In business for more than five decades, Pae Sia and his helpers rise early to craft khanom jeeb by hand in an old shophouse kitchen. The youthful-looking 70-year-old then pushes a cart to the entrance of Wat Yuan, arriving just in time to dish out the dumplings to dedicated customers.
Chinese-style steamed dumplings, or khanom jeeb in Thai, can be found at countless noodle shops in Bangkok, but most serve the pre-packaged frozen variety. Pae Sia makes his from scratch, right down to the delicate flour wrappers. Ground pork, dried shrimp, mushroom and herbs are wrapped up and cooked on a portable steamer to ensure they’re served soft and warm.
Topped with fried garlic and with a side of light soy sauce, the dumplings make an ideal midday snack or appetiser before moving onto a more substantial meal at one of Plaeng Nam Road’s many eateries. After selling for just two and a half baht for years, the khanom jeeb now fetch three baht a piece.
Usually dressed in shorts and a flashy collared shirt, Pae Sia is something of a neighbourhood celebrity. Old and young residents stop by to chat with him while ordering up some khanom jeeb and perhaps taking a seat at the single metal table placed next to the cart. He typically starts serving at 11:30 and keeps going until the dumplings sell out, usually by around 18:00.
To find Pae Sia, walk about halfway up Plaeng Nam Road from Yaowarat Road and keep an eye out for a Chinese-style temple gate on the left that says “Chua Hoi Khan” in Roman script. Locally known as Wat Yuan and officially called Wat Mongkon Samakom, this is actually a Vietnamese temple that’s worth a quick poke through after the khanom jeeb.
For a bigger meal after your dumplings, you could head a few more steps up Plaeng Nam to Khao Thom 24 or Khao Phra Ram Long Song.
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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