Located in a row of shophouses right next to Saladaeng BTS station is the old-school Hainanese chicken rice institution, Samai Suek Pochana. Not sure how long it’s been there, but my first time there was back in 1993 when I was working with Singapore Airlines, which has its Bangkok office at the now-defunct Robinsons Building on Silom Road. Its rendition of khao man gai (Hainanese-style chicken rice) is still one of the best in town, even if it lacked one side-accompaniment which I absolutely adore: chicken blood pudding.
Samai Suek is still going strong today, and is very popular at breakfast time. The proprietress-chef still chops the chicken to order and serves up the dish herself:
Khao man gai is essentially poached chicken, served with rich-tasting rice which has been cooked with chicken fat, chicken stock, ginger and scallions. Accompaniments include slivers of fresh cucumber, chicken livers/heart, and “tao jiaw” (Chinese fermented bean sauce) mixed with chopped garlic, red chilis and ginger.
Khao man gai should never be mixed up with khao mok gai, an almost similar-sounding rice dish, the latter being Thai-style chicken biryani rice, a yellow-hued dish scented with krueng tet Islam (literally translated as “Islamic spices”). Khao mok gai tends to be moister and softer than Indian biryani, despite their purported common origins, and Thai rice is used instead of long-grained basmati.
Samai Suek Pochana is a tiny, traditonal Thai-Chinese-style eatery - try coming here off-peak hours, e.g. after 9am and before noon, to avoid the office crowds (Silom has numerous office buildings) who come here for breakfast and lunch. You perch on traditional Chinese bamboo stools and eat at formica-topped tables, often having to share with strangers at this very spartan eatery. But the food is good, and the prices are very cheap, roughly THB60 (US$1.90) for a chicken rice set with a clear chicken soup on the side.
Samai Suek Pochana
(located in row of shophouses to the right of Silom Complex)
209 Silom Road, Bangkok, Thailand
Operating hours: 8am to 9pm daily