By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
The Sunday Nation
BANGKOK is known the world over for its street food, with CNN recently voting it the best in the world. And despite moans about the city fathers clearing vendors from sidewalks to free up walking space for pedestrians, the efforts being made by Tourism and Sports Ministry and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to raise the standards of street food culture, especially in terms of hygiene, can only add to its reputation.
Street food can also be found off the street, for example at Thai restaurant Mahanaga on Sukhumvit Soi 29, which has been in business for 15 years. It’s currently offering classic nine street food dishes with a modern twist as part of a seasonal menu that runs through June 30. Though the restaurant has a more Moroccan than Thai decor, the eatery lives up to its name with a scattering of naga sculptures around the property.
Thai restaurant Mahanaga is offering Thai street food with a modern twist until June 30.
The main air-conditioned dining room, which seats about 60, is glass wrapped and allows diners to look out over the alfresco area under the trees. The front of the 90-year-old, two-storey house has been converted into the Gypsy Spells Bar and here diners can enjoy snacks and aperitifs or post-prandial drinks.
“Thai street food is famous all over the world for its flavours and taste. We’ve chosen some street classics and prepare them with premium ingredients in a contemporary presentation for diners, particularly tourists, who are concerned about hygiene,” says operations manager Thanawat Leamwat.
Khanom Buang Sam Ros
A good choice to start the meal is Khanom Buang Sam Ros (three flavoured crispy pancakes stuffed with prawn) for Bt320. On the street, these pancakes are usually topped with whipped cream and your choice of sweet or savoury fillings – foi thong (golden egg yolk threads) or shredded coconut and chopped spring onions. Mahanaga’s khanom buang are more upscale, with the pancake made from mixed flour then fried until crispy and filled with prawn, chicken and cashew nuts stir-fried with tamarind sauce and seasoned to achieve just the right combination of sweet, sour and salty. Served on the side are spring onions and a relish of cucumber slices and onions in vinegar.
A popular street food on Khao San Road, Guaytiew Thungtak (Bt220) is a perfect choice for vegetarians. The rice noodles are stir-fried with bean sprout, chopped bean curd, garlic, chives and spring onion and drizzled with truffle oil. It’s wrapped in a banana leaf and served with a slice of lemon, fresh bean sprouts, and ground peanut.
Hoi Tod, the much-loved crispy fried mussel pancake (Bt230), also gets an upgrade with New Zealand mussels replacing the local variety. The flour and duck egg are mixed with the mussels and fried until crispy. Enjoy it with bean sprouts, Chinese chives and spicy Sriracha sauce.
Krapow Gai Kai Yiew Ma
Bangkok boasts countless roadside eateries selling khao tom (boiled rice soup) for which rice is prepared in a piping hot broth with your choice of meat or seafood or served plain with a variety of side dishes cooked to order. Among these popular side dishes is Krapow Gai Kai Yiew Ma or stir-fried minced chicken and black preserved egg with holy basil leaves. The dish at Mahanaga gets a contemporary makeover with the minced chicken served on a bed of preserved egg and crispy fried holy basil leaves. The flavour is strong, but you can ask for the spiciness to be toned down.
Yum Khanom Jeen Goong
Those who love their food hot will enjoy Yum Khanom Jeen Goong, a spicy salad made with rice noodles and prawn salad (Bt230). The fresh rice noodles are cooked with fermented fish sauce and herbs including spiny coriander, white popinac seeds, chopped spring onions, green beans, red onions and chilli. Blanched prawns are placed on top and a soft-boiled egg is served on the side to cool the heat.
Bualoy Mapraw On
Do keep room for the traditional dessert of Bualoy Mapraw On or rice balls in coconut milk (Bt150). Bualoy is made from glutinous rice flour mixed with pumpkin, corn and taro, which give it a distinct colour and its tender texture goes well with smooth and slightly salty coconut milk and young coconut meat.
Ya Dong set
Mahanaga’s Gypsy Spells Bar also serves Ya Dong – herb-infused lao khao or Thai rice whisky – in fancy shot glasses. Ya dong is commonly found on Bangkok’s streets and comes in various flavours depending on the herbs used. A single shot claims to stimulate the appetite and invigorate the senses.
A set of five glass shots (Bt500) is served on a golden tray. There are four flavours to choose from; longon, jujube, gooseberry and tiger. Beginners should start with longan flavour, which has a lighter and sweeter taste. Jujube is sweet, yet strong and gooseberry is sharp with rich and sweet aftertaste. Tiger is the original formula and the strongest. It’s mixed with assorted Chinese herbs and really packs a punch. The set is served with guava slices to cleanse the palate together with a glass of tamarind paste and a glass of peanuts to help cut the strong flavour.
There’s live jazz and blues on Friday and Saturday nights, starting from 8.30.
The Thai street food menu is available until June 30.
Mahanaga at the mouth of Sukhumvit Soi 29 is open daily from 5.30pm to midnight.
For details, call (02) 662 3060 or visit www.MahaNaga.com.