Anthony Bourdain in Bangkok: 10 Spots Where Tony Ate
Perhaps due to its time on the silver screen in Hollywood or for its reputation as the Amsterdam of Southeast Asia, but everyone has an opinion about Bangkok. Thailand’s biggest and capital city has something for everyone – and it’s a great metropolitan setting if you want to experience Thai culture and cuisine.
Anthony Bourdain visited Bangkok twice, to film episode 13 of season 2 of A Cook’s Tour, and again in episode 16 of season 5 of No Reservations. These are his only two on-screen visits to this part of Thailand; he makes several other visits though, to Chiang Mai and Phuket among others.
If you’re planning a trip to Thailand and want to know about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Bangkok, this post will help. Below you’ll find a list of all the places Anthony Bourdain ate in Bangkok, including those that are no longer open, as well as all the foods that he ate – so you can plan your own trip to try Thai cuisine in the capital. ทานให้อร่อย! (Enjoy your meal!)
Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Bangkok?
The A Cook’s Tour episode is available on Amazon and GoTraveler.
The No Reservations episode is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV.
A Cook’s Tour (2002)
Tony meets up for the first of many times with author and recent resident of Thailand, Jerry Hopkins. Since Bourdain has just a handful of hours to visit Bangkok before he moves on to Singapore, he is trying his best to soak in as much as he can.
Bane Lao Restaurant (CLOSED)
A dining area with cushions on the floor keeping with Laotian tradition, Bane Lao Restaurant is Tony’s first stop. Unfortunately, it’s now closed today.
There, Bourdain is introduced to Pla ra for the first time, a Laotian dish also referred to by Hopkins as the “Mississippi of Thailand,” their poorest region. It is made by mashing up anchovies and packing and condensing it into a ceramic bowl, covered for varying amounts of time until it rots and turns into a spreadable paste. Tony refers to it as the “vegemite” of Thailand, an acquired taste to say the least, but it’s still one that seemed to pleasantly surprise him. It helps when you can add fresh local produce to the paste.
After this dish, they are served some fried frog skin with a side of chili chutney. The frog skin is pounded until it’s uber thin, then fried to a crisp so it can be used as a sort of chip to dip in varying chutneys and condiments.
Seafood Market & Restaurant (CLOSED)
With no break in between, Bourdain then moves on to the now-closed Seafood Market & Restaurant. This spot is a sort of warehouse based around the premise of shopping for your own seafood, then having some of the many chefs in the center of the building prepare it for you however you like.
Tony decides on the freshwater prawn, local grouper fish – which was recommended to him by a local shopper –, chili crab, and baby clams. When he checks out and is asked by the server how he wants it prepared, Anthony asks him what he recommends.
The result is to stir fry the clams and prawn with a garlic chili paste and butter. We all know that for anything with “chili” in the description, Anthony is going to have to try. Next, they decide to deep fry his Grouper fish and serve it with a side of, you guessed it, chili sauce. Finally, Anthony gets his Chili Crab cooked with a black bean paste, lemon grass, coriander leaves, and red chilis.
With time running out on his first visit to Bangkok, Bourdain decides to peruse some street vendors on his way to the Arab Quarter where he tries some fried crickets with chili sauce for dipping.
Finally arriving at the Nefertiti Restaurant, Tony orders some Egyptian coffee, thick enough to “stand a spoon up in.” Accompanied by a hookah filled with apple tobacco, and a bowl of Om Ali, Tony caps off the night – and this first trip to Bangkok – with a sweet raisin cake soaked in milk and then baked until it is almost a bread pudding of sorts.
No Reservations (2009)
Bourdain makes his second trip to Bangkok as part of filming No Reservations several years later. The episode is called “Thailand,” but primarily focuses on Bangkok and includes several more dining opportunities that are still open for travelers today.
At the original Jok Prince stall on Charoenkung Kung street, Anthony gets his much-adored spicy breakfast from Michelin Star-awarded street stall, Jok Prince. There, he tries Jok-style rice porridge with soft-boiled eggs, random pig parts with hot sauce, and peppers for garnishing. T
his meal originated as a cheap filler for the working class and was a great cure for hangovers in various Asian countries. Bourdain describes it as a “cream of wheat…only ricier, and full of guts.”
