Restaurant Travel

Hongkong Noodle in Bangkok’s Chinatown

Hongkong Noodle is a noodle and dim sum shop found right in the middle of Chinatown’s Talat Kao (ตลาดเก่า) in Bangkok. As you stroll up the narrow market lane from Yaowarat Road, keep an eye to your left until you spy the Hongkong Noodle sign with the busy kitchen in the front and head on in for some great dim sum.

Dim Sum Baskets
A stack of dim sum containers

Talat Kao is found on a small alleyway called Trok Issaranuphap, which is sometimes signposted as Soi Issaranuphap or as Soi 16 (acording to Wikitravel – offsite, opens in new window). It intersects Yaowarat Road at Mangkorn Road, therabouts. It’s a colorful market with all kinds of foods – I previously blogged on it back in 2009 – Bangkok’s Chinatown Market. Another blog (Cranky Little Monster – offsite, opens in new window) called it the Leng Buay Lea market.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Dim Sum
Some of the dim sum

Hongkong Noodle is a chain found in 8 locations in Bangkok; at least a couple more are in Chinatown. Apparently this is the original shop (unconfirmed).

The Kitchen
The kitchen at Hongkong Noodle
Some Food
Some of the ingredients

Kasma used to take some of her small-group tours to Thailand to this colorful market for a pre-breakfast walk. Several times they ate a dim sum meal at Hongkong Noodle. The rather small dining area is reached by walking through the kitchen & food prep area: if you’re lucky there will be a table available right away.

Dining Room View
Dining room view
Dining Area
The dining area

The dining area is very lively; it can feel a bit cramped. If you sit facing the front, you can see past the bustling kitchen to the market lane, usually crowded with shoppers and activity. If I recall correctly, the signs are all in Thai. It’s not really a problem: you can point out the dim sum dishes that you want to eat and there are also pictures of the various noodle dishes that you can point to.

Dim Sum
Some of the dim sum
Noodle Soup
Roast Duck Noodle Soup

The dim sum was quite good: fresh and tasty. We also ordered a couple bowls of the Duck Noodle Soup and it was also good. I would recommend this as a breakfast or lunch stop. Check out the slideshow below for some of the dim sum dishes. There’s also a second slideshow of some of the workers there (further down)

Slideshow of Food Dishes

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

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Slideshow of Hongkong Noodle Workers

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

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Restaurant Sign
Sign for Hongkong Noodle

Written by Michael Babcock, December 2013


Grow Wild the Laver!

On our last trip to Thailand, while browsing through the street market in Bangkok’s Chinatown, I came across a package of seaweed and bought it because of the writing on the package. Translation is fraught with perils and there are even websites devoted to “Engrish” – translations that are often too literal and inadvertently just do not work when translated into English.

Chinatown Market
Package is to the left

I found this translation oddly poetic, almost Zen. At times it seems to be asking questions. I’m going to first give my poetic rendering of it and then below that, give the words exactly as they appeared on the package. I’ve taken poetic license by changing some of the punctuation and some of the capitalization of letters

(Click images to see larger version.)

Two words require explanation.

  • Laver, according to one dictionary, is “an edible seaweed with thin sheetlike fronds of a reddish-purple and green color that becomes black when dry. Laver typically grows on exposed shores, but in Japan it is cultivated in estuaries. • Porphyra umbilicaulis, division Rhodophyta.”
  • Kaifeng is “a city in eastern China, in Henan province, on the Yellow River; pop. 693,100. Established in the 4th century bc, it is one of the oldest cities in China.”

Grow Wild the Laver!

Grow wild the laver!
And choose the best laver
through done
with meticulous care
have no the sand.
Need not wash.

Can the oil or sauce namely eat?
If place in every kind
work well in the broth.

The taste is more
and the nourishment is
Welcome taste!

For the keeping taste,
avoid the inso
to project light upon,
the heat affect
by damp and cold.
And Kaifeng
is not edible

please seal.
place in the refrigertor.
The best.

The Text
The actual text, click to make larger

When I first looked up the two words I didn’t know (laver & Kaifeng), I found that both, coincidentally, had a Jewish connection. Kaifeng is associated with the Kaifeng Jews, a small Jewish community that existed in Kaifeng for at least thousand years and dates back to either the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) or even to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) or earlier. (See the Wikipedia article on Kaifeng Jews (offsite, opens in new window).) And laver has a second meaning: “a basin or similar container used for washing oneself. • (in biblical use) a large brass bowl for the ritual ablutions of Jewish priests.” I just find it an interesting coincidence.

Here is the actual text as it appears on the package:

Grow wild the laver, and choose the best laver through done with meticulous care but,have no the sand need not wash.Can the oil or sauce namely eat, if place in every kind of work well in the broth, its The taste is more beau tiful, and the nourishment is more abundant, welcome taste. For the keeping taste, please avoid the inso lation lation to project light upon or the heat affect by damp and cold,and Kaifeng is not edible.
Over, please seal completely or place in the refrigertor the best.

