With a century of history under their belt, Siang Ki Khao Tom Pla in Bangkok's Chinatown must be doing something right. And that something is clear rice soup with fresh seafood originally from China.
Unlike jok, the Cantonese porridge cooked by stewing rice until it breaks down, khao tom calls for the rice to be left intact and served in the starchy soup it's cooked in. At Siang Ki, the seafood version has chunks of lightly poached pomfret, a few fresh oysters and optional fish maw, the prized dried fish bladder whose presence is more for texture than taste. A little bateng, cubed pork fried in spices, soy sauce and sugar, finishes the bowl. Seabass and little chewy dried shrimps are also popular here.
It's a comforting, healthy kind of dish. Something best eaten when you're feeling under the weather. And though the hole-in-the-wall joint is nothing to write home about, the food is becoming somewhat of an institution among the Sino-Thai community in Bangkok's Chinatown. Everything is cooked at the front of the shop, the soup simmering away over a Thai charcoal brazier.
It opens from 4pm until 10pm or whenever they sell out which they often do. Come when they are opening and you'll have no choice but to eat inside the tiny shophouse (or takeaway). From 5pm onwards a scattering of street tables are set up along the pavement outside. Try to avoid the peak hours around 8pm when waiting for a table along with hungry locals is normal.
The most basic of soup at Siang Ki with simply fried tofu starts at 30 THB (around US $1.10) and depending on your combination of seafood works its way up to 500 THB (around US $15.30). While that might feel expensive for street food, who wants to eat cheap seafood?