Patongo Ruam Chok (Chai 4)
Open: Saturday, Sunday & Holidays from 7AM until approx. 8 or 8:30AM (or until they sell out)
If you are an early riser or have lived in Thailand for a bit, you are most likely familiar with ‘Patongo’, Chinese-style, deep-fried dough shaped like chromosomes, dunked in gooey condensed milk. This is a breakfast favorite for many Thais…and foreigners as well!
It tastes best when accompanied with warm soy milk or ‘cha nom yen’ (Thai tea). You can also dip this in ‘Sankaya’, a pandan-flavored pudding with Carnation milk. A greasy, not-so-nutritious treat but it definitely is delicious and crave-worthy!
Now, we have test-tasted many different ‘Patongo’ around Bangkok, but it seems that the best-tasting and best-selling award goes to a tiny, mom-and-pop shop right in our hood, Lad Phrao. This place is open only on Saturday and Sundays…It’s a family-run business, with two brothers actively rolling the literal dough and momma counting the figurative dough (taking care of the money).
If you are not an early riser, you will miss out on this but it is worth the sacrifice of sleep. The trick is to arrive at the storefront at around 7:15 AM and get a cue chip (in the form of a poker chip). Then you can usually go do your veggie shopping at the nearby ‘Ruam Chok’ market for about 20 minutes while you wait for your fried goodie bag. People line up quickly and there is a very small window of opportunity to be granted with these delicacies. In fact, they are usually sold out by 8 or 8:30 AM. The early bird catches the worm!
The alternative to doing your grocery shopping would be to watch the action that ensues in the creation of these golden fried puffs. The two brothers seem very serious and focused…It’s very difficult to break their flow but if you manage to do, they might share a smile with you. They have clearly been doing this for a long time, as they have a very efficient system to produce a great deal of Patongo in a short amount of time. Their chef hats and white t-shirts are usually soaked by the time they’re done, as they roll dough, fry, turn the dough over, let it cool/let the oil drip off, bag it, and finally — give it to the customer. They have a very large wok filled with a great deal of hot oil. The dough is cut into the same perfectly-sized logs, the Patongo, which are then tossed into the wok. They also have ‘Salapao’, which are large, dough, oval-shaped saucers. These are sweeter than Patongo, and do not usually need to be dipped in any kind of condiment. Both of them turn out to be not so oily (especially compared to other sellers). They are crispy and brown on the outside and soft and airy on the inside. Perfect with a hot cup of coffee (dunk if you dare!) or ‘khai luuak’ (a cup of soft-boiled egg, topped with Thai pepper and Maggi seasoning sauce).
It is a treat to eat these breakfast delicacies. Just a warning, though, if you do venture out on a weekend morning to taste these Patongo, it will most likely ruin your experience eating it anywhere else. It’s very hard to compare!