Supatra River House
After arriving to our hotel very late on our first evening in Bangkok, we suspected that most of the following day would be one big blur. Nevertheless, we had planned a hearty agenda of sightseeing to chew through before lunch, and though we were already craving a taste of kaffir and lemongrass the minute we woke up, our taste buds would just have to wait!
Naturally, we overslept and lost another hour watching episodes of The Nanny in Thai while showering and getting ready. After scarfing down some coffee in the cafe downstairs, we then made a marathon trek through the entirety of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho in under two hours (see "sights")! Already exhausted from jet-lag, the blazing heat of midday only added to our fatigue. Luckily, after completing photo duties at the giant reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, large fluffy clouds soon closed in to offer a reprieve. It was at about this time that we stumbled upon a lovely riverside location next to a public park on Thanon Maharat’s pier. The handsome wood and glass structure of the Supatra River House restaurant is attached to a bobbing dock out back, and once we stepped foot inside the charming location, we knew it deserved to be the location of our first “authentic” Thai dish in town. (And the strong A/C blowing through certainly did not hurt matters.)
Pictures of tasty desserts featured on almost every wall, beckoning patrons to skip lunch altogether and head straight for the bakery case. We diligently used will power to avoid the grand creations and instead sat down to dine on fresh seafood dishes that were flavored just the right side of spicy. Several “bubble” Thai Iced Teas and a can of Coke - nice to know we aren't too far away from the commodities that rule America - further recharged our weary bodies after the almost-24 hour journey from Los Angeles.
Although Supatra River House seems to be part of a larger chain, if you are hungry, jet-lagged and looking for a place that has basic, yet delicious food, you could do a lot worse, especially considering its picturesque setting against the backdrop of the Chao Phraya. During our relaxed visit, the spot was hopping with locals and we imagine that with its beautiful surrounding views, the restaurant must be a great place to catch a casual “comfort food” dinner - Thai style!
(Oh, and in case you were wondering... After lunch was served, we perused the aforementioned dessert menu and managed to try several yummy treats.)
Supatra River House - 266 Soi Wat Rakhang, Arunamarin Road, Maharat pier (about midway between the Grand Palace and Bangkok National Museum), Bangkok, 011 (66) 2-411-0305, or 011 (66) 2-411-0874
Bangkok street food
Crickets... Yummy crisped crickets... With hot sauce. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, yes! Or perhaps you’re more of the giant water-bug-on-a-stick kinda guy/ gal? What is that you say? You already had cicadas for lunch? Come on, just try it. They won’t bite... will they?
If you are feeling adventurous in the culinary department, Bangkok (like much of Southeast Asia) has much on offer, most of it street side. These are the original “food trucks” my friends, vendors who set up shop each and every day on busy street corners to sell complete lunches, dinners and afternoon snacks. Their clients are both busy locals on the run and those who have figured out that the stuff you find out here is more often fresher, hotter and spicier than anything at the local restaurant. While the tastiest meals can be found in Chinatown, the Banglamphu area is particularly clogged with inventive food merchants, and a stop off at the famed Khao San Road (see “sights” and “goodies”) will undoubtedly purvey a multitude of options for even the most daring of foodies. (Whole broasted frogs aren't just for breakfast anymore!)
While seared jumbo prawns, calamari and fried soft-shell crab are mainstay - a few BBQ stalls were manned by "katoey" ladyboys during our visit - we suspect your eyes will bulge at the sight of the various insect peddlers.
You see, a typical afternoon snack in Thailand often consists of handfuls of deep-fried worms, grasshoppers and locusts! While we are not exactly sure which variety tastes best, you can bet your bottom dragonfly that all are high in protein. And once seasoned with chili powder and accompanied with a cold beer, they make for a nice change of pace from your typical side of crisps. Have fun and do some comparison shopping, and if you are still feeling a bit too squeamish to try out scorpion shish-kebob, why not have a couple beers first to get yourself going! Okay, now even I am getting hungry.
Set of Drifters tip: Toothpicks required.
bring on the rambutan!
Trust us, it is not often that your “Set of Drifters” get overexcited by fruit. Sure, berries are tasty and the typical apple can sometimes satisfy a hunger pang. Even bananas can be a fitting snack after a work-out or alcohol-induced hangover. And thus, we were quite surprised to find we held so much interest for the indigenous produce that abounds in Thailand.
Our first interaction with Thai fruit may have been on Khao San Road when we passed by some gentleman at a food stand that we assumed had just passed gas. In reality, they were simply purveyors of durian, a spiky football-shaped fruit that, although smells entirely rank, is actually a delicacy of the region. (Some hotels even go so far as to ban the fruit for fear their aroma will detract guests.)
Later, while visiting the underwhelming Bang Pa-In Palace (see “sights”), we were treated to a substantial assortment of other, more palatable Thai treats available in the commissary. First up was the rambutan. Bright pink and somewhat prickly on the outside, it is hard to believe that once “de-shelled”, the fruit more closely resemble a lychee-like egg just waiting to be devoured! As we would later find out while attending a “monkey show” up north, macaques love these little suckers! Longan berries are another local favorite. Perhaps not as visually appealing as the rambutan, yet certainly easier to crack open, their product is a cross between a lychee and a grape. Longan berries grow wild and we enjoyed a heap of them while lazily drifting down a river in Chiang Mai with a cooler of beer.
And who can forget the attractive patterns of dragon fruit? The flesh of this produce is white and contains a multitude of tiny little tasteless black seeds. Encased in a hot pink outer layer with brilliant green leaves to boot, dragon fruit is often the star of morning breakfast buffets throughout Thailand. The cafeteria at Bang Pa-In sold refreshing “icee” versions of many of the aforementioned fruits. They went down a treat alongside a bag of Lay's potato chips - which come in a variety of interesting seafood flavor combinations not available stateside.
Set of Drifters tip: Do yourself, and your tummy, a favor. Try these unusual delicacies while you have the chance, but keep in mind that many are washed in regular tap water. While durian, rambutan and longan berries are protected by an outer “shell,” dragon fruit is sliced open first so you may run the risk of catching a nasty stomach bug!