Tasty noodles and inspiring art
Around Khlong Bang Luang Artist Village, across from the end of Charan Sanitwong Soi 3, Thonburi
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One of Bangkok’s best kept secrets, Khlong Bang Luang artist village on the Thonburi (west) side of the Chao Phraya inspires visitors with a relaxed, artsy canal-side atmosphere and daily puppet shows. The neighbourhood’s fantastic noodle shops are a big part of what keeps us coming back.
First up is Kuay Chap P’Boy, located at the end of Charan Sanitwong Soi 3 on the left just before the footbridge that crosses the canal en route to the Artist House. With a few stumpy wooden tables in a classy old shophouse perched over the canal, it’s a cheap but memorable spot for lunch.
Aside from a host of homemade sweets that include some outstanding coconut custards and mango with coconut sticky rice, P’Boy offers but one main dish: kuay chap. Reflecting the area’s Chinese influence, kuay chap is originally a southern Chinese Min (Teochew) pig intestine soup that’s been embraced and adapted slightly by Thais as well as Vietnamese, Malaysians and Singaporeans.
While Vietnamese kuay chap Yuan is made with thin rice noodles and pork sausage and is also popular in Thailand, the Chinese variety is often served as a bowl of noodles in broth with an array of pig innards plated on the side. P’Boy keeps it a little more simple by serving a single bowl filled with braised hard boiled egg and tofu, fresh green onion, lean roast pork and a few other parts of the pig including liver, belly and skin added to a dark black soy and Chinese spice pork broth with wide rice noodle sheets that roll up like miniature carpets. Not ignoring the extreme taste preferences of the average Thai, dried chillies, sugar and fresh green chillies in vinegar are optional.
If the whole pig innards thing just isn’t up your alley, it’s still worth stopping by the shop to try the sweets, which we promise are intestine free. Kuay Chap P’Boy opens daily from 08:00 to 16:00, although sometimes they take a random day off.
After a few steps down the alley directly across from the bridge you’ll notice a lady on the footpath flipping noodles and bean sprouts around in a big dented wok that fronts her modest shophouse. A friendly fixture in the neighbourhood, the wok master known as Sai Jai prepares some of Bangkok’s best pad thai with a hefty pinch of love.
We’re usually not too inspired by this, the most recognisable Thai dish from an international standpoint but one that’s often too bland for the tastes of Thai people. Yet Sai Jai always seems to have a queue of locals lining up for her golden sauteed noodles that come neatly tucked into paper and banana leaf wrappers. After tucking into a portion of her egg and dried shrimp heavy version, it’s easy to taste why.
Sai Jai can usually be found satisfying cravings from morning to mid afternoon, or whenever she runs out of ingredients for the day. She doesn’t offer on-site seating but it’s perfectly acceptable to unwrap your steaming pad thai at one of the Artist House's canal-side tables, perhaps accompanied by one of the cafe’s Thai iced teas or strong coffees.
Not in the mood for kuay chap or pad thai? Walk a little further past Sai Jai’s wok and pop into the charming hole-in-the-wall noodle shop known as Kuay-tiao Yut Boy. Run by an artist couple who also make handicrafts and some strikingly realistic wax sculptures of famous Thai monks ( on display in the back of the shop), the previously nameless shop eventually gave in and adopted its local nickname, which literally translates as “noodles that stop often“. The couple often close up for extended periods to travel or focus on their artwork, so indeed the noodles do regularly stop being served.
When their doors are open, Yut Boy produces simple yet tasty bowls of noodle soup (kuay-tiao nam) with the standard choices of fish or pork balls, roasted red pork and wontons in regular (thamada) or hot and sour tom yum broths. We’ve found Yut Boy’s noodle soup to be an above-average version of what’s found on virtually every Bangkok corner, but the five-table shop is always full; even the odd Thai celebrity has even been known to make an appearance. Yut Boy never opens on Wednesdays or Thursdays, and true to its name, opening hours are consistently inconsistent.
Hungry and ready to make your way to Khlong Bang Luang? Click to the village post (linked to in the first paragraph) for directions on how to get here. Your stomach will thank you.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 14th January, 2015.