Twilight in Bangkok makes stage for a host of people awakened by tradition and their need to satisfy a neighborhood’s cravings. Alarm-less and losing no sleep over what westerners consider authentic, two sisters awaken to their fathers trade. The siblings hustle in the early morning light re-soaking cleaned duck intestines in large containers. They use the giant tupperware to transport duck chitterlings to the front of the shop. There they keep them iced down in preparation for the day’s fastidious customers, who expect both their familiar slipperiness and their satisfying crunch. Their care for the blanched and squiggly translucent guts are the moniker for this duck shop which is known as ‘sai gaew’ (sai meaning innards and gaew meaning glass-like or crystal) duck noodles.
The sisterly duo will receive a phone in from dad before he makes an appearance on Sukhumvit 101/1 where the restaurant he sired has been located for nearly thirty years. To the average eye there is nothing special about this street or the market nearby. But overlooking the immediate clash of 7-11’s and rundown buildings you can spot one of the largest buildings in the area, the Watchiratam temple. The temple complex brings an usual amount of traffic to this typical Bangkok neighborhood, especially on the weekends.
Just before lunch we can find the recently retired, former owner of the restaurant arriving well dressed, but relaxed. Like all the good dads I know, he makes only half hearted attempts not to meddle in his children’s affairs. There’s no need because the sisters have excelled at following in his footsteps, adding to the hustle he instilled with their English skills and social media savviness. They invite me to like their Facebook page and I ask why the blood chunks are so good. I didn’t meant to be so abrupt, but the question had been burning in my mind the entire meal. The blood cakes, which pop when you bite into them and squish with five-spice flavor, are in a league above most of the what you’re served in street food stalls.
They are made from fresh duck blood, that’s why. It’s delicious, but more expensive. That’s why so many vendors, even at other duck restaurants, will use blood cakes made from chicken blood.
I know not everyone will understand me making a big deal about the bits of duck most people would do anything to avoid. How could they when the only time it’s mentioned is to add some shock value to a tourist’s street food excursion? “Don’t try this at home,” the face wrenching Bourdain wannabes will tell you. But to say this place is innovative with their five spiced noodles, well loved by the surrounding community, and that no, this aspect of Thai food isn’t that strange… Well, that would take some real guts.
You can find Sai Gaew Duck Noodles (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเป็ดไส้แก้ว) on Sukhumvit 101/1 Road near Mahasin Market, on the main road between sois 28 and 30. You can also follow them on their Facebook Page.