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Vientiane Kitchen Restaurant in Bangkok

Michael Babcock, Friday, February 14th, 2014

Vientiane Kitchen is a popular Laotian restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 36 in Bangkok. Its popularity is well-deserved. It is the “go-to” restaurant for the farewell feasts for Kasma’s small-group-trips to Thailand: we go for the food and for the entertainment.

Thai Dancers

Thai Dancers

We have often been disappointed by restaurants that the popular English guidebooks recommend – often the food disappoints. Vientiane Kitchen is (usually) one of the exceptions: the food is quite good, most of the time. In addition to the food, they have a lively show every night consisting of a northeastern Thai band with a very talented lead singer. In addition to the northeastern music, with the occasional American or Japanese song, there are also Thai dancers, and a woman singer as well. They’ve been quite good for the past 4 years.

(Click images to see larger version.)

The restaurant is popular with tourists, both western and Japanese, and can get quite crowded. Also, when the entertainment is on, do not expect to have intimate, quiet conversations – it can get very raucous and noisy. Still, it’s good fun if you’re in the right mood.

The Food

We’ve mostly had good luck with the food – we have a number of favorite dishes. The caveat here is that the quality can vary somewhat (different cooks?). Mostly the food is very good; on occasion, we’ve found it a bit off – still acceptable, though.  They do a number of dishes really, really well. Here’s another caveat: I’ve only gone with Kasma, who can order in Thai and impress upon them that we want the same food that the staff would eat – real Thai food. I don’t know if the experience would be different for westerners who can’t speak Thai.

These dishes were all photographed at the final feast for various of Kasma’s small-group tours to Thailand. Typically, she would order 6 or 7 dishes at a time, so she wouldn’t order all of these at one meal.

Fish Dish

Miang Pla

Grilled Pork

Grilled Pork

These are a couple dishes that Kasma often orders to get us started. Above left is Miang Pla – Tidbits with Fish Wrapped in a Leaf. There are a large number of miang – dishes with tidbits – in Thai cuisine; undoubtedly Miang Kam (Tasty Leaf-wrapped Tidbits) is the best known. Miang Pla is sort of like Miang Kam with the addition of fried fish. A wild pepper leaf (bai cha plu) is the leaf of choice; you take a bit of the fish, a little bit of each of the other ingredients, add a dab of sauce and pop the whole thing into your mouth for an explosion of flavors.

To the above right is Grilled Pork with a delicious, fiery dipping sauce. Both of them do a very good job of getting the appetite going.

Fried Pork Leg

Fried Pork Leg

Sour Fish

Sour Fish

Above are two of my very favorite dishes. I could very happily make an entire meal of either of these dishes. To the upper left is Fried Pork Leg – Ka Moo Tod; the pork leg, with skin on, is stewed with spices until tender, then smoked and then crispy fried so that the fat caramelizes. It’s served with a dipping sauce and with pickled ginger. So good.

To the above right is a definite northeastern specialty – Pla Som (Sour Fish). To make this, fish is mixed with garlic, rice and salt and then left to ferment for a few days until nicely sour. It’s then deep-fried and served with crispy-fried garlic. It’s a very tasty dish and must be fried so: they usually do a good job at Vientiane Kitchen. (Check out Kasma’s blog: In Search of the Best Sour Fish (Pla Som).)

Eggplant Salad

Eggplant Salad

Green Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad

Kasma always orders the Eggplant Salad (Yum Makeua Yao) shown above left. The eggplant is fried (much like tempura) as a base for the salad – it’s an interesting and delicious variation on the more standard version

To the right is the best-known of the northeastern salads – Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam); it’s hard NOT to order Som Tam at a northeastern restaurant. When I was traveling with Kasma in Isaan (northeastern Thailand), I learned not to order som tam made spicy: in Isan they have a much hotter spice scale than I’m used to and their standard “less-spicy” som tam was still incendiary enough for me!

