I joked on instagram about the wanting to be a street food hawker at local restaurant Chua Kim Heng this past Halloween. Each day the rush of customers tensely glance over at the men wielding oversized Chinese cleavers. The cleavers are a fitting match for the serious looks the men don as the restaurant crowds, and would be equally appropriate in a Thai slasher movie. If you watch closely though, you may notice just the weight of the knives alone are enough to expertly dice up a gaggle of the tender braised geese in a short amount of time.
A few weeks later I’m thinking an entire braised goose might be the perfect bird for Thanksgiving too. There’s more meat on the bones than chickens, but they’re not quite as dense as turkeys. They also have noticeably more fat, even more than the popular chubby ducks found a many of Bangkok’s street food stalls. That fat content is important for retaining flavor and giving a satisfying overall texture, especially when the core of the breast meat of birds this size is by nature dry-ish. You can also be thankful Thai food has an arsenal of sauces at hand at any given time too. Whatever is on the table is usually pungent, salty, and spicy enough to salvage an over baked bird, even when it’s that one eccentric auntie, who doesn’t normally cook, having a turn at hosting Thanksgiving.
But keep the pumpkin spice to yourself because there is no festive atmosphere to be found at this massive street food stall. This is a Thai Chinese restaurant, the kind where the old pictures on the wall and spooky figurines remind you the service is likely ornery, but the reward for enduring it great. Chua Kim Heng is just as true to this stereotype as they are to the recipe handed down now for four generations. The goose carcasses are placed on hooks and dropped into an extra salty five spice broth (aka paloe พะโล้ to the Thai food experts reading). The steeped birds are then pulled out on their hooks and hung in the clear display case at the front the restaurant, still dripping as they await their turn to be diced, garnished, and finally dipped in a sharply acidic chili vinegar sauce. Don’t miss any steps here because this formula of salt + fat + garlic + vinegar is a delicate balance, but the combination here is worth celebrating.
Now Chua Kim Heng isn’t an unknown street food stall. On the contrary it has had to grow over the years to accommodate the surge in popularity. One of the quirks of the place is that the second building, which in the evening host guests hunting fish porridge, is separated from the building hawking geese by a driveway that leads to the parking lot. This means that while you’re enjoying an open aired lunch, you’re also watching locals pull up drive through style to drop off their elderly, who are too frail to walk 20 meters from the parking lot, but who’ll gladly stick an elbow in your rib to get to the nearest open table. Still the restaurant has dodged attention from tourists and international media probably because of the location on Pattanakarn Road, and it’s prices which would exceed what most would consider street food prices, jumping into 300-500 baht range per person if you’re really hungry.
Note: There’s more on the menu deserving attention too, including their roasted goose feet and egg noodles. This is a magical dish for the brave, but if you barely survived my recent articles on chicken feet, you probably won’t be as enchanted by these goose feet with considerably more squiggly flesh to enjoy.
There you go folks, a proper holiday meal in Thailand. Search out Chua Kim Heng first, and decide which occasion you’re celebrating later.
Chua Kim Heng 蔡欽興 is located just beyond the end of Phra Kanong (at the Khlong Tan Intersection) on Phattanakarn Road. Located in stall 81 and 83 on Phattanakarn Road they often report they’re open all day, but don’t go long after lunch if you want goose (089-128-8822). The fish porridge is available in the building next door from noon until 8pm (02-319-2511).