Bangkok's best khao muu daeng?
Khao muu daeng, or red pork with rice, is a staple Chinese-Thai street dish available all over Bangkok and beyond. The rich, porky flavours will be especially welcomed by those who shy from intense spice, pungent smells or “odd” animal parts, but only when they’re done well. In Chinatown, Khao Muu Daeng Si Morakod does an exceptional version of this street food mainstay.
Tucked down a bustling side street near Hualamphong train station in Chinatown’s far eastern reaches, family-run Si Morakod has been going strong for decades. The open-fronted eatery has a classic Chinatown atmosphere, with a twinkling Chinese shrine, black-and-white photos of ancestors and utilitarian tables where office workers and old folks find a seat wherever they can. Food is prepared in a makeshift kitchen at the front of the restaurant, allowing diners to observe the magic as it unfolds.
We usually avoid khao muu daeng because the often MSG-laden sauce is usually too sweet, and the typically store-bought roasted red pork too chewy. At Si Morakod, on the other hand, everything is prepared from scratch using recipes and methods that have been handed down for generations. Before even taking a bite, the difference is obvious thanks to heavenly smells and a crowd of loyal customers.
Five-spice marinated pork shoulder (muu daeng) and slabs of pork belly are slow-roasted over a charcoal grill that renders it melt-in-the-mouth tender and a bit smoky. Generous helpings are placed over a mound of steamed rice along with house-made kun chiang Chinese sausage that’s less sweet, more savoury than what you’ll usually find.
Then comes a rich and complex sauce, the mouth-watering product of boiling pig and chicken bones along with Chinese herbs and spices in a huge pot for several hours. Textural variety is added by way of fresh cucumbers and a whole duck egg, hard-boiled just long enough to keep the yoke from running. Throw on some pickled chillies for a hint of spicy and sour, and this everyday dish becomes a 40-baht delicacy.
Nearly every diner comes specifically for the khao muu daeng, which can be ordered only with muu daeng or along with the pork belly, sausage and egg — or any combo of the above. Muu krob (crackling pork skin) can be added for some crunch. There’s no English menu but the efficient staff will assume you want everything unless you say (or point) otherwise. Just make sure they don’t leave out the prik nam som (pickled chillies); they really help to round out the flavours.
The shop also does a light bitter melon soup to compliment the rich khao muu daeng. If you want an appetiser, a neighbouring footpath vendor grills up tasty pork satay that he’ll run straight to your table. For dessert, you’ll find an inviting little coffee shop that sells house-made ice cream in flavours like durian, coconut and Thai iced tea, right across the street.
To reach Khao Muu Daeng Si Morakod, catch the MRT subway to Hua Lamphong station (we mean the subway station, not the neighbouring regular train station) and take the stairs at exit 1. Once outside, walk straight (west) for a few steps, then bear left before crossing Mahapruetharam road to reach the bridge that spans the canal. Take a right immediately after the bridge, then keep left and take an almost immediate left onto Mittraphap Road. Soi Sukorn 1 will be the first left, and the restaurant is a short walk down on the right (look for the lime green exterior walls). It makes a perfect lunch stop before or after checking out the largest solid gold statue in the world at nearby Wat Traimit.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
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