I’ve sung the praises of Bangkok’s most typical street food dish pad krapow, the furious stir fry of holy basil, common Thai herbs, spices, and a fried egg, many times before. We’ve made a million versions of it with The Courageous Kitchen project and I’ve even imagined how my ideal Thai basil burger would turn out. And y’know in the past ten years I’ve probably eaten pad grapow 1000 or so times (and STILL don’t know how to spell it by the way), going all the way back to my college days of waiting tables in a Thai restaurant. NONE of that prepared me to guide a film crew through Bangkok’s myriad of street food and restaurants who offer this dish, and selecting my favorites to appear in a new food show.
I guess I better explain that there’s a couple of reasons why it’s nonsensical to have a list of pad kra pow places. First off, this homely dish is everywhere. It’s so common place that telling people where to get it, is like recommending a good 7-11 in Bangkok— nearly impossible and almost purposeless. Secondly, pad krapow is quintessential Thai food. When people don’t know where to eat, what to order, or who to choose as lord and savior, they turn to pad krapow for answers. So engrained in the Thai psyche is this dish, that one can walk up to any restaurant making hot food, blurt out this dish’s name and everyone interprets the mumbling as grumpy-hangry code for:
“Feed me the spicy sustenance of life, NOW!“
It would be insulting and torturous to suggest a plate of pad thai to a hungry Bangkokian fiending for pad krapow. People here will even order it when they’re unsure of a restaurant’s food, using the dish as a field test to see whether they’ll be returning to a certain stall or speeding off to have their stomach pumped. Finally, when I say it’s engrained in the psyche, I mean Thais and all us wannabees, particularly Bangkokians, almost eat the stuff subconsciously. To ask about pad krapow after it’s been devoured, is like waiting til the end of CSR episode to examine the forensic evidence. I swear people just eat this spicy pile of minced meat and shallow fried egg on auto-pilot, later unable to articulate where/how/why they got it. So much so, that each and everyday this dish is sacrificed to our short term food memory, forcing even the most experienced foodies to throw caution at making a list of places to enjoy it.
So there’s the disclaimer folks, it’s especially for all the pessimists — like me — who turn on the bullshit-ometer when you see similar reasons for making arbitrary lists of restaurants in Bangkok.
Now on to the greatest list of restaurants in Bangkok you’ll never need:
Just remember I was forced for this tv show and you can leave your vile ridicule and vicious recommendations in the comments below.
11. Your Kitchen (Bangkok Neighborhood: Yours)
Ideal for: Aspiring Chefs and Pyromaniacs
Dish: Up to You กระเพราแล้วแต่มึง
Add more chilies! Throw in black pepper pods! Choose the meat or meat substitute of your choice and have fun. No doubt that this dish is best when cooked by someone else, but there’s also an empowering moment when you’ve sat down with your own bad ass version!
10. Thai Sabai (Bangkok Neighborhood: Ratchada)
Ideal for: Vegetarians, Vegans, and Other People with Eating Disorders.
Dish: Stir fried organic Thai basil leaves with mushrooms over unpolished rice กระเพราเห็ดรวมไข่ดาว
Vegetarians and vegans rejoice! There’s grapow for you and in the Thai Sabai version it’s made with a hearty plate of mushrooms. But don’t make the mistake of thinking they toned down the heat on this, just because it’s healthier!
9. Theeo Hur (Bangkok Neighborhood: Ari)
Ideal for: The Local Krapow Enthusiast
Dish: Stir fried Thai basil leaves with stewed pork ข้าวกะเพราเนื้อตุ๋น
This version of grapow has it made with stewed pork or beef (ข้าวกะเพราเนื้อตุ๋น). When the meat is really tender it’s amazing and all star comfort food in my book. However, my go to place serving it closed down recently, so here’s an alternative recommendation to try it at Theeo Hur (เตี๋ยวเหอะ!), near Ari in Pahoyotin Rd., Soi 9.
8. Soul Food Mahanakorn (Bangkok Neighborhood: Thonglor)
Ideal for: Krapow Show Offs and Bourgeois Basil Eaters
Dish: Basil leaves stir fried with minced Austrialian Lamb ผัดกระเพราแกะ
Well known, but not over hyped! This is the version of the grapow that, “has moved on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky” — as The Jeffersons would say— replacing the common minced pork in the Thai basil stiry fry with Australian lamb (ผัดกระเพราแกะ). You can impress your friends who think they’re fancy by ordering them the only dish that can’t be excluded from in a restaurant serving Thai soul food.
