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Wednesday 31 August 2016

Bangkok: dining can be fun without breaking the budget

Many visitors to Thailand like the idea of street food, but cannot convince themselves that the food will not either be too hot or have the potential to give them an upset stomach. 

Tucked away on a soi (laneway), just off Sukhumvit Road, near the Asoke intersection, they'll find a rough and ready café that sits midway between street food and restaurant and will leave you with plenty of change from $20 for two. 

Suda is something of a Bangkok icon, popular both with local workers, who appreciate the snappy service, and visitors keen to try "authentic" dishes on a budget.

Come at a quiet time and you might get some space, arrive when it is busy and you'll be slotted in on one of the long, communal tables. The service is brusque as well as brisk; you point, your server nods. A few minutes later your food arrives in whatever order the kitchen cooks it.

And while the service and ambience might be limited, the food is quite spicy (ask for phet maak or phet phet) and delicious. Spicy enough for locals and with enough heat to challenge most farangs.

And while TripAdvisor is not always a good guide to culinary excellence, this casual spot is rated in the top 250 of over 10,000 eateries in the Thai capital. 

We tried beautifully moist marinated chicken wrapped in pandan leaves, spicy fish cakes (tod mun pla) with a fiery dipping sauce, and a very tasty Pad Thai with prawns. All this was paired with a couple of Singha beers and two bottles of mineral water. The financial damage was negligible with main courses costing around 80-100 baht ($3-$3.50). 

For some Suda is a local institution, but the rather snotty BK magazine dismissed it as a "tourist trap", which seems a little absurd considering the number of locals eating here. It might not be "authentic" for locals, but it certainly pleases a lot of people.

It's fun, it's cheap. Try it for yourself. And if the food doesn't have enough kick for you, just ask for extra fish sauce and fresh chilli. 

Suda, 6-6/1 Sukhumvit Soi14, Khlong Toei, 10110, Bangkok + 66 2 229 4664  

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