5 Favourite Non-Mall, Old-School Restaurants in Bangkok

Above: A Chinese-style Thai meal at Tong Lee, Sukhumvit 20.

I have a soft spot for non-mall eateries. Ones that are still home-made and perhaps perpetuated by descendants of the founders. Despite the overwhelming numbers of chain restaurants in department stores, many parts of Bangkok (the Chinatown and Old Town in particular) still see a lot of independent good places to eat. Here are some of my go-to’s:

1. Tong Lee (ท่งหลี) – Soi Sukhumvit 20, BTS: promphong and then walk or taxi, daily: 09.00 – 19.30 (closed every third sat and sun of the month), T:02-2581983, 02-2594649

Once a predominantly residential area, Sukhumvit used to be home of many home-style ‘cook-shop’ restaurants. Cook-shop means Thai-Chinese cuisines; they serve Thai dishes that are prepared by Chinese cooks, hence slight adaptations of tastes, but still delicious.

Tong Lee is one of those. While many had withered and gone, this one is still going strong. Small place, tree-dense facade shophouse, and a small menu consisting of simple dishes that somehow for me do not really go well together or anything. But this is Sukhumvit, hence this place becomes a shining star for cosy non-mall choice.

I usually order their deep-fried crispy chicken, mee krob and tom yum as a meal. Huge portion, generous pricing. Parking can be impossible, so we walked there most of the time.


2. Ban Ta Reung (บ้านตาเรือง) – Soi ratchadapisek 3 yaek 14, Din Daeng (near fortune town, mrt: pra ram 9), wed-sun: 11.00 – 17.00, T: 063 551 6554

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❤️❤️❤️ A bit off the beaten track, but all neat and home made. And delicious and so warm. Love this place so very much. We had a fantastic lunch today at this small Thai eatery – Ban Ta Reung ร้านบ้านตาเรือง near Huay Kwang area. You can take MRT and taxi, but we decided to drive (from our den in Promphong area) and got ourselves stuck in traffic for hours on the way back. Well, what would be of Bangkok if not for the traffic!?! Anyway, the food here is all made (more like supervised) by the 87-year-old grandma of the family. The menu changes daily, but served in Thai-style samrap style – a combination of tasty savouries to be shared over rice. Freshly obtained ingredients dictate the menu of the day and there are just a limited number per day, too. So today we had ต้มกะทิสายบัวปลาทูทอด or mackerel in coconut and lotus stalks, ไข่ลูกเขย Son in law eggs, ผัดเครื่องแกงกุ้งมะพร้าวขูด dry curry with shrimp and grated coconut (so delish) served with cucumber and salted fish jerky. For the desserts, we ordered everything there is in the house. And all were very delicious. I particularly loved their ครองแครงน้ำกะทิ glutinous dumplings with coconut cream, candied banana and in fact also the mango sticky rice and pumpkin in coconut. Delicious.#thaifood #delicious #perfect #bangkok

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(Click the arrow on the right for more pictures.☝️)
Homemade by a family of an 87-year-old grandma who is still supervising the kitchen, Ban Ta Reung serves a samrap or Thai set meal with rice in a limited number daily. So, you will have to reserve your table in advance. The menu changes daily according to the fresh ingredients of the day, so you cannot really choose the food. This can be a problem for those who are allergic to certain ingredients, or those who do not eat beef, red meats or those who are vegetarian and vegans.
When we were there, though, we happened to have a set of non-red meat, which I preferred. Son-in-law eggs, red curry chilli dip with shrimp and coconut, and mackerel with lotus stalks in coconut soup are served with a small pot of steamed jasmine rice enough for two. A set is Bt280.
Their desserts are also to die for. For real. Thai desserts now have become sometimes way too sweet for me to enjoy, but here they do everything just right. Excellent texture, tastes, and aromas of all things. The krong krang in fresh coconut milk was to die for, as well as their candied banana that has a particular chewy texture that made it so special. This is worth the commute.
3. islamic home cuisine – Charoenkrung 36, bang rak, bangkok (near mandarin oriental hotel), mon-sat: 11.30 – 21.30, sun: 18.00 – 21.30, T: 089-129-2006

A long-standing establishment for decent Muslim staples, Islamic Home Cuisine is also located in the old Muslim community of Haroom Mosque on Charoenkrung Road – the stretch behind the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

For me, this restaurant makes it easy to choose and perhaps understand a Muslim meal. Pictured menu with captions, friendly staff and air-conditioned dining room. I particularly love their biryani rice – soft, aromatic and not hard and dry. I usually order a fish version to go with a chicken or vegetable soup with an extra dish of chopped fresh chilli and lime. If I feel particularly more hungry, perhaps I would start my meal with a mango lassi and add on the table another order of roti and curry. All very nice.

Vegetarian choices and simple Thai dishes are also available. Their creamy milky desserts can also satisfy your cravings for something particularly indulgence.

4. chai roj (ไชยโรจน์) – Sri Ayutthaya road, BTS: Phya Thai, mon-sat (closed sundays): 11.00 – 20.00, T: 02 354 4090.

Another long-standing favourite ‘cook-shop’ style restaurant among doctors and their kids and sometimes government officers whose workplaces are nearby, Chai Roj is an old-school to the core. The menu, for me, is much more interesting and satisfying than Tong Lee. I would come here if I want a big, delicious and all home-cooked meal. But this one takes a long walk, though, which is ok for me sometimes.

Chai Roj is an expert on wok-frying. Everything in that category is particularly very delicious. Deep-fried fish fillet with Chinese celery comes crispy (with soft and tender interior) and light. Loads of chopped garlic, and everything. But then, their Thai staple of ‘Pad Kra Praw’ can be too bland for Thai tastes. This is a Chinese kitchen, after all, and I am not complaining. Writing this and I am craving for their deep-fried pomfret served with chilli and garlic. Also, do not miss their homemade coconut ice cream.

5. Kua Gai Aroi rim thang (คั่วไก่ เป็ด อร่อยริมทาง) – Soi Yukol 2, near plab pla chai intersection, daily: noon – 21.00, T: 086 500 6678

(Click the arrow on the right for more pictures.☝️)

Kua Gai is a type of stir-fried noodle that looks simple but quite hard to achieve. Usually, it is done with wide rice noodle, or Sen Yai, with the protein of choice, usually chicken and dry preserved squid and egg. At this small place that is located in an alley that is known for selling this particular item, they still do it individually in a small wok per order. And over a charcoal stove, too. The result is a very aromatic, crispy edges of noodle, with a chewy interior. Dry with good aromas. The chicken is deep-fried prior to the assembly, hence cooked through and also with nice crispy edges.

This is a semi-street food stall with more tables outside than inside their shop. Bring your own hand-held electric fan and enjoy. Parking is impossible, hence a good stop while you are enjoying your walk in the Chinatown area.

SEARCHING FOR MORE GOOD food in Bangkok? READ ON:
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49 Best Dishes in Bangkok


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