“YOU’RE going to Bangkok? If you’re heading to the area of CentralWorld mall or Pratunam, you should eat at this restaurant that serves specialty chicken. In fact, let me give you a list of the other places you should try,” offered Gene Gonzales.
If there is one reliable source for must-try food you’d believe in, it would be a chef, a popular Pinoy chef at that.
That was perhaps seven years ago, three years into my regular visit to the Big Mango.
But it wasn’t after five years, in 2014, that I was able to step on that hole in a wall restaurant out of sheer hunger while I was in the area of Pratunam. Either I try the food court at the Platinum mall or “the small restaurant on the next block,” as one local recommended.
I opted to cross the street and let the chicken sign do the talking. The signage was in Thai, but the orange fowl told me I was at the right place (so did the whiff of barbecue chicken on the grill that made my stomach growl with hunger).
The place reminded me of the small, non-air-conditioned Chinese restaurants in Escolta. It had four tables (three can squeeze in six, the last one four) to share.
The menu had photos of the dishes and had English translations. It also showed how inexpensive (ok, cheap) the cost was.
Hunger dictated the order – an order of chicken rice and 10-sticks chicken barbecue.
Service was quick. Set before me were a plate of Hainanese chicken rice with a bowl of its spicy sauce, a bowl of complimentary clear soup, barbecue chicken in mini skewers with Thai peanut sauce, a bowl of salad comprised of fresh green chili, onions and cucumber in sweetened vinegar sauce, and shaved ice in a tin cup to cool the service tea.
I dug in like I haven’t eaten in ages. Well, it was lunch at mid-afternoon, the perfect time to dine in the restaurant, as it gets pretty busy during its peak hours.
The Hainanese chicken was tender and the spicy sauce heightened the flavor of the dish. Pairing perfectly with it was the refreshing sweet and mildly spicy fresh salad (don’t be deceived by the slices of the green pepper).
Give me flavorful and tender barbecued chicken any time and I’m a happy man. But bring in the peanut sauce with it then I’m even a happier man, and another serving of rice will always be in order. Am I a big fan of chicken satay, or not?
My feast, which was devoured in minutes, went for B110 (P148.50). How fantastic is that?
That was three years ago and believe it or not, it was only a couple of days ago that I asked Pete, a Thai friend of mine, to translate the chicken place’s signage, and it reads: ข้าวมันไก่ Khao man kai.Hainanese chicken rice, steamed chicken and white rice). ก่วงเฮง (Kuang Heng), ประตูน้ำ (Pratunam).
The chicken place now has a name and it occurred to me that this was the restaurant Chef Gene was telling me about. He was right about Kuang Heng. It’s a good, cheap place to eat in Bangkok.
Kuang Heng is located at the junction of Pratunam and Ratchaprasong Roads, on the opposite block of Platinum Mall (on the left if facing the mall).
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 14, 2016.