some locals recently let me know about a nondescript restaurant tucked away in Sathorn‘s Larai Sap market that has possibly the best roast duck egg noodle soup (ba mee nahm ped) in Bangkok, I sought it out. Like many small Bangkok restaurants this place goes by a very straightforward name: Khao na ped ba mee, which translates simply as “Rice or egg noodle with duck”.
After getting sidetracked by a vendor selling home-made khanom buea (fried sweet rice cakes naturally dyed green; more of a dessert really but I have zero ability to resist them) in low-key Larai Sap market, I made it to the restaurant at a little past 13:00 when their lunch rush had just subsided. They were already preparing to close down for the day since their duck supply was running low, but luckily they had just enough left to dish me out a helping of ba mee nahm ped and indeed I was not disappointed.
While lacking the extreme spicy, salty, sour and/or sweet tastes found in so many Thai soups and other dishes, the restaurant’s signature duck broth was mild yet well balanced, quiet yet distinct. Though I love the loud, vibrant and often painfully spicy flavours of Thai staples like som tam and gaeng pa, I found it refreshing to find a traditional Thai dish that actually reminded me a little of the northern New England style chicken soup my Mum used to feed me when I was sick as a kid. Tempered with onion, garlic, cilantro and scallion, the broth has a soft, comforting appeal that complements rather than overpowers the subtle flavour and textures of the roast duck itself.
And truly the duck is the star of this show. The perfectly cooked strips were tender, with a secret house glaze on the skin that pushed the dish from, “Wow this is really good!” to, “Mother, father, God, Buddha, cosmic forces and/or whoever else THANK YOU for putting me on this earth and giving me a tongue to taste with!” In its supporting role, the glaze complemented the duck’s distinctive earthy flavour rather than surpassing it.
Hardly an afterthought, the homemade ba mee egg-wheat noodles rounded out the dish and drove home its overall “comfort food” appeal. While I always enjoy the more typical Thai rice noodles, something about the way ba mee noodles seem to effortlessly relax their way o to the spoon and melt away in the mouth makes them fit into this particular dish like a glove. Though it’s good at any time of day, this dish is especially suited (and easily digested) in the morning.
Although ba mee ped is the restaurant’s signature dish, they also serve seeklong muu daeng (roasted red pork ribs with rice) and khao na ped (roast duck with rice in a sweet and spicy hoison sauce), both of which are sure to make your tongue happy as well.
The restaurant is open from 7:00 to around 14:00 (or whenever they run out of duck), but if showing up between 11:00 and 12:30 expect to wait for a table as it gets packed with local lunch breakers during that time. There’s no English menu — in fact there’s no Thai menu either apart from a sign posted on the wall — but if you can’t manage to communicate your desired dish in Thai a basic request for “duck noodle” or “duck rice” should suffice. All dishes cost between 35 and 60 baht.
To get here take the BTS (sky train) to Chong Nonsi and leave the station through exit number four. At the bottom of the stairs walk straight on the main road for a short distance and then take the first right down the side street at Top Charoen Optical. Larai Sap market will begin shortly, and not too far in look for another smaller alley to the left, which at its beginning is occupied by a couple of fruit vendors and noodle stands off to the sides. Khao na ped ba mee restaurant (there’s no English sign) is at the end of this alley, on the right. Larai Sap is a day market open from around 06:00 to 16:00.
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