Famous the world over for its street-side eats, Bangkok’s culinary reputation is often reflected in long lines and increasingly numerous Michelin Guide ratings, but a stroll down one alley in one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods reveals a hidden gem, where eating is a pleasure savoured along with life, at a deliciously slower pace.
If you walk down to the end of Charoen Krung Soi 1, also known as Trok (alley) Wisut, and make a left at the unexpectedly imposing community shrine to Brahma, you will find an old-school example of what I call slow street food. There’s no rushing Aunty Pien’s copper pan-fried chicken noodles (Kuay Thiew Kua Gai). No Grab drivers and no hashtaggers (except possibly, for me of course). Starting early most mornings, you’ll find her frying fresh batches of pork scratchings (to be generously sprinkled over her famous noodles) over a charcoal stove.
She’ll smile and tell you to take a seat at what can only best be described as two makeshift communal long-tables alongside Klong Lod (amusingly translated by us visually centric Thais as Drinking Straw Canal, owing to its long and narrow proportions). The canal forms a back alley of sorts to this old community once populated by Mons transplanted from Burma around the time of Bangkok’s founding.
Aunty Pien makes only one kind of noodle dish and she does it exceedingly well. Kuay Thiew Kua Gai happens to be a ubiquitous Thai take on stir-fried noodles and is almost always made with chicken. Aunty Pien’s addition of her fragrant, salty pork scratchings are her own trademark touch. She also infuses her complimentary drinking water with pandan leaves and lemongrass.
While you wait patiently for your noodles — which are always cooked one portion at a time — you may be surprised to notice fish swimming in the unexpectedly clean, almost elegant canal. All around you are signs of lives lived at a slower pace. An increasingly all too rare observance in mad-dash Bangkok.
Eating here is basic, but rewarding. Calm and delicious. You may even hear Aunty Pien reminisce to her regular customers about the old days, such as how fish sauce nowadays isn’t what it used to be. Indeed it isn’t. That’s what happens when you’re quietly not in a rush. You hear things.
Aunty Pien’s Fried Chicken Noodles
Can be reached from either Charoen Krung Soi 1 or Fueang Nakhon Soi 14, Wat Ratchabophit, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
The Footpath Files
Stories from the Streets of Bangkok
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