If you’re brave enough and forget everything you thought you knew about food, Chinatown will surprise you. Street food is always fun and travellers seem to enjoy mixing with locals to experience something traditional. Yaowarat is famous for its very popular food stalls balanced on the most impractical pavements, not to mention the dubious sanitary conditions. And yet, each plastic chair is occupied and a queue is patiently standing by, trying not to get hit by tuk-tuks and bikes passing by.

    There's also a small selection of indoor restaurants complete with menus in English, including amazing tea rooms with hundreds of types of tea and spots serving fusion cuisine with oriental flavours. Bangkok Chinatown is an adventure, and the sooner you discover it the better. Also, note that the Chinatown food scene mostly comes alive around sunset!


    Rut & Lek Seafood

    Lek & Rut Seafood in Chinatown is a testament to Bangkok being a city of extremes, particularly when it comes to food. This Chinatown restaurant serves great food in the most unlikely surroundings you could dream of for a nice dinner: a frantic intersection of Bangkok Chinatown. Having dinner at Lek & Rut is the perfect way to experience the way of life and culinary open-mind of Bangkok. You need to forget everything you know and just go with the flow – it's a fun and fascinating experience.

    Nothing differentiates Lek & Rut Seafood from its neighbouring street stalls, except that it’s now famous, and of course popular. It's always packed and yet people patiently wait for a seat, standing wherever possible on the busy road. Don't expect tablecloth, silverware and air conditioning here. Set on the narrow pavement of the incredibly busy Yaowarat Road, it's a mystery how cars, bikes and by-passers manage to get past without hitting a dining table.

    Location: Phadung Dao Rd, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 5.30pm to 2am

    Phone: +66 (0)81 637 5039


    T & K Seafood

    T & K Restaurant on Yaowarat road is busy every single evening come rain or shine. Just like many other popular restaurants in the area, it's not about fancy design and glamorous decor, but about great simple food and the rustic charm of eating on the pavement of a hectic street.

    The outdoor area is the most popular but as it's permanently packed you can eat inside or even upstairs with air-conditioning. Even so, the room is bare with the usual plastic chairs and iron tables, and the cleanliness applies no further than the top of your table, which by street-food standards is all you need. T & K is dedicated to seafood – once you’ve tried their amazing whole steamed or deep-fried fish served with different varieties of sauce, huge barbecued prawns, crabs, great seafood soups and delicious shells, then you’ll know why people queue up outside, even in the rain!

    Location: 49-51 Phadung Dao Rd, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 4pm to 2am

    Phone: +66 (0)2 223 4519


    photo by Allie_Caulfield (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Red Rose Restaurant at Shanghai Mansion Hotel

    Red Rose Restaurant offers a 1930s Shanghai parlour concept where you can have a real touch of panache to your meal. You can find it on the second floor of the Shanghai Mansion Bangkok Boutique Hotel. The decor is simply wonderful with a spiral cast-iron staircase, traditionally upholstered seating and period touches such as gramophones and antique furniture. 

    The fact that Red Rose restaurant faces onto Yaowarat Road means it is central to all the sites and shops of Chinatown and makes a great place for lunch or dinner.

    Location: 481 Yaowarat Rd, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 10am to 11pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 221 2121


    Krua Porn Lamai

    Krua Porn Lamai is a typical street food shack for those who enjoy eating like locals, and by that, we mean 'really local'. The humble cooking station is on one side of the street and the tables are on the other, lined against a sooty wall so the waiters have to constantly cross the busy street with boiling hot plates. Despite its shabby appearance, and just like most restaurants in Bangkok Chinatown, Krua Porn Lamai is always full, but for the first-timer, it takes a bit of courage to pick this place (don't expect an illustrated English menu, all you have is a shortlist written in Thai above the cart). 

    Famous for its sizzling hoy tod (mussels and bean sprouts omelette served on a cast iron plate) and for its even more sizzling rad na. Rad na is a mix of prawns, squid, chicken and vegetables also brought on an iron dish. Other recommended specialities are guay taew kua krob (stir-fried crispy noodles) and taro kua (stir-fried taro snacks). 