Package Front
Front of laver package
Package Back
Back of the laver package

Written by Michael Babcock, 2012

Food Markets

Asian Markets – Oakland’s International District

When shopping for Thai or Asian ingredients in Oakland, California, one of the best areas is the International District, which covers International Boulevard (formerly East 14th Street) and East 12th Street. There are many Southeast Asian and Chinese markets on these two streets from the Lake Merritt end to 17th Avenue. In this blog I’ll talk about the markets where Kasma shops for ingredients, both for her personal use and for her Thai Cooking Classes (although she retired from the classes in 2020).

This is a companion piece to last-week’s blog: Asian Markets – Oakland’s Chinatown

As I mentioned in a previous blog, Shopping at Asian Markets (for Thai Ingredients), more often than not Kasma goes to a number of markets on her shopping trips; different markets carry different ingredients and she always tries to get absolutely the freshest ingredients and the best brands of packaged products.

International Boulevard, the old East 14th Street in Oakland, and East 12th Street are intersected by the numbered avenues, beginning with First Avenue. Up until about 17th Avenue, the stores are primarily Asian; after that, the flavor turns more Hispanic. It is one of the two main districts for Asian supermarkets in Oakland, the other being Oakland’s Chinatown situated from 7th to 9th Streets bordered by Broadway to the west. One of the advantages of shopping at International Boulevard is that many of the stores have parking lots.

Note: As of May 2020, Kasma still shops at these 6 markets for her personal shopping.

(Click images to see larger version.)

International Boulevard Asian Markets

Sontepheap Market
Mithapheap Market

Mithapheap (was Sontepheap) Market

1400 International Blvd. (at 14th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 436-3826

I list this market first because it is the market Kasma frequents the most out on International Boulevard. The market is run by Cambodians and is a great source for hard-to-find Southeast Asian ingredients, such as holy basil, kaffir lime leaves, cha-om, bai chaploo and more. Read Kasma’s blog Mithapheap (was Sontepheap) Market in Oakland to find out more. There’s a small parking lot right by the store. The name was changed from Sontepheap to Mithapheap in early 2012.

International Lao Market
International Lao Market

International Lao Market

1619 International Blvd. (at 16th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 536-5888

The International Lao Market, owned by Laotians, gets second position because Kasma often goes there for hard-to-find produce items when they are not available at Sontepheap. The market also carries many frozen, bottled and packaged goods from Thailand, including one of Kasma’s favorite fish sauce brands – Tra Chang – as well as her favorite brand of shrimp paste (kapi) – Klong Kohn. This is one place Kasma’s students can find clay, stone and wooden mortars and pestles. Nearby street parking is usually available.

Mekong Market
Mekong Market

Mekong Market

1613 International Blvd. (at 16th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 261-7630

Although it’s a small store, I’m including Mekong Market here because it is right next to the International Lao Market. The proprietress is Cambodian and Kasma uses this as a back-up for ingredients such as Thai eggplants, holy basil and kaffir lime leaves. Of the Southeast Asian cuisines, Cambodian and Lao foods share the most similarities with Thai and markets run by people from these two countries are more likely to carry the hard-to-find fresh ingredients also used in Thai cooking.

Thien Loi Hoa
Thien Loi Hoa

Thien Loi Hoa

1199 E. 12th St. (at 12th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 663-0138

Also on East 12th Street, Thien Loi Hoa is a fairly large and complete market. They have fresh and frozen seafood in addition to produce and a butcher. In the freezers are also various Southeast Asian herbs and vegetables, like cha-om and sadao (neem). This is the only market in Oakland where Kasma can find pickled garlic from Thailand without preservatives in vacuum-sealed bags in the refrigerated section. In the same section, there’s usually the sometimes hard-to-find salted mackerel from Thailand. Fresh duck eggs are frequently available here, too. The store has a small parking lot; I’m usually able to find a spot.

Lucky Fish Market

Lucky Seafood Market
Lucky Seafood Market

1201 E 12th St. (at 12th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94620
(510) 436-6068

Lucky Fish Market is right across the street from Thien Loi Hoa and is a good place to look for fresh fish, including live ones in the tanks, and other seafood such as crabs and lobsters. They have another market on 8th street in Oakland’s Chinatown. Thien Loi Hoa and Sun Sang (see next entry) also have fresh fish, if you can’t find what you’re looking for here.

Sun Sang Market
Sun Sang Market

Sun Sang Market

751 International Blvd. (at 8th Ave.)
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 891-0298

A fairly large Asian grocery store with produce and a meat counter. Kasma used to go there specifically to buy Lion and Globe Peanut oil in 5 liter bottles but lately they have only the smaller sizes. The store has a large selection of frozen seafood products and also a fairly good fresh fish counter.

Written by Michael Babcock, August 2011 & May 2020

Food Travel

Thai Street Food

Thai street food is definitely one of the highlights of a trip to Thailand.

