He dared put ants on the dining table not because it’s a newfangled foraging trend, but because it’s one of Thailand’s most cherished culinary traditions. Banker-turned-chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn, is clearly a man on the move. His focus on Thailand’s hyper-seasonal ingredients combined with modern cooking techniques gained from working at star-studded restaurants in New York City has named him one of Thailand’s — if not Asia’s — culinary rockstars.
Despite spending countless nights at the head of a fine-dining restaurant, Chef Ton (as he’s popularly known) credits his successful career to his grandmother’s down-to-earth cooking and street-side grub. Which means there’s no better person to ask for recommendations for where to eat in Bangkok given that he knows the cuisine intimately.
We ask the chef for expert tips on where to eat in his home city, and he reveals his favourites.
Here where to eat in Bangkok, according to Le Du’s Chef Ton:
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Pad ka prao is so prominent in Thai cooking that it’s almost its own food group. The list of restaurants cooking and serving fiery versions of this nationally beloved dish is endless, but Chef Ton’s go-to spot is the new Phed Mark by food YouTuber, Mark Wiens. Do as chef Ton does and order up the dry-aged beef kra prao with bird’s eye chili. It comes crowned with a fried duck egg but be warned: it’s so spicy, it may have you tearing up.
Opens Monday – Saturday, 11 am-5 pm.
“If [you’re] talking about my ultimate guilty pleasure food, Charoen Saeng Silom is my [ultimate],” says Chef Ton. The spot is famous for their khao ka moo braised pork knuckle that has the chef going back time and time again. His usual order is extra on fatty skin and intestines, covered in a savoury, caramel-like sauce. “Don’t tell my trainer,” he jokes.
The Michelin Bib Gourmand stall has been serving stewed pork knuckle since 1959, and stands out for its meltingly soft, caramelised pork. The dish comes served with homemade spicy sauce and pickles.
Opens Monday -Sunday, 7:30 am-1:30 pm.
Isaan street food dishes are taken to a whole new level at 100 Mahaseth, thanks to the restaurant’s use of farm-fresh ingredients and contemporary presentation. Here, Chef Ton never fails to order the Fermented Short Ribs which has been marinated for five days in a secret blend of spices in banana leaves. The result? Short ribs that are as smashingly juicy as it is well-seasoned.
Opens Monday -Friday , 5-11 pm; Saturday – Sunday, 11 am-11 pm.
Lerdtip is where Chinese and Thai cuisine embrace, despite being located in Japanese-themed Nihonmura mall. Here, Iron Chef Thailand 2015 winner Chef Gigg Kamoi keeps prices accessible. Dishes like fried duck with crunchy basil share the menu with indulgent mains like fried rice with wagyu beef and basil sauce.
Ask Chef Ton what he loves to order and he’ll report a special fondness for the Sea Crab with Salted Egg. The crab roe is preserved with Chef Gigg’s special marinade and given a spicy kick with a fresh ladling of chillies.
Opens Monday – Sunday, 11am-2pm for lunch; 5pm – 3am for dinner.
Jay Fai is world-renowned by now, but Chef Ton has been coming here from even before the humble eatery received its Michelin star. The decorated chef comes here for supper, specifically for the umami-packed dried seafood congee. Far from a stodgy, boring bowl, the congee is packed with premium seafood resulting in a delicious, thick rice porridge that’s a league above the rest.
Opens Tuesday – Saturday, 2pm-12am.