“Kwan-riam” floating market – a brand new floating market experience – part 2 and the famous “Kopi” coffee/breakfast shop review

*Just a note: this post was first drafted at the start of the week, so “today” doesn’t literally mean today.

Once upon a time, there was a very famous coffee shop with a funny name of “Kopi” that my grand uncle and aunty just had to go to every weekend. Even during the boiling points of the Thai anti-government protests, they had to go to this restaurant.

The story is that on the past weekend we – our family which includes “Ah-tia” granduncle, his children or mum’s cousins, my aunties, uncle, and the little children (my baby cousins) – decided to make a group visit to this “Kwan-riam floating market” so highly recommended by my mum and I (Previous post here: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/kwan-riam-floating-market-a-brand-new-floating-market-experience-when-contemporary-meets-modern-day-thai-part-1/)

That weekend, grandaunt or “Ah-lao Goh” happened to have flown over to Chiangmai for a trip (Chiangmai is only an one hour plan ride from Bangkok, and so some Thais just fly over to the beautiful north to chill on the weekend *stay in tune for my review on a Chiangmai resort!*) so we were not fortunate enough to have her jovial company for the day.

But before going to the market, “Ah-tia” of course would love to pay the coffee shop/restaurant “Kopi” another visit. So we all: 10 odd people decided to go to the restaurant for our breakfast.

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This was the entrance to the restaurant. Its full name is “Kopi Hia Thai Ki” which is a Chinese ‘Taechew’ dialect. The coffee shop has been operating in Bangkok for over 60 years and it just happens to be located next to my favourite spot in the city: the monument of democracy. In other words, where the biggest party of Anti-government demonstration takes place.

(I paid a sight seeing visit to the protesting grounds in this post: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/taking-a-stroll-down-the-thai-protestors-headquarters-free-thai-style-salad-and-the-infamous-grilled-chicken-restaurant/)

In fact, we heard loud bangs while driving on the motorway towards the “Rajdamnern” district where the coffee shop is located. Later that evening, we would learn of the violent outbreaks which took place around the area.

But anyway, not even citywide demonstrations can stop people from eating, consumers from buying, and shop owners from selling, especially in a country like Thailand.

So here we were at the “Kopi” restaurant/coffee shop:Image

(A view from the opposite side)Image

The restaurant mostly sold breakfast food, some Thai dishes, and definitely coffee.

Note: what’s interesting is the self-service at this shop. Unlike most Thai restaurants where you normally get about three waiters/waitresses surrounding your table while you uncomfortably eat (it’s just me who’s still not used to it), this shop elects for its customers to come up to collect their orders. (Don’t know why, but it’s a nice change so no one complains *get some exercise*)

As you can see in the image, they also sell Chinese style buns or “salabao” in Taechew dialect. These buns are everywhere in Thailand! Many restaurants include them in their menu, ready made in see-through steamers.Image

The restaurant displayed their appetizing menus on to the walls. Their entire interior was kept in good condition despite the old age, and decorated with antiques – remnants of the old Thai culture.

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As you can see in another view of the restaurant here, antiques include: Grandfather clock, they also had black-and-white pictures of the old Siam stuck on the wall elsewhere

(just a random note: their bathroom was also pretty clean. The door was made of wood, and they used an old-fashion lock system which was a plank of wood through some sort of a wedge, to go with the old-fashion Thai-Chinese atmosphere *have you seen Chinese movies set in the old times? It looked like on of those locks into big courtyard doors*)

Of course, we had to order coffee at “Kopi”

Afterall, Grandaunty had highly commended “Kopi”‘s coffee as “super good”. This was later emphasized by my mum who had a normal hot “Kopi” coffee with milk.

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This was one of my many aunties’ order (not aunty by blood, but my mum’s cousin’s partner): “Coffe-te” which is Thai coffee mixed with a bit of cane sugar juice, milk and condensed milk. The coffee looked most aesthetically impressive so it was the only drink order I took a photo of (also because the aunty was sitting at my table haha – convenience.)

