Watch out for those chillies
Run by a family with roots in Chumphon province, Kua Kling Pak Sod serves authentic Southern Thai cuisine that does not hold back on the chillies. The classy yet homely original outlet in Thong Lor has been joined by two more locations in the Sukhumvit area, attracting hi-so Thais along with travellers brave enough to sample real-deal curries and more.
The original Kua Kling Pak Sod is hidden in a warren of side lanes off Sukhumvit Soi 53, which hosts several other well-regarded eateries such as Bo.lan and Baan Khanitha. The lone dining room features white tablecloths and polite English-speaking waitstaff in white uniforms. It feels like part of a wealthy but welcoming home.
A note at the front of the menu invites diners to enjoy “the dishes cooked for us by our mother and aunt since we were little.” Keep flipping to find a well thought-out list of options with photos of some of the prettier dishes and transliterations of the Thai names along with English descriptions. Most dishes cost from 150 to 200 baht, which is reasonable considering the fresh ingredients and upscale feel.
The food is simple in a way that allows the ingredients to shine through. Several types of fresh chillies accompany most dishes, and it can seem like the chefs get a kick out of watching patrons suffer -- in a good way of course. In the namesake kua kling, tender bits of chopped pork mingle with strings of kaffir lime leaf and a handful of super-fiery bird’s eye chillies. Rather than popping a whole chilli, shave off a tiny curl to compliment the subtle tones of house-made curry paste.
The gaeng luang was one of the finest versions we’ve tried anywhere, with chunks of mullet and bamboo shoots bobbing in an intense orange curry that’s both sour and rich. We also enjoyed the khanom jeen nam ya puu, which looks like a regular green curry but is not sweet and has a strong flavour of krachai (finger root) complimenting thumb-size hunks of crabmeat with fresh rice noodles and veggies. A salad, yum pla salid, showcased the freshness of fried snakeskin gorami aside fresh shallot, chillies and herbs.
Other dishes feature Southern ingredients like sator, an astringent and addictive “stink bean”, and pak lieng, a leafy green served in soups or stir-fried with egg. Next time we’ll try gaeng tai pla (fish bladder curry), pla tod kamin (deep-fried whole fish with deep-fried cumin) or muu pad kapi, pork sizzled with house-made kapi (shrimp paste). Afterwards you might order a jelly infused with sugarcane and rambutan, and topped with cream whipped from coconut milk, to cool your tongue. You’ll also find some wines and even a Thai craft beer or two.
To reach the original Kua Kling Pak Sod, take the BTS Skytrain to Thong Lo Station and head down the street via Exit 1. Walk straight and hang a right on Sukhumvit Soi 53, and then take a right on Thong Lor Soi 5, which will be the second side lane on the right. Walk a little further and take a left down another side lane and you’ll see Kua Kling Pak Sod’s yellow signage across from the Kenya embassy.
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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