Banlaem Train Station
With Anthony’s experienced Thai guide, Gong, in tow, on Day Two of his visit they find themselves waiting for the train to Maeklong at Banlaem Station when his guide points out the smell wafting over to the table where Anthony is enjoying his beer.
Anthony grabs a cameraman to capture their unexpectedly remarkable lunch, a brothy noodle dish consisting of fish balls, sliced pork, crunchy bean sprouts, and a couple of fried wontons to top the dish off. Garnished with chilis, herbs, and fermented fish sauce, Bourdain is in noodle heaven and could care less how late their train is.
At Banlaem station, they meet an elderly Thai woman that swears the best Thai cuisine is a “spicy mixed salad” which Anthony decides to keep an eye out for on the rest of their travels.
A “collapsible” market that has fresh Thai produce, fish, lychee fruit, frogs, and any other Thai staples that you can imagine. The only catch, aside from the fresh Thai fish, is that the train from Banlaem runs directly through this market, forcing vendors to lift their awnings and gatherings out of the way before the train comes through. Sometimes, it does not go as planned and some vendors will lose their supplies if they do not retreat from the train tracks swiftly enough.
From Maeklong, Anthony and Gong take a boat toward the gulf on the Klong Khong canal waterway to harvest cockles, a burrowing mollusk found in shallow and sandy beaches, with some local fishermen.
Amphawa Market, The Floating Market
On the edge of the Maeklong River, Amphawa Market is a floating Thai evening market is bustling with Thai tourists sitting on steps leading down to the water where orders are yelled out by patrons and passed up to you with a long stick and a basket with your order sitting on the end of it. This is the market where Anthony finally finds the “spicy mixed salad” that was recommended to him by the elderly woman at Banlaem Station.
Referred to as Yam Lo Mid, this mixed salad has shrimp, mussels, some mushrooms, Thai barbequed pork, fish sauce, lamb juice, syrup, spring onion, chili, vegetables, chicken feet, and cockles. This eclectic gathering of ingredients and proteins makes much more sense when you realize its name, Yam Lo Mid, literally translates to “mixed together everything.”
During their Yam Lo Mid meal, Anthony notices a vendor making some fried shrimp cakes that Gong yells down an order for. A simple shrimp cake, fried with flour and served with a sweet chili sauce, Anthony describes it as “vibrant, crunchy, and delicious.”
Taling Chan Floating Market
At another floating market, Anthony meets with author and friend, Jerry Hopkins, who has lived in Thailand for decades now.
They stop at the Taling Chan floating market and eat a dish of Snakehead fish, the species of carnivorous fish that was at one point introduced in America and found to be extremely invasive and dangerous, eating any other fish in sight and climbing to the tops of their respective food chains. At this market, they’re farmed in fresh water, stuffed with herbs, rolled in salt, and grilled over charcoal.
Next, Anthony finds himself with a new guide and culinary TV superstar, McDang, to show him around Bangkok’s Chinatown.
At one vendor, Anthony gets one of his favorites, a nice grilled sausage. This Thai sausage is made from pork, ginger, salt, and pepper and accompanied by fresh ginger. From there they move on to Boom Jai Yun, a restaurant stall that serves them a Chiu Chow style suckling pig that has been opened up and coated in dark soy sauce, rotated slowly over an open flame until the skin gets so crispy you can easily peel it off with your hands.
After the crispy skin has been enjoyed by Anthony and McDang, the rest of the big is taken back by the restaurant and divided over an open grill to get the meat and fat nice and crispy before reserving it to them, using every part of the suckling pig so you get the most out of your money.
Likhit Gai Yang
Anthony meets back up with his friend and prized fighter, Eric Rivera, for a pre-fight meal consisting of Isan-Style Gai Yang chicken, essentially grilled chicken with chilis, coriander, and white pepper all rubbed into the meat before being cooked and splayed over an open flame. As a side, they eat a Som Tam salad which is papaya salad with chilis, shrimp, and crab.
Bangkok Food Tours to Try
One great way to sample all the different flavors and foods that Anthony Bourdain ate in Bangkok is on a food tour. While this isn’t strictly Tony’s style, it is more practical for the rest of us without fixers and location scouts. Here are a few good Bangkok food tours to inspire you.
Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Bangkok? Let me know in the comments below!