Heaven on a plastic chair
Soi Wattanayothin, Rangnam Rd, Victory Monument, Bangkok
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Enter: Hat Man. He’s a man who used to wear a hat and serve the best noodle soup (kuay tiao naam) I’ve ever had. Hat Man used to set up in the alley behind the apartment I was temporarily renting to see if it was possible for me to learn any Thai at all before I committed to living here full time (luckily for you, dear reader, the answer turned out to be yes), with a rolling soup cart and some plastic stools.
The first time I ate there I was amazed. AMAZED. I’ve eaten a lot of soup, and a lot of noodles, but not like this. I went back the next day and ate two bowls, just to convince myself that I wasn’t making up how great this soup was.
The broth is flavorful and full of porky goodness (but not full of MSG). The pork balls are not chewy and springy and wrong-textured, but rather dense and yielding. A bowl of this soup can be ordered regular (thammada) or special (phiset). Take it phiset so you don’t miss out on the delicate wanton dumpling prepared by Mrs Hat Man.
The dumpling is heaven — the wrapper is thin enough to be translucent, and the bottom half of the dumpling is filled with finely chopped and seasoned pork, and a single, delicate shelled shrimp is nestled into the meat and sealed into bed by the top flap of wanton. Topped with chopped cilantro, peanuts, and fried garlic, it’s heaven served in an alley on a plastic stool.
When I moved back to Bangkok permanently, Hat Man had disappeared. I was defeated. Crestfallen. Heaven had been snatched from my fingers. I asked, in very terrible Thai, where the Hat Man had gone, but my questions went unanswered (probably because at the time I could only use nouns — verbs were still out of reach). But I persevered (mainly by just forlornly walking up and down the alley) and found him, sans hat, with an actual shop! With tables and chairs! And now, you must go and find him, too. Because life is not complete without this soup.
By Brock Kuhlman
Last updated on 6th March, 2015.