I couldn’t be upset when they came around to close earlier than the advertised 4AM. But hell, let’s be honest, I’m always stunned to find tasty food in Bangkok after 10pm. The late night restaurant choices in Bangkok are pretty dismal normally. Maybe that’s why I get so excited about Thai khao tom restaurants, where you can have a medley of spicy, salty foods and your choice of flavorless, but ice cold Thai beer. But lately with the country in mourning, things have been extra sleepy around the city. With the live music ban lasting a little while longer and all nightlife ending at midnight, I believe the few dependable late night restaurants like Krua Pradiphat, took a hit right to their main demographic of inebriated Thai club exiles.
I found two or three tables occupied and staff sleeping at another when I popped in at 2AM, after beelining from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. My friends looked exhausted from the flight over and there was an audible groan when the topic of airplane food rolled around. So I hit the switches for the ambulance lights and dumped them off the freeway, nearly right into the one of the weathered, but sturdy picnic benches outside the restaurant. The light breeze and the aforementioned staff sleeping inside the air conditioned part of the restaurant made the outdoor seating the best choice.
But don’t let the apathetic waiters or the sleepy staff turn you off, the chefs here are wide awake! And when you wind up at Krua Pradipat, it’s not like you’re settling for just any restaurant still open at this hour. You’re in a restaurant renown by locals for tasty food. However, there’s usually varying degrees of enthusiasm when friends find out that it’s actually their chicken foot soup which makes Krua Pradipat so notorious with locals.
I posted a steamy bowl on instagram and a Thai friends in the US commented, “Best ever” and “My favorite place for Tom Super Teen Gai!” The fresh off the boat Americans I brought along looked at me with eyebrows seeming to say ‘aw heeeell naw‘ —- but the chef in the group was curious enough to get things moving. This version of the soup where the spices have steeped into the feet and wings, is what I thought of when I had the equally spicy Chonburi rendition in the last update. In the end, vven the reluctant ones in our group had to admit the foot broth is something special. Sumptuously sour, and deceivingly spicy the oily sheen on the surface of the broth reflects the fluorescents above the table in every spoonful.
One day I imagine this dish, known colloquially as ‘kha gai super‘ (ต้มซุปเปอร์) or super chicken foot soup, will be the badge of honor foreigners wear on their shirts to show how adapted their palates are to Thai tastes. Trust me that jet lag won’t be an issue as the chili infused broth infects your system, and as unappetizing as it my sound, you’ll be surprised to find an abundance of flavor as you suck the thin layer of fatty flesh off the chicken feet. In generations past, chicken feet were popular wherever people ate chicken. The once coveted cartilage texture and the tandem bone spitting skills required have been mostly discarded from our diets in a rush to get frozen processed chicken into every kitchen.
Not so in Thailand where the super thing about this fowl foot soup is not only that it’s an undeniably incredible welcome to Thailand, it’s also partly a throwback tribute to our agrarian ancestors. Or atleast that’s the excuse you can borrow from me to explain your new late night foot fetish.
Note: Krua Pradiphat is so popular they have more than one branch on Pradiphat Road. The one open late is the one in Pradipat soi 16. A bowl of chicken foot soup is 100 baht and average cost is 150-300 baht per person.