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The next time you visit Bangkok, make time for pleasures of the culinary kind by Rachel Lopez

travel Updated: May 07, 2012 17:13 IST

The best thing about Bangkok isn't that their people are always smiling; it's that their people are always eating. They're at it everywhere, huddled over a bowl of duck noodles in Jatujak Market, chewing on beef satay on street corners, or sitting down to stir-fried squid and rice almost as soon as you've paid up and left a restaurant. This is a city whose chemists stock salmon-skin wafers, whose general stores offer steamed pork buns and whose street carts will serve you a proper meal - soup, mains, dessert, fruit, drinks and all - without ever scrimping on quality or quantity. There's more to Bangkok dining than basil-flecked green curry in touristy Patpong. Here are some recommendations for your next trip. 

Go Japanese

If you can't afford Japan (honestly, even the Japanese can't sometimes), Bangkok is the next best place to sample the cuisine. Thais love Japanese food and there's enough of a Japanese population to ensure a flowering of restaurants that cater to expat tastes. You could start with a pre-set Bento box at the ubiquitous Fuji, which has branches in most of the larger malls and which has a moderately priced menu. Or head to the Isetan section of Central World to choose from a dozen-odd restaurants like Kabuki, a 150-year-old Japanese brand that specialises in traditional dining.

Simpler fare is available at Isetan's Don Don Tei, which serves rice-based set meals. Most mall restaurants have plastic food displays and menu descriptions in English. Yes, they'll happily offer cutlery if you're clumsy with chopsticks. But if there's one thing the Thais like as much as Japanese food, it's buffets. Make the best of both in MBK mall at Shabushi - an all-you-can-eat deal on sushi, tempura, beverages and hotpot cuisine. Help yourself to an array of raw meat, seafood, veggies, tofu and egg off the conveyor belt. Drop it into your bubbling pot of broth. Cook. Devour. Repeat. There's a 75-minute dining limit. But you'll be stuffed long before the time's up.

Rethink Indian
You could head to Indian restaurants in crowded Nana and come out with your world unchanged. Or you could go to Ploenchit, two Skytrain stops away to taste the future. Kolkata-raised Gaggan Anand's restaurant Gaggan does to Indian food what his mentor Ferran Adrià pioneered at his three-Michelin-star restaurant El Bulli in Spain. There are things like raita, papad, dhokla and kulfi on the menu. But the raita looks like a white egg yolk and bursts inside your mouth, the papad's made from pureed and dehumidified carrot, the dhokla is an airy snow and the kulfi creamy without any cream. Cutting edge contraptions and techniques go into the making of a Gaggan dish - but the ingredients are super fresh, additive-free and healthy. The food is quite simply delicious.

Discover Thai
Once you've had your fill of noodle broths, street-corner satays, food-court curries and hotel buffets, seek out Silom's Taling Pling to eat as the locals really do. The home-style Thai menu means you dine on fried-fish salad with the sour taling pling vegetable picked from the restaurant garden, chicken wrapped in pandan leaves, soft shell crab, puffball mushroom curry and of course, a creamy, coconutty green curry. Should you fancy something fancy, the harder-to-find Ruen Mallika serves royal Thai cuisine - delicious platters of fried flowers (roses, frangipani, jasmine and all), ostrich meat, omelette-wrapped noodles, gigantic crayfish and homemade coconut ice cream - in a 180 year old teak house.

Bring it home

Supermarket sweeps for adventurous foodies
Bangkok's supermarkets have an exceptional selection of snacks, spices, sauces and pastes. They're great places to stock up on black fungus (a delicate mushroom for thin soups), Vietnamese pho kits (noodles, soup mix, chilli sauce, bean sprouts, dehydrated meat and chives), green curry sets (of rice, curry, coconut milk), octopus chips (they taste like prawn), pork munchies, seaweed strips (for soups and salads) and vacuum-fried fruit and veggies.

Travel Smart

If you lose your passport...

Here are steps you can take to avoid running about like a headless chicken:

Ensure that you've made copies of your passport and have stored them in different places beforehand.Scan your passport's relevant pages and upload to your email. In fact, you should also have a document uploaded that lists your passport number, credit card numbers and helpline numbers. Always carry a few spare passport photos.Note down the address of the Indian embassy in the countries you are travelling to, the phone number and the days and hours of operation.If you lose your passport, the first step is to make a police complaint and get an attested copy of the same.Head to the embassy where arrangements will be made for a new passport or an emergency travel document. You will need this to depart the country you are travelling in.