Thai Soup

Hot-and-Sour Rib Soup

Vegetable Dish

Stir-fried Morning Glory

Above left is a spicy hot Hot-and-Sour Soup made with pork ribs. Very tasty. To the right we see “Red-Flamed” Morning Glory (Pak Boong Fai Daeng), one of the most popular Thai vegetable dishes.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

Rice Salad

Rice Salad

Here are another two good dishes. To the above left is Fried Chicken (Gai Tod) and to the left is a northeastern salad – Crispy Rice and Sour Sausage Salad (Yum Naem Kao Tod).

Entertainment

Thai Musician

Thai musician

Thai Singer

Thai Singer

We do enjoy the entertainment at Vientiane Kitchen, which starts at 7:30 p.m. and is usually over around 10:00 p.m.: they put on a good show. For the last several years there’s been a very talented musician (shown above left playing a xylophone-like Thai instrument) who is also the lead singer of the house band; he’s been backed by a number of other musicians with various instruments, including a guitar-like instrument with 4 strings, probably indigenous to the northeast, and also a bamboo flute that resembles circular Pan pipes. In addition to the traditional northeastern music, they’ll branch out into western and Japanese songs at the audience’s request. There’s also a woman singer, shown above right between two of the dancers.

Thai Dancers

Thai Dancers

Two Dancers

Two Thai Dancers

Here are two pictures of the dancers. In the course of an evening they’ll do several dances, including the bamboo pole dance pictured at the very top of the page. Some of the entertainment is participatory – audience members are invited up on the stage to dance along.


See also:

Location

Vientiane Kitchen
8 Soi Sukhumvit 36, Sukhumvit Rd.,
Khlong Toei Nuea, Watthana,
Bangkok 10110
Phone: 02 258 6171
Vientiane Kitchen Map
Vientiane Kitchen Facebook Page


Written by Michael Babcock, February 2014

 

Some Or Tor Kor Favorites

Michael Babcock, Saturday, February 1st, 2014

ตลาด อ.ต.ก. – Talat Or Tor Kor – (Or Tor Kor (pronounced Aw Taw Kaw) Market) in Bangkok has long been one of my favorite markets. It has a tremendous variety to offer, including fresh foods (produce and meats) and prepared foods (both to go and for eating at the market), with everything enticingly displayed. Whenever I’m in Thailand I’ll get there at least two or three times to graze the market and to purchase items to enjoy at home (Thai home, that is). In this blog, I highlight a few (only a few, alas) of my favorite stalls.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Passion Fruit Juice – Stall 10/9

On the frontmost row of the market, just at an intersection, is a stall that has various bottled drinks for sale. My favorite is the fresh passion fruit juice – น้ำเสาวรส (nam sao rot). A beautiful golden color, it is 100% passion fruit; it tastes slightly sour and very refreshing and best drunk straight (no water added or ice). I’ll always get one to drink with lunch and a few to take home and savor over the next few days. It’s the best passion fruit juice I’ve had in Thailand, and I’ve tried quite a few.

Fresh Drinks Stall

Fresh Drinks Stall

Fresh Drinks

Fresh Drinks

The tangerine juice (“orange Juice” – naam som) is also delicious (it’s also easy to find elsewhere), as is the enticingly green pennywort juice. I can’t answer for the sweet corn or carrot, however. Other juices that they sell include guava, sugar cane and lemongrass. They also have chrysanthemum tea and 10 herbals Chinese tea. They have a second stall in the market at stall 8/31.

Northern Food – Stall 10/16

Directly adjacent to the juice stall (10/9) as you head up the intersection (perpendicular to the long aisle in front) is a stall where we pick some items to take home.

Northern Food Stall

Northern Food Stall

Fresh Drinks

Northern Foods

We might pick up some of the items that are ready to eat: such as the dipping sauces Nam Prik Nuum or Nam Prik Ong along with some fried pork skin. We almost always pick up a couple items to take back to our townhouse to heat up or cook there:

Hunglay Pork Curry

Hunglay Pork Curry

Sour Fish

Sour Fish

To the left above we see one of my favorite curries (it’s among my Current Top Ten Favorite Dishes – Hunglay Curry – Kaeng Hunglay. The second item requires having your own kitchen so that you can fry it up: it’s the Sour Fish – Pla Som – pictured above right. (Check out Kasma’s blog: In Search of the Best Sour Fish (Pla Som).)

Egg Custards – (No Number)

Egg Custard Stall

Egg Custard Stall

Egg Custard

Egg Custard

This stall has recently moved (from 11/11). As you continue from stalls 10/9 and 10/16 on the intersecting aisle, you’ll come right away  to Miss Muay. The item to buy here is the egg custard: I often devour one on the spot. The pastry is flakey and delicious (though it could be a little thinner) and the filling creamy and sweet but not too sweet. Delicious! They are best warm. Some of the other items they sell are various “pies” (more like an individual pasty – tuna, spinach cheese, sausage and chicken), cheese cake, custard caramel, pudding and cake. I tried the cheese cake and found it a bit dry in texture.

Pad Thai and Mussel Cakes- Stall 11/40

Towards the back corner closest to the parking lot is an area where you can order all kinds of food cooked to order: it’s basically a food center area such as you’d find in any mall but without the tokens. You can order whatever you’d like and sit in the shared seating area. Be warned: at lunch time, especially on weekends, it can be hard to find an empty table.

Pad Thai Stall

Pad Thai Stall

I’m not a real fan of Pad Thai, though it seems to be the favorite of so many fahrangs (westerners) – to my taste buds there are so many other more interesting noodle dishes. (Check out my blog on Thai Noodles – An Amazing Variety.) This stall in Or Tor Kor is the one place in Thailand that I will often order Pad Thai. I love the presentation: rather than cooking the dish with egg shreds, as is more usual, here it is served inside of the egg – a Pad Thai omelette, if you will. It tastes good and the owners of the stall are always friendly and welcoming, which helps.

I’ll also order another dish here – Pan-Fried Mussel Cakes with Wilted Bean Sprouts and Hot-Sour Chilli Sauce (Hoi Malaeng Poo Tod) – it’s what she is cooking in the photo to the left).

(See my blog Pad Thai at Aw Taw Kaw Market.)

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Mussel Cakes

Mussel Cakes

Above left is the Pad Thai. The Fried Mussel Cakes are above right.

Delicious Pad Kaprao– Stall 12/19

Basil Duck Stall

Basil Roast Duck Stall

Basil Duck

Basil Roast Duck

This is the dish I order the most at Or Tor Kor – it is Roast Duck Stir-fried with Holy Basil – Kaprao Ped Yang; on the sign in the picture to the left, it’s on the top line in the middle – กระเพราเป็ดย่าง (click for a larger version). It is your typical pad kaprao (stir-fried with holy basil) dish made with roast duck and served over rice. It is as delicious as it looks in the picture here.

Dried Fruits – Stall 5/24

Dried Goods Stall

Dried Goods Stall

I can’t resist adding one more stall, since I nearly always make a purchase here of dried jackfruit chips. This stall is at the very front of the market, perpendicular to the longer aisles. Although they have dried fruit and nuts of many varieties here, my favorite is the dried jackfruit chips. Another item I’ll get is the roasted cashew nuts with sugared sesame seeds, which are mildly addicting.


I could keep going: a roast pork stall, one of the stalls to buy durian, the stall where I get Tod Man (Fish Cakes), the stall with GABA rice, etc. I’m going to stop here and suggest that the next time you’re in Bangkok, head out to Or Tor Kor and find your own favorites!

Also, check out my previous blog Aw Taw Kaw (Or Tor Kor) Market in Bangkok

Getting to Or Tor Kor

Or Tor Kor Market is located on Kamphaengphet Road – Th Kamphaengphet. The easiest way to get there by public transport is take the metro (MRT) and get off at Kamphaeng Phet exit 3. The Saphan Khwai Skytrain (N7) is also located roughly 0.3 Kilometres away.


Written by Michael Babcock, February 2014