Khao Tom Gui: Traditional Thai-Chinese food in an old school eatery
Growing up in a Thai-Chinese household, my Chinese heritage played a huge role in forming my identity. A lot of that meant fierce competition, an inflexible need for excellence, and tons of stress, but one part that never failed to bring reprieve was the food. With its traditional Thai-Chinese food offerings and old-timey vibes, Khao Tom Gui – Chi Le Ma (ข้าวต้มกุ๊ย ชือเลอมา) really hit the spot for me.
From their rare dishes to period movie posters, here’s what I recommend you check out there.
Traditional Thai-Chinese cuisine including rare dishes
Image credit: @saiparnfoodcorner via Instagram
There are tons of Thai-Chinese recipes that are largely unknown to younger Thais. If asked what Thai-Chinese food is, most would probably say char siu or roast duck. But there are tons of old recipes that are steeped in history that only your grandparents would know.
Image credit: @ji.hwi54 via Instagram
So when I saw kao yok (เคาหยก, kou rou aka pork belly with preserved vegetables) on the menu, I just had to try it. Although it was something I’d have when visiting my grandma, the dish is relatively rare in Thailand. The pork belly was unbelievably tender, as if you were eating butter, with all the richness too. The vegetables that sat just below the pork seemingly absorbed all the porky flavours too. It’s so rich and intense that you really do need khao tom or rice to balance it out though.
Image credit: @thechubbychoice via Instagram
Another rare dish I found here was the moo pad nam liab (หมูผัดหนำเลี้ยบ, stir-fried pork with Chinese olives). Although I’m sure you can get Chinese olives in regular supermarkets today, my mom used to tell me stories about how you’d have to go to specific stores and alleys in Chinatown to even get these olives. The dish is so historic that you’d probably fall asleep if you were taught it in class. As for the flavours, they are what you’d expect from a classic Thai-Chinese dish: salty pork with spicy chilis and a drizzle of limey tang on top.
Old timey vibes with period movie posters and a mural
Image credit: @loukball via Instagram
As if the old traditional recipes that only your greying ancestors would know and eat aren’t enough, the restaurant also immerses itself in history with its decor. The old wooden tables and stools are reminiscent of small shophouse restaurants you’d find in Chinatown.
You can also find old movie posters that look like they’re from the 1950s, if not even earlier.
There’s also their old cast iron skillet, now unused, that is so big that I could probably lie down in it no problem.
Image credit: @beamersrb via Instagram
And if you’re from a Thai-Chinese household, there are plenty of items that’ll make you feel right at home too like the old grandfather clock, the intricate carved wooden tables, and plenty of Guan Yu statues.
To top off their old school Chinese vibes, they even have an instagrammable mural of early Chinese immigrants to Thailand outside.
Khao Tom Gui will show you what historic Thai-Chinese life and cooking was like
While eating here didn’t accelerate my greying or balding, it certainly made me feel like a piece of history. Whether you’re looking for nostalgia or looking to experience what early Chinese immigrant food was like, Khao Tom Gui is a safe bet to indulge in historic Thai-Chinese food.
For other Thai-Chinese eateries in Bangkok, try Kiew’s Pie for a 130-year-old hawker stall, Mitramit Teahouse for a quiet Chinese teahouse in Bang Lamphu, Num Heng Lee for a 70-year-old shophouse eatery serving Thai-style toast.
Address: Soi Charan Sanitwong 40, Bang Yi Khan, Bang Phlat, Bangkok 10700
Opening hours: 11am-11pm, Daily
Contact: +66 9 3252 2939 | Google Maps
Cover image adapted from: @loukball via Instagram and @saiparnfoodcorner via Instagram
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