Cheap, filling and always open
Soi Phlaeng Nam, Bangkok
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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 24 serves up phenomenal curries, stir-fries and fish around the clock.
With little more than a few light bulbs hanging over tray upon tray of food, Khao Thom 24 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, good 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, hence the name.
From stir-fried pumpkin to intentionally chewy pork ribs to spicy clams and delicate tofu, the choice is a daunting one. Order as many items as you like to accompany steamed rice (khao suoy) 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.
Once we finally came to a decision, we were taken aback by very generous scoops of shark 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.
Sauteed in a spicy red chilli sauce with a hint of shrimp paste, scallion and ginger, juicy hunks of shark 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.
Khao Thom 24 can be found about halfway between Yaowarat and Charoen Krung, on the northwest side of Phlaeng Nam Road. There’s no English sign but you can’t miss the stacks of food.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 15th April, 2016.