It is possible you know. Where? At the mall food courts in Bangkok. Not the best, but really not bad at all.
This was a major discovery for me because I abhor food courts in general, dismissing them as places that sell uniformly indistinguishable mediocre foods to undemanding customers who don't know or don't expect better because they are happy enough just to eat in airconditioned environment. The thing is, food courts in Bangkok are not the same as their counterparts in Singapore. Over there, their food courts seem to have a little more soul, and the food remain yummy and closely replicates the tastes of their roadside cousins.
How it works is thus: You go to a counter and buy some coupons or a stored-value card. What is not spent can be redeemed, but only within the same day. An efficient and hygienic system which I am surprised has not been adopted in Singapore yet.
Another welcome difference is the dispensers of tissue paper placed on each table for customers to help themselves too. Nobody takes more than they need, something that I am not confident can be maintained in Singapore. Do they know that in Singapore people bring their own packs of tissue paper to 'chope' (claim rights to) the table instead?
One of the best food court dishes I tried was the combination of fried pork and braised pig trotter rice I had at the food court at Central Plaza (Mo Chit) the first evening I arrived.The young lady at the counter kept stirring the braising liquid and from time to time would carefully baste the pieces of trotters and other 'spare parts' in the vat. A plate of rice with pork two ways, preserved salty vegetables and a braised egg set me back 30 bahts. Oh I really wish I had another plate of that wonderful gravy-soaked rice and flavourful pork before I left the Sofitel.
Above: kuehs made of tapioca, sugar and coconut milk. 20 baht for a selection of 10 pieces.
The most well-known food court to Singaporeans is the one located on the sixth floor of MBK shopping centre. It is huge, with loads of Thai as well as 'international' dishes. Prices slightly higher than the one in Central Plaza.
There was a long queue for this beef tendon noodle soup. The soup had an intense broth of beef, herbs and traditional medicine. Probably puts hair on chests and makes one strong, like how they say to Anthony Bourdain in A Cook's Tour. I loved the slippery noodles but found the soup too salty.
Pork rice from MBK centre not as good as the one I had at Central Plaza (Mo Chit) but husband loved it anyway. Pad thai was OK, not great. Fried radish cake heavy and boring.
Better choices were the desserts. 30 baht for glutinous rice with durians! 30 baht for Thai version of ice kacang. Yummy.
Above: tofu dessert with crispy dough sticks from upmarket food court at Central Chit Lom. The place is called FoodLoft, and instead of buying coupons, we get an electronic card which captures prices, customers pay after the meal at check-out counters. Their pad thai was better, so was the Vietnamese dishes but the Thai desserts were average. Surprise find was a perfect little caramel flan that reminded me of the countless ones I ate in Madrid oh, so many years ago.
We also checked out the food court at Emporium, but their food court is smaller and sadder looking. A better bet when shopping at Emporium is the smart cafe Greyhound, there is also an outlet at Central Chit Lom. Their food is always tasty and spot on, whether it is Western or Thai. I had the best pad thai of my trip and husband enjoyed his spaghetti with spicy Thai anchovies. Dessert of banoffee pie was quite scrummy too.
The malls also have their chain restaurants. Being stuck in a hotel next to a mall for five days one gets to know these cheap and crowded places well. The one I least enjoyed was Thasiam, distinguishable by their logo of an evil looking pig- their food is recklessly thrown together, our group of six could not find a single thing worth liking and my colleagues are nowhere as fussy as I am, that's how bad it was. Yum Saap was slightly better in my experience- one could actually see the salads being made on the spot, and my phad thai had lovely soft curd-like pieces of omelet in it which made me happy.
Observant readers may have noted that I ordered pad thai quite frequently, and they are probably right. Phad thai was my personal indicator of how good the cooking at the establishement is, and strangely enough it was to prove quite an accurate tool. But more of that in the next post.