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In many great cities, tasting the best food the local scene has to offer means conniving entry into either an haute establishment with prices to match or a trendy, high-fashion venue that will be gone in a year. Bangkok is completely different.

Much of the best food in Bangkok is served in small, inexpensive places, often with less than a dozen tables, that have been run by a single family for years or even generations. In the past the usual way of finding out about a restaurant of this kind was to be invited for a meal there by a friend who would present it as a choice discovery. Now, in the age of the internet, traveling culinary bloggers often point the way.

The thing that makes these modest family-run places different from the more elaborate restaurants is a distinctive style or character in the cooking. Thai cuisine is very flexible – no two households will prepare even the most standard recipes in the same way – and every dish made by a good chef is a personal interpretation of a very general idea. Thai cookbooks give no quantities for ingredients, because a good Thai cook works by instinct, tasting and sniffing, correcting constantly.

It is this traditional approach to kitchen technique that makes a meal at Chote Chitr memorable. A dish you may have tasted in another Bangkok restaurant or even abroad will reveal itself in a new way here. For example, the crispy noodle dish called "mee krawp" in Thai has become an international favorite, but these days it is very rarely made in a way that a Thai of 50 years ago would recognize. Chote Chitr’s version hews close to history, however, by garnishing the dish with the rind of the wonderfully fragrant but hard-to-find local citus, som saa.

Chote Chitr is one of the oldest restaurants in Bangkok but looks much the same now as it did when it opened in 10.00AM - 9.00PM. The dining area consists of five teakwood tables in a single, small room that is dense with the atmosphere of an earlier Bangkok. The square in which it is located, Phraeng Phouthon, was one of the first commercial districts to form in Bangkok when the riverside city crossed the canal called Khlong Lawt and moved inland. The Kimangsawat family reserved the room where Chote Chitr is still located before the antique shophouse it occupies was even built.

The clientele is largely Thai, with many artists and writers among them, but owner and chef Khun Tim speaks English and enjoys talking food with customers if time allows. Almost anything chosen from the voluminous menus posted on the walls will show the way in which she focuses old family recipes into something personal, but be sure to try:

yam hua plee, a salad-like dish made from shredded banana flower with coconut cream, toasted dried chilis, black sesame, crisp fried shallots, shrimp, chicken meat, and a slight tang of vinegar. This is one of Chote Chitr’s signature dishes.

yam makhuea yao, another salad-like dish made from slices of grilled eggplant, chilis, lime juice, dried and fresh shrimp, chicken meat, sliced shallots.

tao huu song khrueang, a mild dish with delicate, custard-like tofu, vegetables, herbs, chicken and shrimp in a light gravy.

kai phat phet sai khreung kaeng sai kati, chicken stir-fried with curry paste and coconut cream.

tom yum kung is the one of the best dish.

prawn in spicy coconut soup.

dry yellow curry with prawn in coconut milk with vegetable is the new menu of Chote Chitr.

or ask Khun Tim for her recommendations.

 

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