Take a slow, munching stroll
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Food, glorious food! Bangkok’s Rangnam neighbourhood is tucked between Phaholyothin and Ratchaprarop roads, close to the Victory Monument traffic circle. It’s a neighbourhood that holds several hospitals, colleges and a lot of businesses, which mean only one thing to us: good food, cheap. It’s a happy coincidence that college students also like bars because a few fun places have sprung up along this street. If you’re looking for an evening of wandering, eating and drinking alongside locals rather than travellers, this is your place.
First things first: come hungry. It’s not a long street, but there’s a lot to get through. Lunch is haam (forbidden) on the day of your street eating pilgrimage.
Start at the intersection of Ratchaprarop and Rangnam at around 19:00. Feel like cocktails? There's a street bar that serves up ridiculously large margaritas for small amounts of money across the street from the intersection — look for the colourful stools and fairy lights. Outside the Chevron station is a fantastic Isaan food stand; try their lime and chilli pork (muu manao) or roast chicken (gai yang). Because of their relationship with the petrol station, if you want to drink beer you need to sit at a streetside table. The ones under the awning are the non-drinking section. This place is seriously amazing, so you are going to want to gorge, but don’t fill up!
Walking back down towards Phaholyothin and Victory Monument, on your left is Mezzanine, where you get a discount when you pay your bill by rolling dice to determine the percentage off, followed by Waterbar which has great outside seating — both good options for a mid-journey break for a beer. You’ve walked about 65 metres at this point, so you deserve it.
Continuing down the street on the right side, you’ll come across a noodle soup stand that excels at baa mee muu daeng (springy egg noodles with roasted red pork). Look for the vat of broth, piles of noodles, and roasted pork loins hanging under the lights. Don’t forget to load up your noodles with fermented chilli paste from the condiment selection on your table.
After your noodle soup snack, cross the street and walk down until you get to the Tesco Lotus Express. An unlikely place for a street food bonanza, yes, but this is Thailand, and one of the only constants is that good food is found in inverse proportion to the likelihood of it being there. As you walk through this dense strip of sidewalk stalls look for three stand-out dishes: ladna (wide flat noodles with pork and kale in a velvety sauce), hot pot (clay pots filled with bubbling broth brought to your rickety table over a charcoal brasier — deliciously dangerous!), and fried chicken.
Ladna is defined by its sauce; too glutenous and it becomes unpalatable, poorly reduced and it’s bland. This ladna is just right. When ordering the hot pot, just point at what you want (slices of pork, chicken, pieces of fish, shrimp, squid) and they’ll bring it over, along with a pile of vegetables and noodles. Once the broth is boiling, taste it and add more chilli or fish sauce as you see fit, then start cooking the meat and vegetables. Pick the pieces out as they are done and eat, and then throw the noodles in at the end to briefly cook and soak up the broth.
While both the ladna and the hot pot stand have tables, the fried chicken place is take away only, but it’s worth sitting on the steps to strip the tender meat from the bone and crunch the expertly fried crust. The slightly sweet but mostly sour chilli sauce will tempt you to eat ten drumsticks, but you must resist, as your groaning stomach isn’t done with this prolific street quite yet.
Walk down the sidewalk 10 metres or so and there will be two-wheeled carts that do fried noodles with small tables set up to the right along a fence. The pad see ew is well done, with charred noodles and just the right amount of dark soy to sweeten the noodles, and they do a good version of pad Thai — although there could be more tamarind, it is mouthwateringly satisfying. Beers can be purchased from the 7-eleven a few metres down and brought back to your tables — just ask the cashier to open the bottles (charades is your path to success here).
What would a meal be without a cleansing end? Walk 200 metres down Rangnam, past the King Power Duty Free Complex on your left, and you'll find fruit and sweets vendors clustered around the 7-eleven on the right side of the road. Try odoriferous and complex durian (this spikey fruit smells like angry trash but tastes like delicious custard), or any of the grilled sticky rice sweets (they’ll be wrapped in banana leaf wrappers and roasted over coals).
Still not done? Oh friend, neither is Rangnam. Across from the 7-eleven is a cluster of street stalls serving khao muu daeng (braised red pork served over rice), fried rice and another sidewalk bar popular with hipster college students. This sidewalk bar also has good gap glaem, or food specifically served when drinking; try their laap muu tawt which is like a deep-fried croquette, except in place of boring potato they put spicy Isaan-style pork and sticky rice. Win.
Rinse and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Oh god, the food; it’s just. so. glorious.
By Brock Kuhlman
Last updated on 2nd March, 2015.