March 2, 2016

Return to Thailand: the Mahachai twins

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My 3-day trip to Bangkok wasn't just focused on fine dining establishments.  We are in Thailand, after all, and one must make time for the more "authentic" and "local" fare - especially given how many times we've been told by Thais that food at the places we we've been visiting were "not really Thai food".  HaoKouFu and I discussed how we could fit these into our itinerary, and decided that we would have to hit these places for late-night supper.

The two of us each suggested a place, and as it turns out the two eateries were literally within 50m of each other - on Thanon Mahachai.  We checked a number of blogs and looked up TimeOut Bangkok, and were satisfied that both places would be open till the wee hours.

So... on my first night here, we didn't eat very much at the party for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.  Not that the food wasn't good - can you imagine a bunch of Asia's best chefs being served crap food?? - but we just wanted to get a taste of what's out there.  So the Great One, HaoKouFu, and I met up with a couple of fellow attendees from Hong Kong and headed over.

It was around 11:40 p.m. when we got off the taxi in front of Pad Thai Thip Samai (ผัดไทยทิพย์สมัย) - arguably the most famous eatery serving the "national dish" of pad Thai (ผัดไทย).  But the restaurant was closed, and there were no tables out on the sidewalk.

We were stunned.  Wasn't this place supposed to be open till 1:30 or 2:00 a.m.?!  What happened?!  This was certainly a disappointment, but all was not lost.  All we had to do was to walk a few steps to Raan Jay Fai (ร้านเจ๊ไฟ).

Jay Fai translates as "Sister Mole" in Thai, and refers to the chef of the establishment.  Yes, she does have (more than one) prominent moles on her face, but one might not notice at first glance due to the skiing goggles she wears while cooking.  That's because she cooks over charcoal fire, and she needs the goggles to protect her eyes from the embers blown around by the electric fans she uses to keep the fires hot.  She also keeps her hair neat under a knitted hat, wears makeup, and gets around in pink Wellington boots.  And she wasn't particularly happy about a group of tourists surrounding her taking pictures and videos.



There are a number of dishes to order here, but the place is arguably most famous for their crab omelet.  Actually, infamous might be more suitable in this case, because these are pricy.  Whereas our crab omelette cost merely THB 90 at Krua Apsorn (ครัวอัปษร), the ones being served up here range from a whopping THB 800 to 1,000.

Crab meat omelet (ไข่เจียวปู) - once you get past the sticker shock and order it, you'll immediately see why the price is completely justified.  This is the THB 800 version, and it's pretty sizable.  The five of us ordered TWO of them.

Cutting this open elicited gasps of ecstasy around our table.  Just look at the amount of crab meat that's been rolled inside the crispy shell!  The crab meat was sweet and delicious, and the egg wasn't soggy or greasy but nice and crispy, with that distinctive flavor that can only come from being cooked at high heat - what the Cantonese call wok hei (鑊氣).  Sooooo delicious on its own, but also works well with some chili sauce.

We also order some of their famous "drunken noodles" - one with prawns and one with mixed seafood.

Drunken noodles with prawns (ผัดขี้เมากุ้ง) - these were very interesting, because the noodles weren't strands but rather very wide sheets, like oversized versions of kway teow (粿條) or pappardelle - only much thinner and softer.  No presence of excessive oil or grease.  These were also stir-fried with plenty of chili so they turned out to be pretty spicy.

Drunken noodles with mixed seafood (ผัดขี้เมารทะเล)

We were pretty happy with the food, and the Great One fell in love with Jay Fai immediately.

Which was why two nights later, we found ourselves back on Thanon Mahachai.  This was after the Jet Setter and I had a huge dinner at Gaggan, and HaoKouFu had finished her dinner at Le Du, and the Great One had gone through a long dinner at Nahm.  None of us were hungry, but we were determined to hit this busy street once more before we left town.

With our experience two nights ago, we decided to come a little earlier, and met up around 10:30 p.m.  Pad Thai Thip Samai (ผัดไทยทิพย์สมัย) was in full swing, and there were plenty of tables spilling onto the busy sidewalk.  There are quite a few cooking stations in full view, all cooking over charcoal fires.

By the time I joined the others, orders for three different pad Thais had already been placed.  As I was still pretty full from dinner, I was just happy to tag along and nibble...

Pad Thai

Superb pad Thai (ผัดไทห่อไข่กุ้งสด) - this comes wrapped in a thin layer of egg, like the Japanese omlet rice (オムライス).

Pad Thai with prawn oil (ผัดไทเส้นจันมันกุ้ง)

To be honest, I wasn't in the best shape to do a tasting... especially since I was only nibbling a little bit of each.  Maybe I'll have to come back another time when my stomach wasn't about to explode.

But we weren't done yet.  We went back to Raan Jay Fai (ร้านเจ๊ไฟ) for more crab omelet (!!!)

Once again we ordered two crab meat omelets (ไข่เจียวปู), but tonight Sister Mole decided to give us one that costs THB 1,000 and another that costs THB 800, so that we can see the difference in size.  I continued to just nibble.

Our Thai friend also ordered the drunken noodles with seafood (ผัดขี้เมารทะเล), but this time with what seemed to be flat mung bean noodles.

Dry congee with prawn (โจ๊กแห้งกุ้ง) - apparently this is a specialty here, and comes with a boiled egg.  It was a little on the "dry" side, and was pretty interesting.  Served with deep-fried dough sticks on the side.

I could eat no more, and I think the others were pretty happy, too.  Sister Mole seemed to have softened up a little tonight, perhaps because the Great One told her in no uncertain terms that she was "number one".  She even took off her goggles and had her picture taken with the girls.  Definitely a happy ending...

P.S.  When we finally left Thanon Mahachai past midnight, Pad Thai Thip Samai was still heaving.  I wonder why it closed so early Monday night...?

2 comments:

cumbriafoodie.com said...

Thip Samai.....great for pad thai. Its meant to be the best but ive eaten better for 60 baht on soi 5 sukhumvit. Still top shelf Pad thai and I would return.

Raan jai fai....I also asked her to marry me. I had the pad kee mao....pretty awesome stuff. Apparently she has raised her prices to the most expensive street vendor in the city...but I would happily pay them.

Here`s my meal there. cheers.

http://cumbriafoodie.com/tag/raan-jay-fai/

Peech said...

did she say "yes"?

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