By Tana Kosiyabong
The third installment of my Cheap Appetite missions in Thailand had been intentionally put off for a few weeks to emulate my culinary experience there. Since the first day I landed in Bangkok, I had devoured almost every food items I found with little to no concern from where they came. By the end of the first week, my stomach had decided to put an end to this madness. As a result, I got the worst case of the runs I’ve ever had. For almost two days, I spent all my time between the bed and a toilet. By the third day, I felt much better already. However, I had lost my desire to eat, eat and eat everything in front of me. Fortunately, the gluttony inside had crept back into my life again, slowly but surely. By the end of day four, my appetite was back to normal. But since I have just learned my lesson, I decided to take it easier this time.
My eldest brother, Atch, took me to Khao Jao on my second day in Bangkok. It was long before my stomach went on strike. (You can rest assure that it wasn’t the cause of my stomach problem.) The first glance at the menu, my eyes were almost popping out of the sockets. “Holy smoke, this is freakin’ cheap!” I blurted out loud. After tasting the food, I was so impressed I wanted to go back for my own Cheap Appetitte mission a few days later. Unfortunately the planned was interrupted by an unexpected turn of events as you already knew. However, the minute my stomach gave me a green light, I took Bleu, my baby brother, along with me to Khao Jao.
As I stepped inside the restaurant, the cool breeze from an air-conditioner gently touched my face. Khao Jao interior is decorated in a funky, shabby chic style. The floor and furnitures are made of reclaimed wood. The wall features various funky tchotchkes from “Hello Kitty” to grandma’s tea kettles.
Bleu ordered Khao Pad Grapow Moo (ขัาวผัดกระเพราหมู—Thai Holy Basil pork on rice) and Peek Gai Todd (ปีกไก่ทอด—Deep-fried chicken wings) and a glass of Cha Dum Yen (ชาดำเย็น—Thai iced black tea). And I went for Gaeng Som Cha-Om Goong (แกงส้มชะอมชุบไข่ทอดกุ้ง—Thai sour tamarind soup with shrimp and deep-fried Thai fragrant vegetable in egg batter), Pad Thai Goong Sod (ผัดไทยกุ้งสด—Thai stir-fried rice noodles with fresh shrimp), Som Tum Thai(ส้มตำไทย—Thai Papaya Salad), and Khao Pad Moo (ขัาวผัดหมู—Thai Style Pork Fried Rice). Oh, and a glass of Cha Dum Yen. Oy vey, there were much more food than Bleu and I could eat, but I wouldn’t be able to go back there again for a couple of years. So why not?
Khao Pad Grapow (50 Baht—$1.67) is one of the most popular dishes in Thailand. A great side order of Pad Grapow is pan-fried eggs(5 Baht—$0.16). Since this dish was cooked in Thailand, there were no confusion of which variety of Basil to use. I just had a little sample from Bleu’s plate. It was pretty good and authentic. The egg was still runny on the inside.
Peek Gai Todd (50 Baht—$1.67) was next to reach the table. The chef divided flat section of the wings in half between the two bones. It was the first time I had seen someone prepared chicken wings this way. The wings were marinated in fish sauce and white pepper. They were simple, tasty, and crispy.
Next was the Gaeng Som Cha-Om Goong (50 Baht—$1.67). I had tried this dish once before on the first visit. It was one of the best Gaeng Som I’ve ever tried. The flavor was so intense, yet not too spicy. The soup was thicker than I was familiar with. But perhaps it was why I like the dish so much. The deep-fried egg cha-om absorbed the sour soup all the way through. When bitting into one, it felt like I had chewed on a piece of cloud nine.
Pad Thai Goong (50 Baht—$1.67) was one of the most famous Thai dishes in North America. However, most Pad Thai here are quite different than the original Pad Thai. Khao Jao Pad Thai was amazing. Once I squeezed the lime in and mixed throughly, the whole dish came alive. The noodles were perfectly cooked, not too soft or too hard. The tamarind sauce is the key to this dish.
Then came the Som Tum Thai (35 Baht—$1.16). Traditionally, Som Tum only use green papaya, but Khao Jao added some carrots to the dish. I didn’t mind it at all as long as the chef didn’t add too much of them. The dressing was just right. It was sour, sweet and spicy. The green papaya and carrots were still crisp and the roasted peanuts added crunchy texture to the dish.
The last dish was Khao Pad Moo (45 Baht—$1.50). It was just ok. Frankly, Khao Jao fried rice was a bit bland. Thai fried rice tastes quite different from Chinese fried rice. Tomatoes and Pak Kha-na (Thai vegetable similar to Collard Green or Gai-Lan) are the two key ingredients which made all the difference.
Cha Dum Yen (25 Baht—$0.84) is a refreshing Thai drink. It was made of Thai black tea, sugar and crushed ice. To imitate the taste of Cha Dum Yen here in North America, try Orange Pekoe Tea in place of Thai Black Tea.
Khao Jao is an extremely affordable restaurant. The prices were comparable to those of the street food. It was the best find of my Thailand trip. A table full of food costed me just under ten dollars (or around 11 bucks if counted two orders of Thai iced tea). At the end of the meal, I even had some leftovers to take home for my “Doggie.”
Khao Jao Khao Pad Grapow Moo: ©©©©
Khao Jao Peek Gai Todd: ©©© ¾
Khao Jao Gaeng Som Goong: ©©©©©
Khao Jao Pad Thai Goong: ©©©© ½
Khao Jao Som Tum Thai: ©©©©
Khao Jao Khao Pad Moo: ©©©
Khao Jao Cha Dum Yen: ©©© ¾
Remaining Budget: $263.39
Budget Spent: -$11
Budget Available: $252.39
Khao Jao Restaurant and Cafe is located at 341 Soi Thong Lo17, Sukhumvit 55 Road, Bangkok, Thailand. Phone: (662) 712-5665 (or 0-2712-5665 if call in Thailand)
Restaurant Hour: Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 8:30 pm. Close every 3rd Sunday of the month.
NOTE: Khao Jao (ข้าวเจ้า) is a Thai word roughly translated as Thai long grain rice. However, the restaurant name, though pronounced the same, spells “ข้าวจ้าว.”
NOTE II: Khao Jao is located on Sukhumvit 55 road, or locally known as Soi Thong Lo. You could take a skytrain to Thonglor station, then take a cab (see the address at the end of the post) or just walked about 15 minutes from Sukhumvit road to Soi Thonglor 17. Then turn left and walked about 3-5 minutes more to the restaurant.
KHAO JAO MENU
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