Other than that, we have a photo of my “Kopi” coffee order too!

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I would normally order an iced latte at coffee shops (least strong) but because I happened to have a cold and a slightly funny throat: cold drink or milk was out of the question (Dairy products can increase production of phlegm in your throat), but since Grandaunty so highly recommended “Kopi” coffee, I had to order one!

One order of which was “Cha-fae” – “Cha” means tea and “fae” comes from the way Thai people pronounce coffee i.e. “Ga-Fae”. Believing the drink, which was a blend of ceylon tea and coffee, would not be as strong as pure espresso, I took large sips of the warm drink to soothe my throat.

I was so wrong! The “Cha-fae” was incredibly strong. The inclusion of ceylon tea had made the drink even more bitter with a herby aftertaste. I imagine the drink would taste much better with the condensed milk that is normally served with it.

I can now say that “Kopi” definitely uses real coffee, and for those coffee-weaklings such as I myself, “Kopi” also has a wide range of yummy looking drinks such as their iced lattes, infamous “Choffee” which is a mixture of chocolate and coffee, and a whole variety of other Thai iced drinks like Thai iced tea, “iced milk” (red syrup with milk – kids’ favourite), etc. or iced green tea with milk.

And now onto the food orders! Before I go on, however, I would like to note that the restaurant’s food portions were very small. Even smaller than the average ‘Thai portions’ (about half). And Thai portions are about 2/3 of the standard ‘Western servings’ (where coming back and dining here has been a great change from stuffing my face back in New Zealand, for fear of wasting food)

The reason why the restaurant halve their serving sizes could be because they are more of a “cafe” setting. However, they don’t only sell the breakfast type foods they are famous for i.e. Thai noodles dishes. Nevertheless, this also means the prices of each dish are reduced.

This was their infamous “pan eggs” or “Kai grata” served with a small toasted baguette filled with Chinese sausage – 75 baht.

It was dubbed by the restaurant as ‘the “pan eggs” you must try at least once in your life’ (oops! I didn’t)

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To be honest, it did not look that impressive at all. The dish was two eggs, some Chinese sausage, minced pork and a few peas, all cooked in a small pan.

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But what about the taste?

Words from my aunty (this time by blood – my mum’s sister) guaranteed my prediction: the “pan eggs” were not “all that”. The flavours were of seasoned eggs, minced pork stir-fried in soy sauce, and a little bit of sweetness from the Chinese sausage. Basically, the dish was something one can make at home.

Here is another one of the dishes on their recommended menu:

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Pork rib stew with fried egg – 69 Baht. Because it was so cheap, be ready to expect two pieces of pork on bone only! The stew soup also looked very thin, as if it hadn’t undergone the proper period of slow-cooking at all.

Because of the small portions and low price of each dish, most of the members of our bandwagon of family ordered two dishes – which is a good thing because we were able to try more dishes from the cafe’s menu! For example, for 144 baht, one can try both the ‘Western’ style “pan eggs” and the “pork rib stew” (144 baht is a typical price for a meal at a Thai restaurant – not like at Japanese or International restaurants I have been going to).

On to my order:

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Salmon steak with buttered toast and salad – 110 baht. It was more expensive because of the fish. But don’t be fooled by the photograph! The piece of fish given was very minute: I was able to gulp it down with four bites (also because I was hungry that morning). But then again, it is salmon, and you can’t get so cheap and make a profit.

The salmon steak was averagely cooked, but the seasoning of salt, pepper and lime was just right.

What I dislike about the dish however, were the use of mayonnaise as the salad dressing (of which the veggies given were way too little), and the mayonnaise served alongside the fish which tasted simply like sugar, vegetable oil and a bit of eggs. It gave the bad impression that they used low-quality raw materials in their cooking (but then that’s how you survive with low-priced menu)

I also hated the fact that they put sugar in their buttered toasts. Who eats sugary toasts with steak? I guess Thai people, since everyone seemed to praise this signature toast of theirs.

Another one of their famous dish was “Roti” which is pan-fried dough.

