Khao San Road is one of my favourite places to go for Thai food – not to mention the place to get soaked during their annual Songkran celebration. It is named after an actual road in Bangkok, Thailand and its name means “milled rice” referencing a time when the street was a major rice market. Now it is a haven for backpackers and buzzing with nightlife – akin to Mongkok in Hong Kong.
While most Thai places offer up ketchupy versions of pad thai and curries so thick of coconut milk that you taste nothing else – you can taste the difference at Khao San Road. “We try to order our ingredients from Thailand whenever possible,” says owner Monte Wan because slight nuances in the flavour of tamarind (Thai vs. local) makes a difference. KSR wants to be “as Thai as possible.”
The Thai iced tea is reminiscent of Vietnamese coffee and is a refreshing and delicious drink to quench summer thirst – if you can get past the sugar rush! The drink is made of a blend of Thai spices and black tea with condensed milk. Unfortunately it comes pre-mixed, so no fancy, customized orders à la Starbucks here. Everyone gets the same.
The garlic tofu is delicious. I haven’t tasted tofu like this anywhere else. Incredibly smooth on the inside and breaded in a crispy garlic and kaffir lime coating with a sweet and tangy sauce. If ever there were a vegetarian equivalent to chicken nuggets – this would be it.
The fresh rolls here, again share similarities with Vietnamese cuisine. But those on a low-carb diet will be happy about the absence of vermicelli noodles. It’s packed with carrots, lettuce, Thai basil, mint leaves and a housemade chicken sausage. The tamarind sauce topped with peanuts is a welcome addition though the rolls are flavourful in their own right.
Continuing on with the sweet and tangy with a bit of heat is the Tom Yam Soup, the Thai version of a hot and sour soup which has much more complex flavors from lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, and crushed chili peppers. I’d choose this over hot chocolate on a cold, winter’s day.
The squash fritters are starchy and sweet like sweet potato fries and is a great nosh.
The crispy rice salad is not yet on the menu but will be coming soon to a table near you. It is a cold rice salad that has the texture of delicious rice crusts that form at the bottom of Korean/Chinese clay pot rice (usually the best part). It is sprinkled with thin slices of ginger which add heat and topped with scallions.
Those who can’t handle the heat had better stay away from the Kua Ging Pork; curried minced pork with kaffir lime + house made curry paste. The kicker are the peppercorns. You definitely feel the burn!
The Gaeng Kaew Wan (green curry) with shrimp gets its color from the green chillies and is topped with bamboo shoots, Thai basil + kaffir lime leaves. As with all of the KSR curries, definitely opt for a bowl of white rice to sop up all the delicious flavors!
An all-time crowd-favorite and one of my own personal favorites is the khao soi; egg noodles in a coconut milk enriched curry, garnished with crispy noodles, green onion, coriander + lime. The beef version is their signature, though you can opt for chicken as well. I love the textural differences in the noodles.
Two different kinds of pad thai are available; the street-style and KSR’s chef’s special topped with crushed peanuts, dried chili and freshly squeezed lime juice.
Khao San Road doesn’t take reservations, though the food comes out pretty fast so the turnover is quick. If you want to avoid waiting then I suggest going right when they open (which at lunch is 11:30am and 5pm for dinner). While there are many restaurants in the city that adhere to this no reservations policy that are so overrated and totally not worth it – Khao San Road is worth the wait.