Almost as good as the temples.
There’s no doubt that Sukhothai‘s centuries-old stone monuments are what attracts a steady stream of travellers year-round, but “new Sukhothai”, the small, modern city 12 kilometres east of the historical park, has an outstanding food scene worth checking out during a visit. Here’s a quick heads up on some of the Sukhothai edibles worth seeking out.
Sukhothai’s single must-try dish is kwit-tieau Sukhothai (Sukhothai noodles), which are so easy to find in both the new and old parts of town that it can feel as though half of the total food consumed by locals is in the form of this single dish. We don’t blame them either — it’s an addictive broth-free bowl of rice noodles tossed in a light, slightly sweet and sour lime-based sauce along with crushed peanuts, string beans, cilantro, bean sprouts, deep fried pork fat, roasted chicken leg that falls off the bone, tender slow roasted fatty pork shoulder (heavenly) and a hunk of chicken liver for good measure, all for just 30 baht.
Closer to Chiang Mai than it is to Bangkok, there’s not surprisingly some solid northern Thai food to be discovered in Sukhothai. When a downpour hit as we pedalled along Nikorn Kasem Road just west of the Yom river, we sought shelter at a nondescript and nameless northern Thai-style noodle shop occupying an ancient wooden building.
Accompanied by slightly spicy bites of northern Thai sausage with bits of kaffir lime leaf and chilli that we scored from a street vendor nearby, we watched the rain streak down while savouring a steaming bowl of khao soi. I’m not going to say it topped Travelfish.org Chiang Mai’s pick for best khao soi in the city where this originally Yunnanese specialty has become ubiquitous, but the slightly spicy curried broth, soft wheat noodles, chicken leg that (again) fell effortlessly off the bone and just the right amount of fried yellow noodles made sitting out this Sukhothai rainstorm more than manageable.
Not overlooking the sweet tooths of ancient Sukhothai nobles, the city is also renowned for its colourful mix of sweets and snacks, which can be found adorning street carts throughout new Sukhothai every evening. The purple khanom pawk maw wraps up peanuts, scallions, sugar and deep-fried sweet pork in bite-size rice flour wrappers, making for a sweet and savoury treat that falls somewhere between appetiser and dessert.
Other varieties include the painfully sweet orange star-shaped bites known as khanom tong yip and the coconut, mung bean, pandan and duck egg custard known as khanom mor gang, which usually come with a glazing of fried onion that seems out of place but somehow works. All of these can be found elsewhere, but the perfect-for-a-long-bus-ride fried peanut, rice and caramalised coconut sugar crackers known as khanom teua tort are a distinctly Sukhothai treat.
Aside from the local specialties and well done regional fare, Sukhothai’s tourist-oriented restaurants are above the standards found in many destinations, and fresh northern Thai coffee is the norm here, even at guesthouses. There also happens to be a fantastic Italian spot by the name of Felice on the corner of Vichien Chamnong Road and Banmuang Road about 10 minutes’ walk east of the Yom river. And don’t miss out on the 17 varieties of Belgian beer on offer at Poo Restaurant on Jarodvithi Thong Road just west of the river.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 31st January, 2015.