Some people dream of eating at certain Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurants. On the other hand – and I know I’m not alone here – I dream of eating at street food stalls. And this street stall in particular, selling khao mok gai Thai-style chicken biryani (40 baht for a regular portion, or 50 baht for a large plate) directly opposite Silom’s Wat Kaek Hindu temple, I have waited seven years to eat at.
I started my attempts to try it out back in 2011, before I even moved to Bangkok and while I was travelling here and staying on Sam Sen Road in the old town. But De Khao Mok Gai is a stall that starts up as early as 6am, and sells out daily by around 9am. Simply put, on the few occasions I’ve tried over the years, I haven’t made it out of bed in time. I did once get here earlier than usual – one of the first times I tried, I think – but I wasn’t clear on the location and spent a while wandering up and down Silom Soi 20 before giving up. Now, in September 2018, I have finally accomplished my mission.
Let’s just say it was worth the wait. I have always raved about Areesa Rote Dee, in an unlikely location just a block or so from backpacker enclave Khaosan Road, as my favourite khao mok gai. But this stall, De Khao Mok Gai, might just beat it – and those are words I never thought I would find myself typing.
The foundations of southern Thailand’s khao mok gai are a mound of turmeric-yellow rice hiding a hunk of chicken, all of it marinated with spices like cloves, star anise, and cinnamon. The rice is prepared in a similar way to the more ubiquitous khao man gai chicken rice, in that it should be glistening from just the right amount of delicious oil that separates each grain from the next.
But the two women at De Khao Mok Gai serve a Halal dish that has the most moist rice of its kind that I have tasted – even the stuff at stalwart Areesa Rote Dee has a tendency to be just a little on the dry side at times – and with grains of rice so perfectly defined from one another in a way that I have never seen elsewhere.
The buried piece of chicken is admittedly on the smaller side compared to some places, but it is fabulously tender, and there are even small bonus pieces of extra chicken to find amid the rice, presumably having fallen off other drumsticks during the cooking process. The whole thing is rich and flavourful without being overwhelming and, rather than the usual minty green sauce to drizzle over the top, here there is a spicy sweet-chilli-type sauce that holds just enough tartness to do the job beautifully. The dish is served with a small bowl of passable chicken stock soup.
Sure enough, when I arrived at 8.10am, the enormous vat of biryani had only about a fifth of its contents remaining. By the time I had finished eating it had almost gone, although it was given a top-up of marinated and pre-cooked chicken pieces, burnt bits of chicken and rice being lovingly removed from the still-over-the-heat pan at the same time. (The matriarchal vendor wouldn’t let me take a photo of the pot until she had finished plucking out the burnt bits, clearly proud of her creation and wanting it to look its best.)
Neighbouring Silom Soi 20 itself is also worth a wander through if you haven’t already done so. It’s a frenzied hive of street food at this time of the morning, a mix of take-away stalls fuelling hungry office workers, a few sit-down stalls serving noodles and other dishes, and local grannies pulling trollies between fruit, vegetable and seafood stalls and the bigger covered fresh market set just back from one side of the street. Towards the Surawong Road end, the vibe changes slightly with a higher concentration of stalls selling everything from underwear and shirts to the kind of colourful striped shopping bags that have made their way from Thai wholesale markets to international fashion show catwalks.
De Khao Mok Gai serves a memorable Thai-style chicken biryani that’s every bit worth the trek across town – you just need to get here early enough to snatch a plate before it’s all gone.
Tuesday to Sunday, 6.00-9.00am
Silom Road (just to the left of the top of Soi 20 as you face it, and directly opposite Wat Kaek)