Super Seafood in Bangkok: Laem Cha-Reon

Last month I got sloppy with some chilli crab in Singapore after being told it was the signature dish. I thought it was OK and felt I’d had better crab in Bangkok. So today I set out to confirm that assumption. In the town of Rayong along the seaside is a seafood restaurant with a reputation that reached Bangkok. The owners knew a good opportunity when they saw one and in no time set up three locations here in the capital. The most accessible for me is in Central World, one of the large downtown shopping malls. Not exactly where I would expect to look for fresh seafood, but Laem Cha-Reon (or Laem Cha-Roen depending on how it gets transliterated from the Thai alphabet) is out of this world. Seating outside the restaurant right there in the hall overlooks the plaza through the plate glass giving at least the illusion of sidewalk seating but on the 2nd floor.

Four pages of “Famous” dishes seems like an exaggeration of the marketing department, but on all four occasions that I’ve eaten here with Ms. Peung or our friends, we’ve tried something different off those pages and were never disappointed. Today we did a repeat and ordered fresh crab. No sauces, curries, marinades — just straight up crab and a tiny cup of Thai chili seeds in lemon juice and salt on the side. Singapore’s crab seemed bland even with the sauce but crab at Laem Cha-Reon stands on its own. And rather than needing to wrestle with the shells without a tool and needing to wash my arms up to the shoulders afterward (like in Singapore), I had an easy time of the neatly pre-dissected shells and appendages and a little bowl of limewater to take away the crab smell from my fingers.

Not to be forgotten was the tom yung goong which is some of the best I’ve had (and I don’t say that easily). Thai spicy (not toned down for the farang) with a sufficient presence of Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, not too salty, a hint of culantro, ample mushrooms and good-sized, good-quality shrimp. This version comes with just a spot of milk to cloud it a bit. (Other versions might be “clear” or use coconut milk or evaporated milk. There are actually a guzillion recipes for this hot and sour soup, but I’m pretty partial to this one.) As I said, it was spicy, and I knew I’d be paying for the soup long after we left the restaurant.

We completed the meal with a whole grouper deep-fried and covered with garlic, chilis and sweet fish sauce. Superb. This is not cheap street food and the bill with 4 drinks between the two of us came to 1200 baht, just about $40 USD. So budget travelers may be steering clear or coming only on that special occasion. The mall atmosphere isn’t so special but there is no foot traffic as this part of the hall is a dead end. There are loads of other choices off the menu but these are certainly some of the very best. And the plaza below the windows almost always has something going on, and this weekend was no exception … (watch for the next blog)

Find this place yourself and build your own free printable PDF Bangkok guide/itinerary here.

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5 thoughts on “Super Seafood in Bangkok: Laem Cha-Reon

  • April 24, 2010 at 6:58 am
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    I've been there, and I must say.. best seafood I ever had.

    Reply
  • June 25, 2010 at 7:52 pm
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    Hi there,

    thanks for that superb description. Am on regular basis in BKK and Laem Chareon is by far among the best you can get about traditional thai seafood in BKK. Maybe except one place near Samitivetj Hospital II… until now, no way to get there without my local friends. Try with the spicy grouper the steamed Kanah (well, thai spelling is another thing…), anyhow, its the delicious greens, just steamed with a bit of onions…. takes the fire for us farang.
    thnx again and have save trips
    Chris

    Reply
  • June 25, 2010 at 7:57 pm
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    Thanks for commenting, Chris. I have to point out that Laem Cha-Reon at CentralWorld got torched along with the rest of the building during the Red Shirt protests. Not sure if they are past the disaster zone. Part of the building is actually opening again this week, but they are still in a bad section and by my guesstimation beyond saving. The good news is they have those two other locations in Bangkok. Also, Somboon isn't bad and has 5 locations around town. But it's no Laem Cha-Reon, that's for sure.

    Reply
  • December 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm
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    Ken,

    just returned from another trip from BKK. Unfortunately, my schedule is so tight at the moment that I can hardly write down all my travel experiences…. But am sure, you might be able to doublecheck and refine those few points for others in your unique and wonderful style to write…

    Bangkok:

    – The Chaleang, near Meng Jai/Ratchadapisek (not far away from Laem-Charoen): wonderful newly renovated place with indoor and great outdoor seating; thai live band, very nice mixture of people going there (99,99% locals)… and they go there for the Tom yum gung….. indeed fantastic! And try the “sweet vegetable” …. the Thai call it like that, its bit different from morning glory, but just great. as well the fruit som tum (grapes, apples, small tomatoes etc. …. ) ….fantastic
    AND: a great place to watch sports…. big screen! Have been there first time during soccer worldcup in 2010, will be there during european cup 2012 🙂

    – nice, but well known places meanwhile around Thonglor 10 and 16/J-Street: The Greyhound Cafe serves very nice asian and european food (…. I needed some lasagna and salad after quite a while of thai food…. and it was great!); HOBS and SHE BAR are great places to start of an evening on fridays and saturdays in Bangkok… HOBS serves by far the best selection of belgian beers I have seen…..; the club FUNKY VILLA is at the moment THE burner for the locals, next to it DEMO with pretty decent electronic/dance music (funny enough that only farang have to pay 400THB – but its good for any drink at the bar :-))) …. and ok… in return the Thai have to ID upon entrance, farang not 😉

    Krabi

    – Wong Sai seafood: at Aonang beach – very decent food, service is not the best; probably spoiled…. but I dont mind; nice place to sit for lunch or dinner; they run as well their own long-tail-boat-thing… but overpriced; best Plah Ning-Manao I had ever!

    – Ruen-Tip, Krabi town: wow……. just go there and enjoy…. such a nice place and wonderful food…. careful… southern-thai-spicy; AND: something exceptional in Thailand…. absolute good and clean restrooms…. helps with southern-thai-spicy ….just in case…

    – Last Fisherman Bar: end of the walking street at Aonang Beach….. wonderful spot, terrible service, high prices… but worth any penny when you sit there for bringing the day down with a sundowner….

    Take care… and thanx again
    Chris

    Reply
    • December 22, 2011 at 5:10 am
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      Hi Chris, Thanks for the recommendations. Ruen Tip in Krabi Town is awesome. A local Rotary friend has taken me there a couple times. I got a tour of the kitchen once and they proudly showed off the giant beetles in a plastic tub in the refrigerator. One of the traditional southern dishes includes these bugs mashed into a spicy paste. I was very careful when I ordered my meal.

      HOBS and She Bar are good. Add to that the Beer Vault and Beerology out at CDC. For Delirium Tremens head to Iron Fairies and have a burger with it.

      I will go try your recommendation for tom yum goong!

      Reply

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