The Indian and Middle Eastern specialty of biryani (rice that is mixed with a combo of meat and vegetables that have been cooked in a spice hearty assortment of cardamom, bay leaves, coriander, mint, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, garlic, and onions), is known in Thai as khao mok gai, and nowhere does it better than this rather refined and cheap little hole in the wall restaurant. The mutton biryani is superb, no surprise, as the owner of Home Cuisine started out as a goat butcher, and obviously had a pretty good sense of what a top cut of meat was. While the chicken and fish biryani are also excellent, the mutton here is on another level of degustation, and makes the khao mok a lot closer to the form of the dish that one finds in India and on across to Iran.
This is the first international branch of the famed Ikebukuro ramen house, and boy is it authentic. The interior and decor,along with all the ravenous Japanese expat regulars make one feel like one is in Tokyo, and even more genuine is the food, which features huge portions of the four signature ramen dishes that Bankara puts out. You can choose from the original Bankara ramen, Tonkatsu (stewed pork belly), Tsukemen (cold noodles dipped in soup) and Miso Ramen, and you can personalise your dish by choosing additional toppings such as egg, pork, seaweed, etc. Individual garlic presses are given to each diner, so you have a lot to say as to how your dish will taste. The gyoza dumplings are superb and make an excellent compliment to the ramen, and there are other dishes on the menu as well, but the ramen bowls are so huge and filling, you will be hard pressed to find the extra space.
Pochana 55 is a plainly decorated simple and cheap streetside restaurant that has been serving thousands of customers for over 20 years. Initially famed for its khao tom rice soup, served to clubbers coming home at 4am, the restaurant now serves up several varieties of sizzling iron platter fish and beef dishes, and hundreds of other Thai Chinese favorites, all of them guaranteed to please. The tom yam here is a benchmark to set the standard for Thailand's most famous soup. During the rainy season, make sure to try the dok krachon "little flower" salad. 55 is constantly mentioned by locals as one of Bangkok's most consistently good restaurants by those in the know.
If you like oysters this little hole in the wall serves up some of the best street fare to be found anywhere in Bangkok, and it has been awarded a Bib Gourmand listing by the Bangkok Michelin Guide for its great food at fair prices. Inside the small kitchen, the chef whips up divine plates of fried oyster or mussel crepes that have fans of the small shop lining up to get their fix. You have a choice here of ordering regular or super crispy, and the super crispy oyster plates seem to be the winner in popularity. There are only mussels and oysters made into crepe/omelets here, so don't expect anything else, and English is not spoken, although there is now an English menu to help deal with all the foreign foodies who make the pilgrimage here. The oysters are served up fresh off a hot griddle and a dipping sauce made of sweet chilies is served up alongside each portion.
The quaint three story shophouse on Thong Lor is easy to miss it looks so small from the outside, but once through the doors, and while not as cheap as some of the other's on this list, still very affordable for the excellent food and chic atmosphere (and especially great value for Thonglor). The owner serves up his grandma's hard to find recipes that he grew up with in Trat, a town on Thailand's eastern seaboard, and the menu is extensive, with many hard to find old school recipes that will have you ready to come back before you've even left! The absolute standout that one can see on just about every diner's plate is the moo chamuang, a stewed pork stew dish made with leaves from the Guttiferae tree and Thai herbs, so tender and flavour filled that you'll be begging for more rice to soak up all the juice. Even more amazing is the most plain looking dish you'll ever come across, ka lum tod nam pla, which although it might sound fancy, is basically a plate of cabbage. But oh what a cabbage it is, stir fried up with a super high grade fish sauce from Trat Province that makes it taste unlike any other cabbage you've ever had.
If you have an affinity for Chinese dumplings without breaking the bank, you have found nirvana at Hong Teong Long. This hole in the wall with red lanterns hanging outside, and waitresses who can barely speak Thai inside, specializes in Shanghai cuisine, and boy do they get their dumplings right. Look on every diner's table and you will see plates of xiaolongbao dumplings, both steamed and fried, that are filled with delicious juice, not too heavy, not overcooked, and will have you already scheduling your next visit. The menu isn't limited to dumplings either. There is a wonderful spicy cucumber and seaweed salad, a red pork dish to die for, and the drunken chicken will make you dizzy from joy. It may be a hole in the wall, but Hong Teong Long is full every night and for good reason.
This restaurant is an absolute classic, still going strong after more than half a century in business, due to a mix of both great food and affordable prices, far cheaper than most Sukhumvit digs. Saengchai is a simple "pochana" restaurant, which somewhat translates into family style Thai-Chinese comfort food. Everything on the huge menu is good, but popular items include anything to do with seafood, the pork and olives, and the potent tom yum soup. The owner is a bit of a celebrity, shown in photos on the wall with countless numbers of Thai movie stars and singers who have visited the restaurant. Best of all, Saengchai is the place to go for your late night cravings, as it stays open until 4am, so if you need to work off a hangover or just need some spicy munchies before bed, this is your best bet.
While many Bangkokians will argue that Thip Samai is overrated, and that there are better places to eat pad thai in the city, one thing is for sure, this place commands a following, and does combine decent food with affordable prices, and a great vibrant atmosphere. You better be prepared to wait in line, as by 6pm, the lines here are down the street each evening. But nobody seems to mind, it's all part of the experience, and there are visitors from all over the world here every night, even more so now that Michelin has given the eatery a Bib Gourmand award signifying good food at a reasonable price. The restaurant is a wild flurry of non-stop busy-ness, from the flames, woks, and cooks making up huge batches of pad thai, to the brisk take out business that competes with the dine-ins for attention. There are a variety of pad thai dishes to choose from, the best of which is probably the one made with shrimp head oil. Just don't savor it for too long, as the waiters hover nearby, ready to bring in the next group of hungry diners to this legendary establishment.
Isaan, or northeastern cuisine, is probably the most common food eaten in Thailand, by both visitors and locals alike. Some of the best Isaan food is found at corner street stalls, which most tourists find too hot and uncomfortable to sit at, whereas the food in fancier digs often leaves a lot to be desired. Baan Som Tam creates a very happy medium with fantastic fresh northeastern cuisine in a homey air-conditioned environment with rock bottom prices to boot. The restaurant recently received a Bib Gourmand listing from the Michelin Bangkok Guide, but this hasn't resulted in a price increase. The sai krok spiced sausages made with sticky rice are superb here, as is the namesake papaya salad (som tam), with all of the ingredients tasting so fresh and flavor packed you will think they are organic.
This hole in the wall has been packing in the customers for over a century now, and it's all about one thing; duck, duck, and duck! Prachak's roast duck is legendary, such that customers often line up outside (and have been doing so since Prachak opened in 1897!) The "pet yang" tender meat is served on rice, with egg noodles, or just plain, and there are also other items to choose from on the menu such as a delicious won ton soup or fried egg noodles with sauce. Best yet, it is dirt cheap and one of Bangkok's top places to eat great traditional food on a budget. It's not a place to linger, as the crowds keep coming and wait staff is harried and rushed, nevertheless, you aren't here for the service, and yes, the duck is well worth the trip across town for. Come early if you want dinner, they Prachak closes at 8 and often runs out earlier than that.