The newly expanded Eathai dining concept at Central Embassy brings together the best of Thailand’s cuisine, discovers Samantha Francis
At Eathai, walls are decked with vibrant murals by local artists and quirky, while neon signs grace specific corners, in reference to the different zones within.
If Paris is for lovers, then Bangkok is certainly the city for passionate foodies.
On the first night of my arrival, a gentle rain showered the sidewalk but did little to dampen everyone’s spirit.
From my spacious Deluxe King Room on the 39th floor of Centara Grand, I took in the dazzling nightscape from the heart of the shopping and business district. From way up high, colourful taxis resembled toy cars and I spied plenty of shoppers thronging the busy streets.
When I took a stroll downstairs, I was delighted to discover an endless stretch of stalls set up by youthful entrepreneurs just outside CentralWorld, along with a collective of street food stalls under a tentage.
Little had I realised, this buzzing hive of activity only hinted at what was to come. The next morning, we plunged straight into the shopping and dining haven that is Central Embassy.
Eathai, Eat Thai
For frequent visitors to Bangkok, Central Embassy is easily a mecca of luxury retail, but hard-core foodies know better.
At its basement, a sprawling food court awaits, waiting to lure hungry travellers. First established two years ago as an upscale dining arena, Eathai has since expanded to become a 3,550 sq m dining hall with new zones and food stalls.
The food paradise assembles signature cuisine from all four regions of Thailand, namely Central, Southern, Northern and Issan (North-Eastern), offering a truly one-stop-shop dining experience for locals and travellers alike.
Stepping into Eathai, one gets the sense of contemporary meeting tradition in the best way possible. A refurbished tuk tuk (motor taxi) is strategically placed at the entrance, all the better for photo opportunities; walls are decked with vibrant murals by local artists and quirky, neon signs grace specific corners, in reference to the different zones within.
Rotating Food Vendors
If variety is what you seek, be sure to check out the new Moom Aroi. The special zone is a space dedicated to rotating vendors that hail from famous floating markets and food stalls, which changes every 15 days.
Among the famed stalls is Khun Kai Northern Food, which serves a moreish Kai Paam (Northern Thai-styled Grilled Omelette, $3.70). Each piece of omelette is served in a banana leaf shaped into a parcel.
For something a little more substantial, tuck into the stall’s Kao Kan Jin (Northern Thai Steamed Rice with Minced pork and Pork Blood, $3.70). If pork blood sounds a little too exotic, rest assured that its mild, distinctively savoury flavour is well-absorbed by the rice, pairing well with the morsels of minced pork.
Street Food Haven
From the Street Food zone comes a variety of familiar eats, such as the Hoy Tord (Crispy Oyster Omelette, $5.60) from the Hoy Tord Chao Lay stall. It is less greasy compared to the orh luak (oyster omelette) that Singaporeans are so familiar with, but no less crispy — the wisps of frittered flour and egg at the edges are to-die-for.
Our unanimous favourite? The Guay Tiew Kang Tomyum (Signature Mantis Shrimp Noodles in Spicy Tom Yum Soup, $9.70) from the Guay Tiew Kang Ban Pae stall. Silky smooth rice noodles are soaked in a fiery red tom yum broth and topped with meaty mantis shrimps for a dish that is equal parts indulgent and delicious.
At Eathai, you’ll barely see a Pad Thai in sight, especially with the mind-boggling options available. If you’re at a loss for what to order, we recommend checking out interesting eats like the Roti Kaeng Neua (Roti with Beef Curry, $7.40) from Makan Halal.
Hailing from Southern Thailand, the dish features a ‘curry’ that is more stew-like than anything else, along with crispy roti (fried flour-based pancake), similar to the Indian roti prata. The robust flavour of the beef was a bonus.
Customise your own coconut ice cream at the Wan Yen (chilled dessert) stall.
A meal at the food paradise isn’t complete without a round of desserts. Make a beeline for the Wan Yen (chilled dessert) zone, where you can customise your own Tim Ma Praow Aorn (Young Coconut with Thai Toppings, $2.70) or visit the Baan Kanom Thai (dessert house) stall for some Kanom Bueang (Thai Crispy Crepe, $2.30). The latter is made from rice flour and resembles tacos, although its coconut cream filling makes it unmistakably Thai.
For a more intimate meal as opposed to the communal food court, head to Eathai Cafe, an all-day-dining cafe, which serves premium Thai cuisine alongside specially crafted cocktails. Make it your post-dinner destination and you won’t be disappointed!
Shop your hearts out at the Eathai Supermarket.
Feast & Shop
Apart from pigging out on Thai cuisine, the expanded Eathai is also a lifestyle destination, complete with new sections within the Eathai supermarket. Highlights include Thai herbs and spices, curry pastes, fresh produce and prepared food products from villages and communities as well as from the royal projects initiated by His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej to support the agricultural sector.
Plus, visitors will also discover a specialty rice shop featuring 19 types of Thai organic rice from four regions, as well as products such as Tiger balm ointments, fabric and textile products from Jim Thompson, and vintage style enamelware.
One must-buy is the Rice Berry, a crossbred unmilled rice possessing dark violet grain, which contains a high level of antioxidants. I had the pleasure of sampling this soft and aromatic rice during a cooking class at Issaya Cooking Studio, also situated within Eathai. The hands-on session saw me preparing two dishes, one of which is Truffle Fried Rice made with rice berry.
With a plethora of dining and shopping options for tourists and locals alike, Eathai ranks highly among our list of must-visits when it comes to traveling in Bangkok.
Lest you think gritty street food is the only way to go, Eathai proves that you can dine in a comfy ambience without sacrificing the authenticity of local cuisine.
Be sure to order this bacon topped waffle at The Girl and The Pig.
Pro Tips For Foodies
1. Try something from every Thai region to best experience the different flavour profiles.
2. Cool down with a refreshing glass of frothy and freshly prepared Thai Milk Tea.
3. Join one of the cooking classes at Issaya Cooking Studio, so that you can bring home the knowledge of recreating your favourite Thai dishes.
4. Shop for Thai-exclusive products at the Eathai supermarket. Think: Limited edition Tao Kae Noi seaweed snack flavours, unusual instant noodles and more.
5. Done feasting at Eathai? Explore the other cafes at Central Embassy, like The Girl and The Pig, Rocket @ Siwilai and Issaya La Patisserie.
Eathai @ Central Embassy, 1031 Phloen Chit Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand.
Weekender would like to thank Central Embassy for making this trip possible. Photos were shot on the Casio EX-ZR3600.