Grilling Fish
Grilling fish at Nong Khai market

Every winter for the past sixteen years, I have been taking small groups of Americans traveling around my homeland. [Note: Kasma retired from doing these trips in 2020.] A tour guide I am not, but a friend in food I am, and we literally feast our way around the country. There are only so many times one can visit historical parks, museums and temples before losing interest, but I never tire of taking people on market walks and introducing them to the exceptional delicacies that are only available from street and market stalls.

Chive Dumplings
Chive Dumplings at Don Wai Market

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

On one trip comprised mainly of foodies, every time we made a stop, whether to visit an art gallery or a temple, a number of people in the group quickly disappeared as soon as they got out of the van. I know where to round them up, as they would invariably be found among street stalls, either watching food being cooked or sampling food. You’d think that I don’t feed them enough, but that’s in addition to the three big meals and countless snacks I provide every day. Some of them weren’t even very discrete, causing me worries of them getting sick. But courage they had and plenty of trust in the local herbal pills to overcome stomach problems.

Prepared Food To Go
Prepared street food

Because of the Thai penchant to please, many western tourists miss out on the finest of the country’s cuisine when they limit their food intake to restaurants. Establishments frequented by tourists automatically water down the Thai dishes served to fair-skinned Caucasians. Enough of them through the years have demonstrated that they cannot take the full range of exciting flavors Thais enjoy. Many restaurants translate only those dishes on their menus that they think foreigners like – those sweet, rich foods with little spice.

Roast Duck
Roast duck in Chinatown market

Without a good command of the language to communicate your desires, you can assure yourself of getting real Thai food by dining off the streets, where you are, more frequently than not, treated like everyone else. In the huge metropolis of Bangkok where traffic is horrendous, most working Thais have little time to cook. They purchase ready-made food from sidewalk vendors on their way to work and on their way home from work. Many of these sidewalk operations offer a wide selection of curries, soups, salads and desserts in huge pots and trays. From them, you may be able to get some fine, home-cooked food untempered for tourists.

Street Food Sweets
Street food sweets at Chatuchak

Note from Michael: Although many westerners claim the best food in Thailand is street food and although you can get fantastic food on the street, Kasma does maintain that the very best Thai food is to be had in excellent restaurants, if you know how to order. Two of our particular favorites are Reun Mai (in Krabi) and My Choice (in Bangkok). However, as Kasma mentions, there are some foods  found almost exclusively at street food (such as the chive dumplings in the second picture, above).

As of these days (February 2020) there is somewhat less street food in Bangkok, though it can still be found in some areas.

We have many more posts on street food:

Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, September 2010 & 2020.

Food Markets Travel

Bangkok’s Chinatown Market – Talat Kao

One of our favorite markets, one where Kasma takes her small-group trips is a market street in Bangkok’s Chinatown called Talat Kao (old market). It’s actually a little alley-way, barely more than two blocks long.

Roast Pig in Chinatown
Roast Pig in Chinatown

Kasma and I are market junkies. Although we enjoy visiting Asian markets in the U.S. (see Shopping at Asian Markets (for Thai Ingredients), nothing can beat the markets in Thailand. They are colorful, appetizing and the vendors are friendly. Although you can expect to find many of the same sorts of things for sale at any Thai market, each market does have its own character and certain markets are renowned for a specific item or specialty. 

Sea Cucumbers
Sea Cucumbers

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Be prepared to be jostled at this market. It’s a very narrow alley-way. At places there is barely room for two people to squeeze past one another, and that’s when there’s no one stopped to make a purchase. Add to this the occasional motor bike making deliveries and it can get very cramped, particularly on holidays.

Various Foods
Various Foods

The market is full of fresh seafood of all varieties, including fish, shrimp, prawns, and some things that you might not recognize, such as sea cucumbers. There’s also many vendors with dried foods such as red dates, dried persimmons, dried fish and dried fish stomach. Since it’s a Chinese market, you’ll find succulent roast duck and, on festive occasions, whole roast pigs being delivered.

Prepared Food
Prepared Food

Of course there is also prepared food. One of the great mysteries of Thailand is how, in the presence of so much food everywhere, most of the people remain so slender. There’s everything from the delectable kanom krok (grilled coconut-rice hotcakes) to curries and other Thai or Chinese dishes.

Hua Seng Hong Sign
Hua Seng Hong Sign

When we go to Chinatown to the market, we always time it so that we can have a meal, be it breakfast or lunch, at Hua Seng Hong restaurant at 371-373 Yaowarat Road. For lunch, we might get duck noodles (make sure you get the wheat noodles, ba mee in Thai) or the grilled duck, succulent and yummy. For breakfast, we often get the dim sum, tender bite-sized morsels that are very well-done. 

Dim Sum at Hua Seng
Dim Sum at Hua Seng

In the future, we’ll blog on other markets that we visit regularly. We’ve also posted a number of photographs of Thai markets.

You might also enjoy our blog on Hongkong Noodle in Bangkok’s Chinatown

Written by Michael Babcock, July 2009.