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.
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.
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?