Quality Muslim-Thai food
Hidden down a dark alley near Khao San Road, A-isa Rot Dee is a congregation of carts that churn out quality Muslim-Thai food. A mash-up of Southern Thai ingredients and flavours thought to have been brought by Middle Eastern traders many centuries ago, the cuisine is known for rich curries, turmeric-laced rice and unleavened breads. A-isa is a fine place to try all of the above.
We walked right past A-isa (also spelt aisa, aeesa or aesah) many times before realising that the red Thai-language sign concealed a spacious roofed dining space wedged between a few buildings and ringed by vendors. All seven of the available dishes are pictured on the wall, making it easy to order by pointing. You can also point to some of the ready-to-go options sitting in trays atop the carts, each run by a cook who focuses on only one or two dishes.
Snacks include pork ball skewers with sweet and spicy sauce, beef satay that’s bathed in yellow curry powder before being grilled, and mataba, a flaky unleavened bread that’s stuffed with ground beef, green onions and egg before being fried. While we like the mataba better at Roti Mataba, it’s served here with a sweet sauce that includes slices of fresh ginger instead of cucumber.
Khao mok (biryani) is A-isa’s best-known dish. The jumble of rice seasoned with turmeric and chicken stock is topped by braised beef or chicken thighs with tender meat that falls off the bone. The straightfoward but tasty version served here comes with a vinegar-based green sauce for a hint of sour to balance the richness.
On our last visit we opted for kuay-tiao gaeng, or curry noodle soup. Not so easy to find around Bangkok, the dish features rice noodles (we went with sen lek, thin noodles) soaked in a rich and fairly mild coconut curry broth that’s spiced with cardamom and thickened with ground peanuts, little tofu strips and a hard-boiled egg. We went with beef — the same stuff that’s served with khao mok — and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Other options include a mild chicken soup, non-curry beef noodle soup, fried spring rolls with a similar filling as the one found in mataba, and por pia sot, fresh rice paper veggie rolls with a very sweet sauce on top. A tea/coffee stand serves chaa manao (iced lemon tea) among others.
Mainly attracting local students, office workers and a handful of travellers along with Khao San guesthouse and bar staffs, A-isa sells most dishes for around 40 baht, making this is a great option for a cheap and filling meal. The staff don’t have much patience or English-speaking abilities; don’t expect them to wait around for your order, answer questions or be willing to modify any of the dishes. This is not a traveller cafe.
The entrance is located at the far eastern end of Tani Road, off the southern side of the street. It’s a five-minute walk north of Khao San that also takes you past the east end of Soi Rambutri. Look for the beef noodle stand at the entrance to the alley. The red sign with white letters and an Islamic moon and star can only be seen from the street, not the footpath.
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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