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Life on Langsuan Rd

Today's Weird Friend Quote of the Day has been brought to you by the alphabet mokie:

"Happy is not substanceless. You do not have to be miserable to have character. This is a goth/emo/gamer misconception.."

I've come to like my regular walks in the area hereabouts, recognizing a few landmarks along the way. Directly in front of our hotel, there are two bird baths filled with lotuses. One bird bath has blue lotuses, white the other carries white lotuses. When the lotuses are in bloom, and there's usually one or two flowers in each bath in bloom, tiny wasps come to rest on their hearts.

The Ninth Cafe is next to the hotel, which during lunchtime is filled with locals from the surrounding offices. It's a pretty little cafe that serves local ala carte dishes -- it claims to be Thai/Italian fusion, which seems popular in Bangkok. A quick flip through the menu suggests I might want to hop in someday, as they have something that closely resembles my elusive catfish salad.

So far, I've tried about two dishes I thought would be Yam Pla Duk Foo (must remember this name and go poke waiters with it), failing on both counts to find The Real Thing. The first was a Northeastern catfish salad, made from minced boiled catfish meat and flavoured with mint, holy basil, lime juice, coriander, chillies, fish sauce and sugar. I had this at the food court in Siam Center. Minced boiled fish isn't the most appetizing thing you could ever eat on its own, and while the dressing was nice, it was also freakishly hot. I had it with the local compressed glutinous rice dish, and finished about half of each -- the heat eventually got to me. The second was something I had yesterday at a fancy-looking restaurant called Ging Kulpropek on the top floor of the Emporium (Sukhumvit). Ging Kulpropek's menu is a ghastly selection of food that sound similarly-spiced, mostly local dishes, with more of that Italian fusion stuff. Dad had a spicy roast beef salad (European-style roast beef with the usual fish sauce dressing -- nice, but not unexpected), and I ordered something the menu claimed was "rice with julienned mango in shrimp paste and deep fried dried fish". I literally got rice and two golden brown wings of deep fried dried sea bass (common local dried fish), a dip made from fermented shrimp paste, julienned mangoes and lime juice and various cutlets of raw vegetables. For the price, it would've been nice to have gotten something better.

Right next to The Ninth Cafe is the local lunch spot for white expatriates, whose name I continue to forget, which is always filled at noon with European or American expatriates in expensive business suits sipping wine and having power conversations. Doubtless, the place is like one of the many along Langsuan Rd. that claim to have airflown oysters or something, which means it's off my radar for a meal.

Directly outside is a fruit stall and a grilled banana stall. A little further away, under the shade of a large tree extending out of a gated residence, there's a noodle soup stall, one of many along the road, serving a delicious-smelling assam soup that looks lethal. It's a picturesque stall though, with the lush canopy overhead, and the push-cart with its pots by the pavement surrounded by square plastic tables each arranged with a plate of mint (various kinds) and a set of four typical Thai condiments: sugar, sliced pickled chillies in vinegar, pounded dried chilli flakes in vinegar and soy sauce.

Walking down the road, you'd then pass a 7/11 with a lady selling steamed rice cakes (they look like flat fatt kou) in polystyrene boxes. Directly opposite her is a mixed rice stall specializing in whole fried chicken pieces, which always smell beautiful. Next to it is another stall selling fried bits of sesame-covered pork on metal trays. It's always a tight squeeze navigating this bit of road, because there are tables for folks to sit at here too, and traffic from the 7/11 runs off the same stretch, resulting in a bottleneck at lunch.

About halfway down, there's a fried noodle woman who fries up to order. This smells very similar to Malaysian char kway teow, but I'm never around this stretch for longer than a second if I can help it, because the smoke from the wok is like a tiny bonfire, and breathing it in makes me choke.

Near the end of the road, there's a clear broth noodle stall, which smells like Thai beef noodle soup. It's all minty and basil-y and fresh herbs. Very cleansing on the nose, after that morbid char kway teow smoke. This stall and the assam soup noodle stall are always packed. Right before the corner into Ploenchit Rd, there's a grilled pork ball stall next to key-making stall. I've always found it a bit funny that an area known for high-end service apartments where ambassadorial staff live (Langsuan is where many embassies are concentrated) would have a convenient key maker right on the street.

The corner of Langsuan Rd and Ploenchit Rd has a restaurant with a large signboard advertising "Fresh USDA Angus beef". This is directly in front of the stairway leading up to Chit Lom train station. Under the stairway lives a homeless woman and her white dog, spotted brown, with a large white handkerchief tied around its neck. Directly in front of the stairway, you can smell before you see the stall selling jasmine garlands. Each garland is made up of thick strands of jasmine buds. Without the open air, the smell can be very cloying, like the jasmine concentrate used in cakes. Next to the busy street though, especially at peak hour, it's nice to have a bit of fresh air.

