Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn, a banker turned chef, has given Thai cuisine a much-needed yet unpretentious update. His restaurant Le Du, which ranked at #20 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019, is a perfect reflection of his contemporary and sustainable exploration of Thai cuisine.
His focus on Thailand’s hyper-seasonal ingredients combined with modern cooking techniques gained from working at star-studded restaurants in New York City (Eleven Madison Park, The Modern, and Jean Georges, no less) have made him skyrocket to become one of Thailand’s — if not Asia’s — culinary fabled figures.
And although countless nights are spent on cooking and devouring fine dining fare, Chef Ton acccredits his successful career to his grandmother’s down-to-earth comfort meals and street-side grub.
We recently asked the chef where he likes to go for guilty pleasure food in the city, on the days where calorie counting is completely ignored or forgotten. Here, Chef Ton unveiled to us all his favourite off-the-beaten-track restaurants and the dishes he usually gets. Read on for his list of guilty pleasure foods he likes to devour on a cheat day in Bangkok.
1. Phed Mark
For many, pad ka prao in all its comfort-filled delectability, is almost its own food group. And although an endless list of restaurants are cooking and serving up toothsome versions of this nationally beloved dish, Chef Ton’s go-to spot is the new Phed Mark by all-about-food YouTuber, Mark Wiens and his three foodie buddies ITAN, Kamol Chopdeengam and Pongthep Anurat. According to the chef, get the dry-aged beef kra prao with bird’s eye chili and crowned with fried duck egg. Be warned though: it may have you tearing up from its pungent sassiness. Well, it doesn’t boast the name Phed Mark (which could translate to ‘very spicy’) for no reason now, does it?
Phed Mark, 928 Sukhumvit Road, Khwaeng Phra Khanong, Bangkok; Open: Mon-Sat, 11 am-5 pm.
2. Charoen Saeng Silom
“If talking about my ultimate guilty pleasure food, Charoen Saeng Silom is my move,” Chef Ton says. Famous for their khao ka moo braised pork knuckle, the fork-tender sensation in which the meat renders is what he always goes back for. His usual order is extra on fatty skin and intestines, and covered in a savoury, caramel-like sauce is his usual order. He also asked us not to tell his trainer.
Charoen Saeng Silom, 492/6 Soi Charoen Krung 49, Suriya Wong, Bangkok, +662 234 8036; Open: Mon-Sun, 7:30 am-1:30 pm.
3. 100 Mahaseth
Isaan fare at 100 Mahaseth is no joke. The venue takes what is commonly labeled as street-grade dishes to a whole other level through the use of farm-fresh ingredients and great presentation. A not-so-secretive carnivore by heart, Chef Ton never misses out on their Fermented Short Ribs on his regular visit here. Having been cured with special seasonings for five days inside banana leaf wraps, the short ribs become smashingly juicy and well-seasoned. With side players like spicy-sour salad dressed in fermented fish sauce, this dish’s deliciousness needs no convincing.
100 Mahaseth, 100 Maha Set Road, Si Phraya, Bangkok, +662 235 0023; Open: Mon-Fri, 5-11 pm; Sat-Sun, 11 am-11 pm.
4. Lerdtip by Chef Gigg
Lerdtip is where Chinese and Thai cuisine come to mingle. Led by the winner of Iron Chef Thailand 2015, Chef Gigg Kamoi is cooking up a storm of Chinese-Thai dishes sold at accessible prices. Chef Ton has a special fondness for the Sea Crab with Salted Egg (THB 980 for medium-sized crabs) where the four-legged marine creatures together with their ooey-gooey roes are preserved in Chef Gigg’s special sauce, before getting served under a sea of spicy seafood sauce.
Lerdtip by Chef Gigg, 85 Sukhumvit, Bangkok, +6681 439 9994; Open: Mon-Sun, 11 am-2 pm for lunch and 5 pm-3 am for dinner.
5. Jay Fai
Although Jay Fai’s crab omelette is well recognised by many, what Chef Ton likes as his before-bed meal here is her umami-packed Dried Seafood Congee. The world-renowned, street-side restaurant with a lineup of premium seafood-packed dishes makes a mean ultra-thick rice porridge without all the nonsense.
Jay Fai, 327 Maha Chai Road, Samran Rat, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, +6692 724 9633; Open: Tue-Sat, 2 pm-12 am.