Khlong San has received a bit of hype in Bangkok of late, owing to the opening of the opulent new megamall, Iconsiam.
Perhaps more importantly, and certainly worthy of more fanfare, it’s where we’ve just moved to. Cue fireworks.
Most people will head to Icon and leave it at that, but they’ll be missing out because the area has some great places to eat, drink and generally be merry – more on that to come at some point.
One of the places for some of the above is Mala Crnk, near to the Lighthouse shopping centre and easy to get to from the BTS at Saphan Taksin or Krung Thonburi. If you’re at Iconsiam it’s about a 5 minute walk away.
I am inherently distrusting of words which don’t have any vowels, so the Crnk bit worries me. I also have no idea how to pronounce it. Answers on a postcard please.
Anyway, the important bit is that the food is excellent. To call this place a restaurant is a little strong – it’s a sprawl of outdoor chairs and tables scattered outside what appears to be an office building, with a few heavy duty industrial grills in the corner. It’s only open in the evening from 6-10 and closed Sundays.
I am reliably informed that the food is called ‘shaokao’, Chinese for barbecue.
First, you go inside a small room, grab a big plastic bowl, and in a move that will please food hygiene buffs the world over, stuff it full of raw things on sticks from the fridge.
There is a big range of skewered goodies to pick from like a lazy hunter gatherer, mostly 10 or 20 baht per stick. We chose streaky pork, corn, Vietnamese sausage, chicken jock (not sure), bacon sausage (hell yes), mushroom and peppers (sadly). There is plenty to choose from covering meat, seafood and veggies so you should be covered from all angles.
Take your haul outside to pay and choose your sauce, with help from the friendly staff who likely speak better English than you or I. There are 6 levels of spice to choose from, from ‘none’ at level 0, which feels like cheating, to level 5, literally called ‘hell’.
Pro tip: choose level 1. Nobody likes a hero.
Pro tip 2: pick up multiple bowls so you can have a mix of spicing.
You’ll be given a ticket which you stick to your table and your food will be sent off for cooking.
Grab a table outside and a drink and settle in. This place is extremely popular with locals, especially with takeaway customers, so it’ll be a while before your selection is grilled but the atmosphere is lovely and relaxed and the cooking smell is incredible. You can also buy a couple of snacks like baked chilli and some sort of pork scratching.
Eventually your plate will arrive and you may break into spontaneous applause at the sight.
The food is delightful – smoky and charred in all the right places from its brief flirtation with hot coals, but still juicy and flavoursome. Except the pepper obviously, but that wasn’t my choice.
Be warned, the sauces are powerful! We chose the ‘mild’, level 1 baby spiced version and it was just about bearable, with plenty of sweating, deep breaths and the occasional muffled sob. As well as chilli and plenty of aromatic spices, there’s a big hit of szechuan pepper which leaves your mouth buzzing for a fair while after.
After you’ve demolished your main with all the grace of a pig snuffling for truffles, head up to the counter and cleanse your tortured palate with an ice cream for 20 baht. You will need one to escape the spice, as Frankie’s haunted eyes show.
All in all, for a barbecue feast, drinks and an ice cream costs around 150 THB per head (£3.70), which is good value for a Christmas eve feast.
They’re now closed until the beginning of January, but we’ll be hot footing it back there as soon as they fire up the grills.
Mala Crnk (หม่าล่าเจริญนคร)
Getting there: boat from Saphan Taksin pier to Taksin Pier (aka Pepsi Pier, 5 baht) and walk. Or walk/taxi from BTS Krung Thonburi. Map link below!
225 Thanon Krung Thon Buri, Khwaeng Khlong Ton Sai, Khet Khlong San, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10600, Thailand
+66 85 616 9944
Hours: Mon – Sat 6-10pm (closed until early Jan)
Price: 10-20 baht per stick, about 150 baht per head for a full feed plus drink and obligatory ice cream.
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