7. Pasta House (Bangkok Neighborhood: Silom)
Ideal for: Krapow Newbies
Dish: Spicy Basil Chicken Pizza พิซซ่าหน้ากระเพราไก่
You ain’t done grapow, til you’ve done it on a pizza. This place does a great version, stir frying first and finally baking the stir fried ingredients on top of a thin crust pizza in cheese. This is also a less spicy version of the dish and, although popular with locals, is also a great dish for krapow newbies. While it’s a little trouble to find Pasta House, the 120 THB ($4) price of the pizza will make you feel so accomplished!
Pasta House is located above the flower shop in Silom Soi 19, wedged between Medee Thai Restaurant and Sax Society.
6. Jay Dang Issan Streatery (Bangkok Neighborhood: Phetchaburi/Ratchathewi)
Ideal for: Late Night Beer Bites
Dish: Stir Fried Basil Leaves with Deep Fried Frog กบผัดกระเพา
A version of your favorite Thai dish is also made with deep fried frog (กบผัดกระเพา). Don’t dry heave just yet, it’s more spicy, delicious, and addictive than you may think. The tiny frog bits may also get stuck in your teeth and need to be washed down with lots of cold beer.
5. Raan Jay Oh (Kow Tum Ped)
Ideal for: Thrill Seekers
Dish: Stir Fried Holy Basil Leaves with Century Egg ไข่เยี่ยวม้าผัดกระเพรา
It only makes sense that in addition to all the other great dishes they do, pulling off a great pad kra pow version made with century egg (ไข่เยี่ยวม้า) is a no brainer at Jay Oh. The gnarly looking and gelatinous, salty black eggs is stir fried and it’s ugly appearance lie hidden in a re-burial of deep fried basil leaves.
4. Zong Ped Paloe ซ้งเป็ดพะโล้ (Bangkok Neighborhood: Lad Pla Kao)
Ideal for: Regular Bird Watchers and Duck Dynasty Viewers
Dish: Thai Holy Basil with Deep Fried Duck กระเพราเป็ด
One of my favorite krapow incarnations has to be using duck meat in the dish. The chunkiest and juiciest parts of the duck, like the thighs, are usually chopped up and deep fried before stir frying. The result is a steaming, spicy dish with crispy duck that has been flash marinated in the chili and garlic infused oil. Beautiful and delicious!
3. Jay Fai (Bangkok Neighborhood: Ratchadamnoen)
Ideal for: Seafood Lovers with Canine Teeth
Dish: Thai holy basil stir fry with Jumbo Prawn
Famous for being the most expensive street food restaurant in Bangkok, Jay Fai’s clout is partly backed by the matriarch’s insistence on cooking herself, using jumbo seafood, and doing it all old fashioned by cooking over charcoal. Although the larger the shrimp, the tougher the meat, it doesn’t stop you from enjoying her stir fried kra pow with jumbo prawns. Depending on what type of seafood you get, your dish can range in price from 380 – 500THB and there ain’t a lot people complainin’.
2. Naj (Bangkok Neighborhood: Silom)
Ideal for: Hungry Nerds and Thai Historians
Dish: Tradition Spicy Thai Basil Stir Fry with Minced Pork and a Shallow Fried Egg กระเพราหมูสับไข่ดาว
Naj Exquisite Thai Food is a place which revels in the history of their dishes. Krapow isn’t a dish I’d think to have in such a fancy setting, but having a chance to cook it with the chefs there gave me a greater appreciation for this dish’s history. Chef Can talks about how this dish was well loved because it’s based on the country’s most abundant ingredients, using holy basil to mask the smell of the meat in the pre-refrigeration age. The chef also has the habit of infusing his oil with the basil by frying the leaves, then cooking the meat and other ingredients in the resulting oil. The crispy leaves are later dumped on top of the dish as garnish, adding an extra layer of texture to this soothing dish.
1. Your Neighborhood Thai Restaurant
Ideal for: Everyone
Dish: Made with tuna, grass noodles, or whatever ingredients you want to try. กระเพราตามใจมึง
Thai basil or pad krapow is an extremely versatile dish, whether you’d prefer it cute and cuddly or spicy and deadly is up to you and your local Thai restaurant. If you live in Thailand, you’re especially lucky because you can have it almost anywhere.
Just follow your heart to your local made to order restaurant (tham sang) and you can be enjoying this in any number of combinations of ingredients! And if you’re one of those on the go, grapow loving Bangkokians, in ever need of a convenient meal, or a fiery pick-me-up to survive the day — do us all a favor and share your favorite place to have it below.