Preserving Bangkok’s Street Food SceneWritten by Jane Littlefair
The talented duo behind Bangkok’s famous restaurant Bo.Lan are bringing back forgotten local recipes with a dash of contemporary ingenuity at Err, their latest sustainable outpost.
Anyone who has travelled to Thailand will understand just how important the street food scene is to the country’s national identity. However, that buzzing part of Bangkok life has been under threat in recent years in the face of government threats to remove food vendors from the streets, culminating in the announcement in 2017 of a full ban. This has been bad news for those wanting to try traditional Thai street-fare in all its glory. But all hope is not lost. Riding to the rescue have come a new generation of Bangkok chefs, foodies as keen on preserving the country’s heritage as they are on delivering outstanding restaurants for a new generation. Key to this movement are Duangporn ‘Bo’ Songvisava and her husband, Dylan ‘Lan’ Jones, the proprietors of Bo.lan, one of the most critically acclaimed Thai eateries in the city – and number 19 on Asia’s list of the top 50 restaurants. Determined to preserve the traditions and culture so entwined with Thailand’s street food scene, they set about a new concept in 2015, one that would reimagine Thailand’s most popular local dishes and keep that history alive, only this time in a relaxed, restaurant setting.
Located down a quiet alleyway behind the tourist district of Wat Pho, a prominent tourist hotspot featuring ornate temples, bustling markets and traditional massage parlours lies Err, which means simply ‘okay’ or ‘yeah’ in Thai. Once an egg shop, the small spot has now been converted into a trendy restaurant with graffiti on the walls and vintage Thai travel memorabilia dotted about that nostalgically captures a time gone by. Head Chef Pantong Pratumpak (better known as Aoi) explains, “picking our neighborhood was important. We wanted a location that has a story and old community attached to it, so as to match the concept of our restaurant. Even though it’s not in the city centre, we believe that as long as we create authentic dishes with bold flavours, the people will keep on coming.” Within 4 months of opening in 2015, Aoi was proved right. Today, locals, expats and tourists all flock to Err for a magic blend of fine-dining quality and casual street food that has wowed critics from far and wide.
For Bo and Dylan, the key to their restaurant’s success lies in the understanding of the importance of traditions. All their chefs undergo training to truly understand the foundations of Thai cooking, such as the method of steaming rice in traditional clay pots to make the softest of rice. “We operate solely by the conviction that if we don’t preserve our local food then it will eventually disappear in this fast-paced world that we live in.”
Alongside their focus on preserving local food culture, Bo and Dylan also take a sustainable approach. Their humble cooking style stems from the team’s close relationship with local farmers. “We get our rice from small scale farmers at Sisaket Province in northeastern part of Thailand. They grow their rice organically, without the use of chemicals or pesticides,” says Pantong. They also grow their vegetables in their own garden and have installed their own waste management systems, marking the couple’s determination to carve out a greener image for the food industry.
And, what about the food? Well, with Bangkok’s best-known culinary couple at the helm, you know it’s going to be good. Not for nothing was the restaurant awarded the prestigious Bib Gourmand Award (Michelin Guide) for 2018. Their dishes incorporate in-house preserved meats and pickled vegetables, such as their signature fermented sausage which is soft to bite and packed full of flavour. Other famous dishes include their Pad Hoi Prik Poa (mussels in a thick chilli and basil jam) and their Geng Krau Sii Krong Moo (Southern yellow curry), which packs a bold punch. Over at the bar, Err’s cocktail list features their house special, a tantalising concoction of Chalong Bay Rum and passion fruit, alongside their delectable Flower Market Number One, a showstopper made out of sugarcane spirit, guava fruit, and mint. Each one of these recipes is true to Errr’s spirit. Committed to preserving Thai heritage and overturning a long held conviction that street food is by nature cheap and unhealthy, Bo and Dylan are reinventing what it means to eat truly local in Thailand, changing perceptions as they go. It helps that they are doing it in the most delicious of ways.
394/35 Maharaj Road, Tatien, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phranakorn, Bangkok 10200
02 622 2291 – 2