Khao Thom

Cheap and filling

What we say: 4 stars

When it comes to food in Bangkok’s bustling Chinatown, competition is stiff. Chefs who don’t deliver something truly special won’t make it for long. Even by these standards, nondescript Khao Thom Restaurant serves up phenomenal curries, stir-fries and fish around the clock.

Streetside dining at its best.

Streetside dining at its best.

With little more than a few light bulbs hanging over tray upon tray of food, Khao Thom skips the loud signage and uniformed servers. All that’s needed to consistently keep a handful of plastic stools occupied is a hard-earned reputation for cheap, outstanding food. It also doesn’t hurt that at least 30 varieties of visually spectacular eats are displayed at any given moment. As an added bonus, Khao Thom keeps it coming 24 hours a day.

From stir-fried pumpkin to slow-roasted pork to spicy clams and delicate tofu, the choice is a daunting one. Order as many items as you like to accompany steamed rice (khao suwai) or rice porridge (khao thom), the restaurant’s namesake. Most items go for just 20 baht a piece, plus 10 baht for the rice. Though little English is spoken, it’s easy to point out your selections.

Choices, choices.

Choices, choices.

Once we finally came to a decision, we were taken aback by very generous scoops of fish and tofu served over a huge mound of rice. Though prices are significantly cheaper than many khao gaeng (curry and rice) shops in Bangkok, portions are almost double the size of what we’re used to. If you’re seeking a filling and delicious meal on the cheap, we can’t think of anywhere better than this.

Sauteed in a spicy red chilli sauce with a hint of shrimp paste, scallion and ginger, juicy hunks of fresh catfish induced a not-so-quiet “wow” at first bite. Gently fried with little more than a hint of turmeric, cubes of tofu melted in the mouth. Unlike many shops that go heavy on the sweet or salty, we found the food to be precisely balanced and refreshingly simple. Though our belly was already half-full from grazing along Yaowarat, we couldn’t pass up a single morsel.

Best lunch we've had in a while.

Best lunch we’ve had in a while.

After filling your belly, you might head to nearby Talaad Mai to see the ingredients that fuel local kitchens, Khlong Thom for electronics shopping mayhem, or Double Dogs for a soothing pot of tea.

Khao Thom can be found about halfway between Yaowarat and Charoen Krung, on the northwest side of Soi Phlaeng Nam. There’s no English sign but you can’t miss the stacks of food.

Contact details
Soi Phlaeng Nam, Bangkok
Open: Daily 24 hours
Last reviewed by:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.

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