Category Archives: Hua Hin

Breakfast in Hua Hin

Congealed pig’s blood in soup — a common Thai breakfast dish

It doesn’t happen very often, maybe, but it might — somehow, for no reason at all, you wake up at 6 in the morning with an empty stomach, having picked at a watermelon salad at the neighboring hotel the night before. You are starving. You need food, pronto.

Luckily, Hua Hin has it all covered. This once-sleepy seaside town — the traditional weekend getaway of time-pressed Bangkokians everywhere — may be an amateur when it comes to approximating any sort of nightlife, but is everything a morning person with a love of food could possibly want. By 6, it’s already buzzing: steam rising from curry-filled pots; dough rolled out for the morning’s first patongko (Chinese fried bread) order; monks out strolling the market, bowls in hand.

When I get to Pa Choung (4/3 Amnuaysin Rd., 082-212-4490, open 6-noon), she is in the middle of making merit. On the hob: a fiery gaeng som full of little shrimp and dok kae (what I’ve seen referred to on some menus as cowslip blossoms), pad ped moo pa (stir-fried curried wild boar), dried and butterflied fish, sun-dried beef, deep-fried pork cutlets and a green curry full of slivered bamboo shoots.

Green curry and deep-fried pork: breakfast of champions

This isn’t all of it. She says she is finished making all of the food at 8. But it’s usually gone by 8:30. I’m happy with the smattering of curries already there.

But while Pa Choung is a one-woman curry-making machine, Raan Kafae Jek Pia (intersection of Naebkehardt and Dechanuchit Roads, open 6:30-1:30pm) is clearly Breakfast Central for the entire town. Every table is occupied, and on nearly every tabletop is a mug of sludge-like kafae boran (old-fashioned coffee), flavored with a layer of condensed milk. But this is not the main attraction. Instead, it’s the collection of stalls that service Kafae Jek Pia’s customers: jok moo (Chinese-style rice porridge with minced pork); khao thom pla (rice porridge with fish); guaythiew (noodles in soup); and, most intriguing of all, gow low lued moo (pig’s blood in soup), traditionally served for breakfast here, in a country not really known for its breakfast foods.

Cubes of pig’s blood blanched in broth

Pig’s blood cubes are taken from a chilled bowl and blanched in boiling broth for a few minutes. They are then added to slices of pork, blanched Thai watercress, some Thai celery for freshness, and a dash of deep-fried garlic for bitterness and punch. There are bits of innards too: intestine and liver and slices of heart. It’s a one-stop shop for piggy flavor. Sometimes, if you pair it with a plain bowl of rice, you can drop some of that in there too, or take a spoonful and dunk it, watching the grains soak in the broth, a bite at a time. It’s the best antidote to thinking too much that, well, I can think of. What else is breakfast for, if not that brief reprieve before the start of the day?



Filed under Asia, food, food stalls, Hua Hin, pork, rice, Thailand

Gluttony in Hua Hin

When I was 12 (bear with me here, I think I’m going somewhere), we had a Secret Santa exchange at my dorm before the Christmas holiday. I combed the mall for something I could get for Leela, a sort of serious, studious older girl who was a prefect (I think she ended up going to Brown, so studying hard does get you somewhere, people). I ended up with caramel corn, which I thought was the perfectest gift ever: sweet and crunchy, with an underside of salt.

Unfortunately, Leela didn’t like caramel corn, although I made her eat at least three handfuls before I turned away and she could chuck her present somewhere else. Poor Leela. But I thought back to that caramel corn when I traveled to Hua Hin last week to sample some edifying sticky rice desserts that play with the sweet/salt balance that Thais are so fond of.

Long before Werther’s Originals, way before Guy Martin started making ice cream out of fennel and black olives at Le Grand des Vefours, eons before Gramercy Tavern was turning out caramel tarts sprinkled with sea salt, Thais were turning sugar and salt into dessert. And this salt does not come in the form of a hit of peanut butter, or a slip of fleur de sel: shrimp, dried fish, kaffir lime leaf, cumin — these are the ingredients of many a traditional Thai dessert, including  khao niew sarapat (sticky rice with toppings and steamed in banana leaves). It is hard to find in Bangkok but readily available in the beachy (and very crowded) resort town of Hua Hin.

These sticky rice offerings, bought at the central Chatchai Market opposite the Meechai Hotel on Petchkasem road (you cannot miss this main road, mainly because you will be stuck in traffic there next to the rest of Bangkok on the weekends), involved black rice, which is mixed with coconut juice to sweeten and soften it (white sticky rice is often mixed with cumin to turn it yellow and contrast it nicely against the red or brown toppings). The toppings themselves were myriad and intriguing: minced, sweetened shrimp; sweet, sticky dried fish; sankaya (coconut milk custard); gracheek (shredded, sweetened coconut) and shredded glauy, a type of root vegetable that is apparently a bitch to prepare — it is dug out of the jungle floor and alternately washed under running water and dried for 15-20 days. If not prepared correctly, it can make you drunk. 

Black sticky rice topped with dried fish and coconut cream

The effect of the seafood-topped desserts was strange and illuminating: the salt actually enhanced the sweetness of the rice, added sugar and coconut milk, while the fishiness added a titillating savory edge.  

Black sticky rice with minced shrimp

 There are other ways to play with seafood-y desserts. Meechai, a mango sticky rice stand next to the Meechai Hotel, sells a sweetened shrimp topping you can put on your own mango sticky rice, or to eat on its own if you like it that much. While many vendors bulk up their minced shrimp with shredded coconut due to the expensiveness of the shrimp, Meechai serves it full-on, with a bit of chiffonaded kaffir lime leaf for flavor. It adds that extra bit of danger to your mango or sankaya sticky rice — even if that danger comes in the form of lines that stretch down the block for a trifling bit of dessert.

Duo of coconut milk custard and sweet shrimp toppings


Filed under Asia, dessert, food, food stalls, Hua Hin, seafood, Thailand