Almost everyone in Bangkok eats lunch out. Traffic is too bad to get back home, and most people have short breaks, so lunch is for eating with the people. And eat they will — sizzling sausages, khanom jin (curries with fresh rice noodles), green papaya salad, bowls of soup, curries, and fried rice.
Getting out there to eat with the people can be a bit intimidating if you don’t speak Thai, however there is a solution: the kap khao restaurant. Kap khao literally means “with rice” in Thai, and kap khao joints have 15 or 20 dishes ready to serve immediately, on a plate of steaming jasmine rice.
To identify a kap khao restaurant, look for a small place with a lot of small tables packed in it. Towards the front of the shop, most likely facing the street, will be a glass case with 15 or so metal trays in it, piled high with curries, stir-fry dishes, salads, and more. Feel free to take a peek at the food before deciding, but the cardinal rule for a kap khao restaurant selection is if the place is full during lunch time. People eat fast at these places, so you might have to wait a bit but it won’t take long to get a seat.
Grab the attention of the person behind the counter and start pointing. You can order two, three, or four things on each place of rice, with the base price usually starting at 30 baht for two choices and going up by five or 10 baht for each extra preparation added. When your plate is filled, you’ll be led to a free spot (you might be sharing with some new friends if it’s busy) and presented with a cup of ice — order a soda or bottled water, or drink the filtered water on the table for free.
Easy and delicious, kap khao places are a perfect chance to sample different dishes you wouldn’t know to order otherwise.
By Brock Kuhlman
Last updated on 23rd March, 2011.