In the latest episode of Bangkok Fatty, I visit Jok Samyan and shoot a longer, 20 minute “vlog” style video. This style is purposefully slow and highlights typical Thai life in Bangkok on a regular morning (except for the cool breeze). You’ll notice plenty of food, traffic, and monks collecting alms in the video.
Note: if you want to skip the bus ride you can fast forward to Udomsuk Market (around the 3 minute mark) or the donut stand near the market (at the 6:45 mark).
The early morning journey was in search of a street food stall called Jok Samyan. The Thai “jok” (pronounced “joke”) is derived from Chinese congee, the gruel like porridge. Many of the best jok vendors in Bangkok are descendants of Chinese merchants who traveled here hundreds of years ago. Today they provide Thailand’s most recognizable breakfast dish to the hungry masses.
To say it’s only Chinese or only Thai would be incorrect!
Like other forms around the world such as oatmeal, grits, polenta, — the Thai-Chinese porridge is both filling and affordable. Most importantly, the simple flavors are a contrast to the spice heavy, palate pounding dishes Thais are accustomed to eating the rest of the day. Without having a typically Thai breakfast dish, Chinese congee has been elevated to fill the void, but not without taking on some Thai characteristics. For example, in the video I mentioned Thais like to put a “ton of crap” in their morning jok. Some of those ingredients include spring onions, gingers, liver, minced pork, eggs (most often poached eggs or century eggs), and crispy, mini patongo (aka Chinese donuts) chips. On the table you can find the common Thai condiments of white pepper, chili flakes and soy sauce. The Thai-nization of the dish allows locals to still have plenty of flavor with their meal.
This particular vendor is known for their delicious, oversized pork balls. They flavor the pork balls in their signature recipe, add spices, and cook them in the congee before serving. They are baby teeth tender, while adding gravity to the dish. In the video I ordered ‘pee-sed’, which is code for an extra serving of pork. In addition to the pork balls, I had their ‘sai-kai’ style jok which necessitates the addition of a poached egg. The runny yolk is what gives the bowl color, because it otherwise doesn’t look very palatable. The orders with extra ingredients are served in a blue bowl (usually in the 50 baht price range or $2), while the regular pink bowls cost closer to 30 baht.
Did We Weep for Sam Yan’s Street Food Stalls?
This vendor from the original location in Siam (near Chulalongkorn University) was forced out of his stall by the developments there, including plenty of condos, restaurants, and a rebuilt Sam Yan market. The places in the area have had to move, with more still moving this year and the entire area (including Suan Luang) changes over to condos, student housing, and community malls. The street food there has been around for a long time. The original Jok Sam Yan was 70 years old. So why are people offended or up in arms when places like Sukhumvit 38 get shut down? Because it’s next to a skytrain station? Because it’s where the partiers and tourists go? Well, that’s stupid. Luckily this family’s restaurant has survived in the new location, although they lamented to me that sales here can’t compare to their original location. The exception may be on the weekends when many of their old customers return for a nostalgic and scrumptious meal.
Finally, the Chinese culinary footprint is the strongest of all the influences on the flavors of Thailand. You can see it in the markets and in the plates on offer at restaurants and street food stalls nearby. I hope you can get a sense of my appreciation for the culture and one day have a chance to try it yourself!
PS – Don’t forget to grab some fresh Chinese donuts (or fritters as they aren’t actually sweet like western donuts) on the way!
Jok Samyan (โจ๊กสามย่าน) Location and Hours
Address: Sukhumvit 103, Lane 9
Directions: Take BTS or Bus to soi Udomsuk (Sukhumvit 103) and go past the market until you reach soi 9. This is probably a 15-20 walk from the main Sukhumvit road whether the skytrain station is located. Once to soi 9, walk 200 meters to the restaurant on the left (as seen in the video).
Phone Number: 081 350 6671
Eating Thai Food Review: Thai Congee Rice Porridge at Joke Samyan (โจ๊กสามย่าน)