    Location: 64 Plaeng Nam Rd, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 6pm to 2am

    Phone: +66 (0)99 249 5414


    Kuay Jab Nai Huan

    Kuay Jab Nai Huan is one of Yaowarat road all-time favourites... This small stall only serves one dish and is packed non-stop from 6 in the evening to late at night. Kuay Jab is made of large rolled rice noodles with crispy pork belly, sometimes with intestines and most importantly served in a very very peppery clear soup, with prices starting at around 40 baht. 

    It's so popular you’ll certainly have to queue patiently, standing in this incredibly busy intersection. Or, if you’re lucky, they might take you further down the lane to set a table up just for you, in the middle of nowhere.

    Location: 4 Yaowarat Rd, Chakkrawat, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand


    Odean Crab Wonton

    Odean is a very clean and rather discreet restaurant behind Wat Traimit in a small street near the Chinese gate of Odeon circle in Chinatown. Obviously, it should’ve been called Odeon Restaurant but it joined the many charming typos in Bangkok with the name 'Odean'. This is not just another noodle soup joint as a bowl can cost as much as 500 baht!  The noodles are usually just traditional yellow egg noodles and the soup is light and clear... So what is their secret ingredient?

    The key ingredient is nothing more than a delicious crab claw served on top of your soup, but not a tiny nipper, a big one – as big as you’re willing to pay. When ordering, you need to specify the price you wish to pay: from 200 to 500 baht. You can, of course, order a simple crab soup for 50 baht in which you will just get some crab meat, but the real deal here is to order a big claw. Everybody knows, the bigger, the better! You can also order the same dish but 'dry', with the soup served separately.

    Location: 724 Charoen Krung Rd, Talat Noi, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8.30am to 8pm

    Phone: +66 (0)86 888 2341


    Jok Kitchen

    Jok Kitchen is one of the best ‘hidden’ restaurants in Bangkok, except for the fact many people in Bangkok have heard of it. But has everyone been there? Probably not.

    Despite its most unlikely location, it requires reservations weeks in advance; this is because Jok's Chinatown spot is also on one of the smallest, most unusual and most talked-about small restaurants in Bangkok. It can only accommodate 10 to 16 guests. To add to the mystery, you don’t even get to choose the menu. All you need to know is that it serves Thai-Chinese seafood and the chef decides what's for dinner tonight. Mainstays on the menu include crab claws, abalone, and maybe even chicken feet.

    Location: 23 Soi Isara Nuphap, Phlab Phla Chai Road, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from midday to 3pm and from 6pm to 10pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 221 4075


    Chinatown sweets carts

    No street dining experience in Chinatown would be complete without a tasty local dessert. Often overlooked by travellers because of its unusual appearance, Thai sweets sold in the street bear no resemblance to western desserts. Displayed on a tiny cart surrounded by the usual iron tables, small bowls are full of mostly unidentified multicoloured ingredients used to prepare a cold dessert called tao tung. You might recognize corn and red beans, but probably not the black jelly (Chao Kuai) or the green odd-looking noodles (Lod Chong), lotus, water chestnuts or the gingko nuts served in longan juice. You might even think this is a salad buffet!

    Among the many sweets found along Yaowarat are must-tries: Bua Loy Num Khing (rice balls stuffed with black sesame paste served in a very sweet and hot ginger sauce), or Tao Tung Yen (shaved ice with an assorted mix of the above-mentioned toppings and covered with syrup), a great way to end a hot day or after a very spicy dinner. There are several of these carts at the intersection of Yaowarat and Yaowa Phanit.

    Location: Yaowarat Rd, Bangkok 10100, Thailand


    Hua Seng Hong

    Hua Seng Hong is one of Chinatown's more expensive options, but don’t doubt that you’ll get your money's worth. This large restaurant is known for its extensive seafood menu, as well as an excellent dim sum assortment and more unusually, a good variety of sweet treats. There are set menus, or you can pick from an a la carte selection. 

    The yellow curry with crab meat and the large sea bass with soy sauce is highly recommended, which could easily feed 4 people. If you want one of the most raved about Thai desserts, try the crepe cake. The restaurant is clean and modern, a great place to enjoy Thai Chinese cuisine in Bangkok.

    Location: 371, 373 Yaowarat Rd, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8.15am to 12.30am

    Phone: +66 (0)2 222 7053

    Willy Thuan | Compulsive Traveller

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