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Their “roti” is distinctively puffy. Very light and crispy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside.

As a closing remark, “Kopi Hia Thai Ki” is a coffee shop for family with an authentic Thai experience. From what my aunty said, it is more the atmosphere, the uniqueness of the restaurant e.g. self-service, the getting together of family that makes dining there so special, and the food somewhat delicious. “Kopi” is located at Phan Fa bridge, Phra Sumeru road, Bavornnivej, Bangkok.

Without much further ado, let’s move onto the segment of the post dedicated to the first part of its title… “Kwan-riam” floating market.

(I highly recommend you to first read part 1 of the review of this market: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/kwan-riam-floating-market-a-brand-new-floating-market-experience-when-contemporary-meets-modern-day-thai-part-1/ )

Upon entering the market, my mum quickly pointed out this particular ‘snacks’ cart to me. She asked me if I had remembered this sort of cart store in which my reply was “No”.

I honestly have no memory of this sort of ‘snacks’ cart, but I am familiar with the Thai dessert, “Roti saimai” (Roti meaning the pastry, and saimai means candyfloss).

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They are thin pancakes flavoured with pandan leaves’ juice (long green leaves that smells very aromatic and have a distinct herbally/sweet flavour – used often in Thai/South East Asian desserts), wrapped around Thai candyfloss or “saimai“. Unlike the pink, fluffy candyfloss many people are familiar with, Thai candyfloss contains a mixture of palm sugar, and therefore has a distinct lightly ‘burnt’ taste, and is more chewy, crunchy rather than simply cloud-like soft.

And about the little cart: you somewhat play a ‘game of luck’. What you do is put some money, about 20 baht into the wooden mechanism attached to the cart, and you get to try your luck with how many candyfloss pancakes you get.

I seriously have no memory of this whatsoever. Sounds cool though.

Then we passed by the horsies again. Today, they gave the ponies a new hairdo. One can choose to buy carrot sticks to feed the ponies, or if you are small enough, you can go around for a ride around the market (just kidding, only kids are allowed)

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As I have mentioned in my previous post about this floating market, there are more things to do here other than eat and buy some clothes.

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(I must say that I suit the black square box look)

After having wrapped breakfast up at 11 am that morning, we all agreed that we would better opt for some desserts or small snacks at the market rather than a full midday meal. That was everyone’s opinion, apart from one of my two ‘uncles’ (mum’s cousins or Ah-tia’s sons) who kept insisting (with good intentions) that we should be having lunch too, in order to ‘eat in the correct healthful manner’. In the end, we managed to make him curb his appetite for delicious Thai foods that, at the market bombard you from all directions.

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We immediately went straight for the ‘coconut ice-cream‘ appropriately served in coconut shells. Coconut ice-cream stalls can be found throughout Thailand or Bangkok, but you don’t often see them sold in coconut shells.

(Can you imagine poor ice-cream stall men lugging bags full of heavy coconut shells around by the road? I can see Thai Santa Claus in my mind)

The shop also offers a topping of salted duck eggs (as I said in my previous post, Thais or Asians have an obsession with salted duck eggs). Other delicious toppings include: pumpkin in syrup, kidney beans in syrup, all sorts of Thai dried fruits i.e. durian chips, corn, sprinkles, chocolate sauce, etc. (I love Asian dessert toppings which are mostly fruits, vegetables or beans, meaning they do not add too much sweetness to already decadent desserts. Unlike something like chocolate, m&m’s, etc.)

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My mum’s option of topping (you get to choose three) were stewed pumpkin, rice puffs, and “Look-chid” or ‘palm seeds’. The white jellies are what you find on the inside of palm seeds. Without syrup, they are quite tasteless, but slightly crunchy. They are one of my favourite dessert topping, as they do not absorb much sugar in the syrup through cooking, and are mostly water and a bit of carbohydrate.

