You might know Jek Pui Curry — a famed curry cart that can be found daily from late afternoon until they sell out in Old Town — by its other, less formal names: the ‘red stool restaurant’ and ‘musical chairs curry stand.’
If you don’t know it, the 50-year-old (some argue that it’s actually closer to 70) khao kaeng, or rice curry vendor, is worth a trip.
Called so because it has about 20 red plastic stools set out beside the cart, these rickety little perches act as condiment holders, seats and — when it’s not too busy — tables, though as more curry lovers show up, it’s good etiquette to move your dish to your lap to make room for them.
The discomfort of eating here is more than amortized by the curries on offer. Besides, this isn’t the kind of street stall where you hang out for hours with a couple of big Leos anyway. This is a grub-and-go kinda place, but the food is beloved, with locals and tourists coming from all over the city to have it, pulling up a stool and joining the crowd or waiting on line to bring several bags home for a family dinner.
Avoid a rookie mistake by knowing the rules: the always-long queue is for take-away food. If you want the stool experience, just sit down on one and someone will come and ask you what you want. If no stools are available, just wait — people tend to vacate within ten minutes and those waiting can be hawk-like in their stool-watching and lightning fast in their butt-to-stool maneuvers. Look alive if you’re hungry.
We stopped in on a recent Thursday night at about 7pm and they were already sold out of half the menu items, including their most famous dish: Yellow Curry with Pork. What was left was Pork Penang, and Green Curry with Chicken or Fishballs over rice or kanom jeen noodles.
When they open up cart in the afternoon, they also offer Red Curry with Beef, Stir Fried Crab, Roasted Pork Rib, Sweet Pork, and Chicken with Fried Bamboo Shoots. Dishes can also be topped with Chinese sausage slices, which many fans recommend.
The cost for one main with rice or noodles? THB40 (US$1.25). But it’s not the low price that brings the crowds here.
We chose the green curry with fishballs over noodles for our first Jek Pui experience. Fishballs, when done well, can have a pleasant ‘bite’ to them, and carry the full meaty flavor of fish. More often, they are done poorly, too chewy or too hard, and flavorless.
Before ordering, we saw the fishballs on the cart and thought they looked like good ones — we were right. The slightly flattened disks had more fish paste than others and went light on the cornstarch, which meant that they had just the right amount of chew. Plus, the increased surface area provided by their flattened shape meant they could be coated in more curry.
The curry was thin but tasty, with large chunks of boiled potatoes but none of the eggplant or whole chili usually included. It seemed to have no coconut milk at all — it was more of a sauce than a soup. Due to its non-creamy makeup, it felt kind of healthy to eat — ya know, if it weren’t being consumed with a plate of white noodles and fried fishballs.
We also tried a friend’s pork penang with rice and found it rich and highly flavored, though seeming to go a bit lighter on the peanuts than what we’ve had in other parts of the city.
As we got up to leave, they were already starting to clean pots since they’d run out of all but one dish.
Jek Pui Curry Cart
Corner of Mangkorn and Charoenkrung Roads
Open daily from 3-9pm, with many dishes sold out early
MRT Hua Lampong