On the overhead bridge leading into the train station itself is a DVD store called Power Music, where you can find good copies of Japanese and Korean movies. They also sell boxed sets of Japanese and Korean serials. Not very far away is Sun Books, which sells Japanese magazines and books, new and used. There's some manga, but I've never actually walked in to look. Via the same bridge, you can also access Central Chidlom across the street. Central is a major Thai departmental store which sells a lot of branded goods. It has a format extremely similar to Japanese departmental stores, like Jusco or Isetan. (Incidentally, what must be Thailand's largest Isetan is right down the road.) There's a lot of Japanese products at Central, possibly to cater to Bangkok's large Japanese expatriate population (like the one that lives in my building). The supermarket downstairs is where I shop for daily groceries. There's a large take-away area next to the bakery that sells lots of Thai, Japanese and Korean foods. The supermarket proper carries an extensive array of foreign processed goods, including, again, a real selection of Japanese foods. There's also a fresh sashimi selection in the Seafood area. Yes, they do have ootoro (but it's frozen). :P

Note to self: At some point in my tiny commoner rodent life, I must try ootoro and mentaiko, with stress on the latter more than the former, since fish roe anything always excites me. I've tried actual fried cod roe before, which tastes not too different from other forms of deep fried fish roe (one of my favourite fried foods, the other being deep fried bittergourd).

If you skip the bridge and Central completely, instead walking down Ploenchit Rd beyond the stairway, bypassing Wave Place across the street, you'll hit a bunch of hawkers in front of another 7/11 neighbouring a blue optical shop. There's a guy here who sells decent banana fritters (you can get great banana fritters under better conditions for a slightly higher price at Central's basement take-away area). Opposite him and a few stalls down there's a lady in a headscarf who sells halal fried wontons and boiled beef balls on a stick. There's numerous side street hawker areas around here, and most of them smell like deep fried somethings. I haven't explored these yet as if these are anything like the similar areas in Kuala Lumpur, the smoke quotient in cramped spaces would probably require extensive Zyrtecs just to cope. (I'm a wimp.) I wonder if anyone makes chicken porridge I can take home. Sure, I could always make my own porridge (just did, actually -- now I feel ill), but other people's porridge always taste better than mine. And I'm not going to go to the trouble of making chicken balls for one out here either. (Store-bought chicken balls, unless they're guaranteed fresh and hand-poundedly misshapen, just do not make the cut.)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 5th, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
Ootoro? Any particular reason why? :D

So, tell me about your elusive catfish salad. What is it that you are looking for?

random comment - I'm determined to go back to Japan and make sure that a BT concert is on my schedule. I think this means that I must join Fishtank. hmmmm...
Oct. 6th, 2006 06:02 am (UTC)
I admit, the Ouran has me curious. ;P Though Ootoro, based the samples I've seen, look rather just like tuna with a layer of fat. *ponders*

My elusive catfish salad should be crispy flaky catfish meat, rather like crisped meat floss, with finely julienned young mangoes, tossed with a fish sauce, lime juice, chilli, lemon grass and herb dressing. I have now officially tried three different versions of things that claim to be catfish salad. The last had the crisped catfish meat, but a rather different dressing. I had an easier time finding said salad when I was in Bangkok 7 years ago. *sad*

*excited* I hope you do get to go back to Japan, and during a BT concert. It's probable you could get tickets even without Fishtank, since Fishtank members get tickets with random seatings, if I heard correctly. Surely someone on the BT comm, mal maybe, has had dealings with online escrowing services for foreign concertgoers?
Oct. 6th, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, ootoro is just fattiest part of the tuna, but it's supposed to taste good. My cousin liked it. I've never had it though. I guess I'm too cheap.

I asked Mal about general concert info. DiQ is always on December 29th, but she said sometimes they add on additional dates. Fishtank members don't necessarily get better seats but they get concert announcements before the public. For the purpose of booking plane tickets and hostel arrangements, I'd probably need the additional time.

I hope you find your salad. It sounds pretty yummy. I don't suppose that there is anyone you can ask...
Oct. 10th, 2006 04:25 am (UTC)
Yup, that's what ootoro is supposed to be too -- and what's more, it looks edible! :)

I hope your BT plans work out, I really do. Would be interesting to hear what you make of A Real BT Concert!

Putting a moratorium on the salad -- when I see it, I'll see it. Right now, trying hard to ignore the lure of -- cakes! Other fish! And stuff! I'm mostly eating as I walk along out here...

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )