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Hongkong Noodle in Bangkok’s Chinatown

Michael Babcock, Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Hongkong Noodle is a noodle and dim sum shop found right in the middle of Chinatown’s Talat Kao (ตลาดเก่า) in Bangkok. As you stroll up the narrow market lane from Yaowarat Road, keep an eye to your left until you spy the Hongkong Noodle sign with the busy kitchen in the front and head on in for some great dim sum.

Dim Sum Baskets

A stack of dim sum containers

Talat Kao is found on a small alleyway called Trok Issaranuphap, which is sometimes signposted as Soi Issaranuphap or as Soi 16 (acording to Wikitravel). It intersects Yaowarat Road at Mangkorn Road, therabouts. It’s a colorful market with all kinds of foods – I previously blogged on it back in 2009 – Bangkok’s Chinatown Market. Another blog (Cranky Little Monster) called it the Leng Buay Lea market.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Dim Sum

Some of the dim sum

Hongkong Noodle is a chain found in 8 locations in Bangkok; at least a couple more are in Chinatown. Apparently this is the original shop (unconfirmed).

The Kitchen

The kitchen at Hongkong Noodle

Some Food

Some of the ingredients

Kasma takes some of her small-group tours to Thailand to this colorful market for a pre-breakfast walk and then for a dim sum meal at Hongkong Noodle. You walk through the kitchen & food prep area on your way to the rather small dining area: if you’re lucky there will be a table available right away.

Dining Room View

Dining room view

Dining Area

The dining area

The dining area is very lively; it can feel a bit cramped. If you sit facing the front, you can see past the bustling kitchen to the market lane, usually crowded with shoppers and activity. If I recall correctly, the signs are all in Thai. It’s not really a problem: you can point out the dim sum dishes that you want to eat and there are also pictures of the various noodle dishes that you can point to.

Dim Sum

Some of the dim sum

Noodle Soup

Roast Duck Noodle Soup

The dim sum was quite good: fresh and tasty. We also ordered a couple bowls of the Duck Noodle Soup for people to try and it was also good. I would definitely recommend this as a breakfast or lunch stop. Check out the slideshow below for some of the dim sum dishes. There’s also a second slideshow of some of the workers there (further down)


Slideshow of Food Dishes

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Dim Sum 1
Shrimp Dumplings
Dim Sum 2
Shrimp & Chive Dumplings
Noodle Soup
Roast Duck
Stack of Dim Sum

A stuffed shrimp dim sum dish

Shrimp Dumplings - Har Gow

Another of of the dim sum dishes

Shrimp & Chive Dumplings

Roast Duck Noodle Soup at Hongkong Noodle

A plate of Roast Duck

A stack of dim sum in the traditional bamboo baskets

Dim Sum 1 thumbnail
Shrimp Dumplings thumbnail
Dim Sum 2 thumbnail
Shrimp & Chive Dumplings thumbnail
Noodle Soup thumbnail
Roast Duck thumbnail
Stack of Dim Sum thumbnail

Slideshow of Hongkong Noodle Workers

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Restaurant Staff
Stacking Dim Sum
Preparing Noodles
img-3657.jpg

Some of the staff at Hongkong Noodle

One of the servers prepares to serve some dim sum

A young man getting together a bowl of noodles.

Restaurant Staff thumbnail
Stacking Dim Sum thumbnail
Preparing Noodles thumbnail
img-3657.jpg thumbnail

Restaurant Sign

Sign for Hongkong Noodle


Written by Michael Babcock, December 2013

Grow Wild the Laver!

Michael Babcock, Sunday, April 15th, 2012

On our last trip to Thailand, while browsing through the street market in Bangkok’s Chinatown, I came across a package of seaweed and bought it because of the writing on the package. Translation is fraught with perils and there are even websites devoted to “Engrish” – translations that are often too literal and inadvertently just do not work when translated into English.

Chinatown Market

Package is to the left

I found this translation oddly poetic, almost Zen. At times it seems to be asking questions. I’m going to first give my poetic rendering of it and then below that, give the words exactly as they appeared on the package. I’ve taken poetic license by changing some of the punctuation and some of the capitalization of letters

(Click images to see larger version.)

