More than a week after my trip down south, I am still infatuated with southern Thai food. Luckily for me, there are a handful of great food stalls in Bangkok featuring some truly tasty Thai-Muslim fare.
One that deserves a visit from any lover of the time-honored “chicken-and-rice” combo is the Khao Mok Gai stand on Convent Road, off of Bangkok’s central business thoroughfare, Silom. Literally translated as “chicken buried in rice”, khao mok gai is one of the more well-known Thai-Muslim dishes and usually features a succulent hunk of chicken (always on the bone), paired with a mound of yellow, cumin-colored rice and a sweet-spicy red sauce. A side of chicken broth spiked with shredded chilies, deep-fried shallots and sliced cilantro is the Robin to this Batman.
(Courtesy of pbinbkk)
Although this stand sells the soup separately, which I think is kind of a gyp, I still love how the chicken is always carefully prepared, the rice just-so, the soup brimming with fresh cilantro and sharp with lime juice. Despite the fact this stand is swarmed by lunchtime office workers on the go, everything comes out well-made and fresh-tasting — still green and spiky and warm. Alas, this stand is only open during the day.
A more around-the-clock type of proposition is Roti-Mataba, huddled at the curve of picturesque Phra Arthit Road along the Chao Phraya River. It’s a lovely site, and an even lovelier food stand, provided you can stand the smoke from the spitting roti (a flat bread like its Indian counterpart, but flakier) and mataba (stuffed flatbread) on the griddle next to your table (there are tables upstairs, but service is spotty — a flight of stairs separates you from the kitchen — and the view not as good).
Those aren’t the only temptations on offer here: aside from the expected chicken, the khao mok here includes beef, mutton, fish and prawn versions, and on our last visit there, it even looked like some sausage rolls (!) were being made — a sort of strange menu item for a Thai-Muslim restaurant.
But the main draws here are the irrespressible mataba and roti. While it’s the sweet-sour ajad (cucumber-and-chili dipping sauce) that makes a star of the mataba (also available with “sweet” pumpkin and banana stuffings), the roti — accompanying a slew of thick-gravied southern curries like massaman and the standard gaeng gari — are fresh, flaky charmers in and of themselves. The best: dessert versions including banana, chocolate syrup-and-condensed milk, and a combination of the two. How (very, very) sweet it is.