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They also had a table and little stools (which was not pictured!) with cartoon drawings on them. It is floating market custom to sit and dine next to the boat restaurant on tiny little stools provided (I used to live at mum’s house in the countryside which was by the river, so I have some memories of ‘boat shops’)

The wooden furniture which my cousin was sitting on was supposed to be the shop’s table by the way (which everyone else in my family soon followed my young cousin’s lead and all sat crowded around on their table… sigh)

I forgot to mention that before we all sat down for some ice-cream, my mum also went off to buy herself some deep-fried vegetarian dumplings:

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This was also the same stall that she had bought the steamed chives dumplings mentioned in the previous post. The dumplings had an array of vegetarian fillings including ‘five different types of mushroom’, ‘Thai spring onions’ or basically ‘chives’, and ‘mixed vegetables’.

This looks to be the ‘mixed veggies’ filling.

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It contains Chinese cabbage, shiitake and carrots. Even meat-eaters, like my aunty, loved these dumplings.

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These were the other kinds of dumplings they sold which my mum absolutely adored (the steamed chives ones). In the countryside home that belongs to my mum’s family, they were also famous for ‘steamed chives dumplings’ or “Gui-chai” in Thai. I remember the “Gui-chai” were known for the huge size, and lots of chives fillings. Those dumplings came in two kinds: pink coloured *notice the huge pink ones on the end in the picture above?* or plain. When I was a kid, I would always choose the pink kind because it looked cooler! (duh) But also because they usually stamp the pink dumplings with a Chinese character that makes the dumplings all textured and more fun to eat. The steamed chive dumplings we had in the countryside had a chewier ‘pastry’, while these ones were distinctively soft and slippery. Personally, I didn’t find slippery and jelly-like chive dumplings that appealing (my mum absolutely adored it)

Chive dumplings can be made in two ways: unhealthy and even more unhealthily. One includes boiling the rice flour mixture in water to make the pastry, while the other includes making the pastry (so it rolls into a ball of dough) by adding vegetable oil. Some people eat refined carbohydrate as their staple i.e. rice noodles, white bread, but not me. Therefore, I didn’t name the low-fat steamed chive dumplings as healthy.

Both of them would turn out oily anyway, because you need some oil to prevent the dumplings from sticking together like glue.

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They also sold deep-fried chive dumplings cubes (the unhealthiest!)

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A reminiscent image of the boat ride which I had briefly talked about in my previous post. It was bascially a 35 minute boat ride along the “Saen saeb” river (go and return trip). There wasn’t a lot to see apart from a few locals’ houses alongside the river where they had their traditional fishing nets out, a few birds to have a look at, etc. The boat ride was mainly a chance to enjoy the breeze and the simple pleasure in gliding along a river.

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I had asked my younger cousins to go sit in front of the duck closure, to give an idea of the size of the ducks. This picture doesn’t really do the fowls much justice… They were about three times the size of normal ducks – giant beaks, giant webbed feet, wings, etc. And like I mentioned in my previous post, you can never get bored watching these things because they were constantly in some sort of an action i.e. that duck looking as if to ambush the other one.

Near the exit of the market, we also passed by this man making a Thai dessert called “Tuo tad” or transliterated as “nuts cut” (I never realize the name would translate out as this! HA!)

But anyway, I have never known exactly how they make the “nuts cut” or  “peanut toffee” into their shape and form, so this was an eye-opener for me.

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Who would’ve known lots of rolling, and muscle work is required to turn a syrupy mixture of roasted peanuts and sesame seeds into these crunchy pieces of sweets?

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In conclusion, “Kwan-riam” floating market has been a place where I was able to learn a lot about traditional Thai cuisine, how different dishes were really made, within the comfort of shades, clean walkways, and cooling fans (which emit sprays of water out – used a lot in large public areas with lots of walking space i.e. amusement parks).

“Kwan-riam” is a family place where you can eat delicious, cheap food in a relaxed atmosphere, without having to travel so far out from the heart of Bangkok city (I only had to travel 20 minutes by car on the motorway to the market from my mum’s house in Srinakarin)

The location is by the “Saen Saeb” river between Soi Serithai 60 and Soi Ramkhamhaeng 187.

– Izzy

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