Two words require explanation.

  • Laver, according to the Dictionary on my Macintosh computer is “an edible seaweed with thin sheetlike fronds of a reddish-purple and green color that becomes black when dry. Laver typically grows on exposed shores, but in Japan it is cultivated in estuaries. • Porphyra umbilicaulis, division Rhodophyta.”
  • Kaifeng is “a city in eastern China, in Henan province, on the Yellow River; pop. 693,100. Established in the 4th century bc, it is one of the oldest cities in China.”

Grow Wild the Laver!

Grow wild the laver!
And choose the best laver
through done
with meticulous care
but
have no the sand.
Need not wash.

Can the oil or sauce namely eat?
If place in every kind
of
work well in the broth.
Its.

The taste is more
beau
tiful,
and the nourishment is
more
abundant.
Welcome taste!

For the keeping taste,
please
avoid the inso
lation,
lation,
to project light upon,
or
the heat affect
by damp and cold.
And Kaifeng
is not edible

Over,
please seal.
Completely.
Or
place in the refrigertor.
The best.


The Text

The actual text, click to make larger


When I first looked up the two words I didn’t know (laver & Kaifeng), I found that both, coincidentally, had a Jewish connection. Kaifeng is associated with the Kaifeng Jews, a small Jewish community that existed in Kaifeng for at least thousand years and dates back to either the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) or even to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) or earlier. (See the Wikipedia article on Kaifeng Jews.) And laver has a second meaning: “a basin or similar container used for washing oneself. • (in biblical use) a large brass bowl for the ritual ablutions of Jewish priests.” I just find it an interesting coincidence.

Here is the actual text as it appears on the package:

Grow wild the laver, and choose the best laver through done with meticulous care but,have no the sand need not wash.Can the oil or sauce namely eat, if place in every kind of work well in the broth, its The taste is more beau tiful, and the nourishment is more abundant, welcome taste. For the keeping taste, please avoid the inso lation lation to project light upon or the heat affect by damp and cold,and Kaifeng is not edible.
Over, please seal completely or place in the refrigertor the best.

Package Front

Front of laver package

Package Back

Back of the laver package


Written by Michael Babcock, 2012

Asian Markets – Oakland’s International District

Michael Babcock, Thursday, August 18th, 2011

When shopping for Thai or Asian ingredients in Oakland, California, one of the best areas is the International District, which covers International Boulevard (formerly East 14th Street) and East 12th Street. There are many Southeast Asian and Chinese markets on these two streets from the Lake Merritt end to 17th Avenue. In this blog I’ll talk about the markets where Kasma shops for ingredients, both for her personal use and for her Thai Cooking Classes.

This is a companion piece to last-week’s blog: Asian Markets – Oakland’s Chinatown

As I mentioned in a previous blog, Shopping at Asian Markets (for Thai Ingredients), more often than not Kasma goes to a number of markets on her shopping trips; different markets carry different ingredients and she always tries to get absolutely the freshest ingredients and the best brands of packaged products.

International Boulevard, the old East 14th Street in Oakland, and East 12th Street are intersected by the numbered avenues, beginning with First Avenue. Up until about 17th Avenue, the stores are primarily Asian; after that, the flavor turns more Hispanic. It is one of the two main districts for Asian supermarkets in Oakland, the other being Oakland’s Chinatown situated from 7th to 9th Streets bordered by Broadway to the west. One of the advantages of shopping at International Boulevard is that many of the stores have parking lots.

(Click images to see larger version.)

International Boulevard Asian Markets

Sontepheap Market

Mithapheap Market

Mithapheap (was Sontepheap) Market

1400 International Blvd. (at 14th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 436-3826

I list this market first because it is the market Kasma frequents the most out on International Boulevard. The market is run by Cambodians and is a great source for hard-to-find Southeast Asian ingredients, such as holy basil, kaffir lime leaves, cha-om, bai chaploo and more. Read Kasma’s blog Mitapheap (was Sontepheap) Market in Oakland to find out more. There’s a small parking lot right by the store. The name was changed from Sontepheap to Mitapheap in early 2012.


International Lao Market

International Lao Market

International Lao Market

1619 International Blvd. (at 16th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 536-5888

The International Lao Market, owned by Laotians, gets second position because Kasma often goes there for hard-to-find produce items when they are not available at Sontepheap. The market also carries many frozen, bottled and packaged goods from Thailand, including one of Kasma’s favorite fish sauce brands – Tra Chang – as well as her favorite brand of shrimp paste (kapi) – Klong Kohn. This is one place Kasma’s students can find clay, stone and wooden mortars and pestles. Nearby street parking is usually available.


Mekong Market

Mekong Market

Mekong Market

1613 International Blvd. (at 16th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 261-7630

Although it’s a small store, I’m including Mekong Market here because it is right next to the International Lao Market. The proprietress is Cambodian and Kasma uses this as a back-up for ingredients such as Thai eggplants, holy basil and kaffir lime leaves. Of the Southeast Asian cuisines, Cambodian and Lao foods share the most similarities with Thai and markets run by people from these two countries are more likely to carry the hard-to-find fresh ingredients also used in Thai cooking.


Thien Loi Hoa

Thien Loi Hoa

Thien Loi Hoa

1199 E. 12th St. (at 12th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 663-0138

Also on East 12th Street, Thien Loi Hoa is a fairly large and complete market. They have fresh and frozen seafood in addition to produce and a butcher. In the freezers are also various Southeast Asian herbs and vegetables, like cha-om and sadao (neem). This is the only market in Oakland where Kasma can find pickled garlic from Thailand without preservatives in vacuum-sealed bags in the refrigerated section. In the same section, there’s usually the sometimes hard-to-find salted mackerel from Thailand. Fresh duck eggs are frequently available here, too. The store has a small parking lot; I’m usually able to find a spot.


Lucky Fish Market

Lucky Seafood Market

Lucky Seafood Market

1201 E 12th St. (at 12th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94620
(510) 436-6068

Lucky Fish Market is right across the street from Thien Loi Hoa and is a good place to look for fresh fish, including live ones in the tanks, and other seafood such as crabs and lobsters. They have another market on 8th street in Oakland’s Chinatown. Thien Loi Hoa and Sun Sang (see next entry) also have fresh fish, if you can’t find what you’re looking for here.


Sun Sang Market

Sun Sang Market

Sun Sang Market

751 International Blvd. (at 8th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 891-0298

A fairly large Asian grocery store with produce and a meat counter. Kasma used to go there specifically to buy Lion and Globe Peanut oil in 5 liter bottles but lately they have only the smaller sizes. The store has a large selection of frozen seafood products and also a fairly good fresh fish counter.


New Saigon Market

New Saigon Market

New Saigon Market

950 International Boulevard (at 10th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 832-8208

This Vietnamese-owned grocery store moved from Oakland Chinatown to this location many years ago and has a good assortment of fresh Asian produce and fruits. Kasma sometimes looks for frozen shrimp, squid and cuttlefish here, as well as pork belly. She’s found fresh bamboo shoots in the store from time to time when they’re not available at the Lao market, but mainly she stops here to buy Asian snacks, such as cassava cakes, to serve to her students.


Written by Michael Babcock, August 2011

Thai Street Food

Kasma Loha-unchit, Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Thai street food is definitely one of the highlights of a trip to Thailand.

Grilling Fish

Grilling fish at Nong Khai market

Every winter for the past sixteen years, I have been taking small groups of Americans traveling around my homeland. A tour guide I am not, but a friend in food I am, and we literally feast our way around the country. There are only so many times one can visit historical parks, museums and temples before losing interest, but I never tire of taking people on market walks and introducing them to the exceptional delicacies that are only available from street and market stalls.

Chive Dumplings

Chive Dumplings at Don Wai Market

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

On one trip comprised mainly of foodies, every time we made a stop, whether to visit an art gallery or a temple, a number of people in the group quickly disappeared as soon as they got out of the van. I know where to round them up, as they would invariably be found among street stalls, either watching food being cooked or sampling food. You’d think that I don’t feed them enough, but that’s in addition to the three big meals and countless snacks I provide every day. Some of them weren’t even very discrete, causing me worries of them getting sick. But courage they had and plenty of trust in the local herbal pills to overcome stomach problems.

Prepared Food To Go

Prepared street food

Because of the Thai penchant to please, many western tourists miss out on the finest of the country’s cuisine when they limit their food intake to restaurants. Establishments frequented by tourists automatically water down the Thai dishes served to fair-skinned Caucasians. Enough of them through the years have demonstrated that they cannot take the full range of exciting flavors Thais enjoy. Many restaurants translate only those dishes on their menus that they think foreigners like – those sweet, rich foods with little spice.

Roast Duck

Roast duck in Chinatown market

Without a good command of the language to communicate your desires, you can assure yourself of getting real Thai food by dining off the streets, where you are, more frequently than not, treated like everyone else. In the huge metropolis of Bangkok where traffic is horrendous, most working Thais have little time to cook. They purchase ready-made food from sidewalk vendors on their way to work and on their way home from work. Many of these sidewalk operations offer a wide selection of curries, soups, salads and desserts in huge pots and trays. From them, you may be able to get some fine, home-cooked food untempered for tourists.

Street Food Sweets

Street food sweets at Chatuchak

Note from Michael: Although many westerners claim the best food in Thailand is street food and although you can get fantastic food on the street, Kasma does maintain that the very best Thai food is to be had in excellent restaurants, if you know how to order. Two of our particular favorites are Reun Mai (in Krabi) and My Choice (in Bangkok). However, as Kasma mentions, there are some foods  found almost exclusively at street food (such as the chive dumplings in the second picture, above).

Check out information on Kasma’s trips to Thailand.

We have many more posts on street food:


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, September 2010.

Bangkok’s Chinatown Market – Talat Kao

Michael Babcock, Saturday, July 4th, 2009

One of our favorite markets, one where Kasma takes her small-group trips is a market street in Bangkok’s Chinatown called Talat Kao (old market). It’s actually a little alley-way, barely more than two blocks long.

Roast Pig in Chinatown

Roast Pig in Chinatown

Kasma and I are market junkies. Although we enjoy visiting Asian markets in the U.S. (see Shopping at Asian Markets (for Thai Ingredients), nothing can beat the markets in Thailand. They are colorful, appetizing and the vendors are friendly. Although you can expect to find many of the same sorts of things for sale at any Thai market, each market does have its own character and certain markets are renowned for a specific item or specialty. 

Sea Cucumbers

Sea Cucumbers

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Be prepared to be jostled at this market. It’s a very narrow alley-way. At places there is barely room for two people to squeeze past one another, and that’s when there’s no one stopped to make a purchase. Add to this the occasional motor bike making deliveries and it can get very cramped, particularly on holidays.

Various Foods

Various Foods

The market is full of fresh seafood of all varieties, including fish, shrimp, prawns, and some things that you might not recognize, such as sea cucumbers. There’s also many vendors with dried foods such as red dates, dried persimmons, dried fish and dried fish stomach. Since it’s a Chinese market, you’ll find succulent roast duck and, on festive occasions, whole roast pigs being delivered.

Prepared Food

Prepared Food

Of course there is also prepared food. One of the great mysteries of Thailand is how, in the presence of so much food everywhere, most of the people remain so slender. There’s everything from the delectable kanom krok (grilled coconut-rice hotcakes) to curries and other Thai or Chinese dishes.

Hua Seng Hong Sign

Hua Seng Hong Sign

When we go to Chinatown to the market, we always time it so that we can have a meal, be it breakfast or lunch, at Hua Seng Hong restaurant at 371-373 Yaowarat Road. For lunch, we might get duck noodles (make sure you get the wheat noodles, ba mee in Thai) or the grilled duck, succulent and yummy. For breakfast, we often get the dim sum, tender bite-sized morsels that are very well-done. 

Dim Sum at Hua Seng

Dim Sum at Hua Seng

In the future, we’ll blog on other markets that we visit regularly. We’ve also posted a number of photographs of Thai markets.


Written by Michael Babcock, July 2009.