The Best Freshwater Prawns of My Life in Ayutthaya (Day 7)

By Mark Wiens 20 Comments
Train to Ayutthaya
Train from Rangsit (suburb of Bangkok) to Ayutthaya

Day 6 – Bangkok to Ayutthaya

After a long Day 6 in Bangkok, we woke up and left even earlier (4:30 am) on Day 7.

The van picked us up at home in Bangkok, and we drove out to Rangsit (รังสิต a suburb on the edge of Bangkok). The van dropped us off at the Rangsit railroad station at the crack of dawn, and we got tickets on the train to go to Ayutthaya (อยุธยา).

(Note – We could have driven in just an hour to Ayutthaya, but for the TV show, they wanted some footage taking the train – and it’s a pretty nice way to get to Ayutthaya).

Ayutthaya railroad station
Ayutthaya railroad station

From Rangsit, the local train ride to Ayutthaya took just 40 minutes, so we arrived just as the sun was fully rising, and it was still nice and cool.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram Temple (วัดไชยวัฒนาราม)
Wat Chaiwatthanaram Temple (วัดไชยวัฒนาราม)

Wat Chaiwatthanaram Temple (วัดไชยวัฒนาราม)

Arriving at the Ayutthaya train station, I hopped in a tuk tuk, and we drove to Wat Chaiwatthanaram Temple (วัดไชยวัฒนาราม), filming all along the way.

I have been to quite a few temples in Ayutthaya, but it was my first time to go to this temple. It was just 7 am, so the cool morning air made it quite an enjoyable experience.

After filming a few scenes walking around the temple, it was time to start eating!

Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา)
Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา) restaurant

Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา)

We hopped into the van, and drove to Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา) restaurant, famous for serving roasted freshwater prawns.

Freshwater prawns
An amazing eating atmosphere!

The restaurant was amazing.

There was a section of seating in the main house, and then another section of the restaurant floating in the water on rafts. We chose to eat and film on the raft section.

The peacefulness of the calm river and the entire atmosphere was beautiful.

ผัดสายบัวน้ำมันหอย
Pad sai bua nam man hoy (ผัดสายบัวน้ำมันหอย) – stir fried lotus flower stems

Pad sai bua nam man hoy (ผัดสายบัวน้ำมันหอย)

Before filming, we were all quite hungry, so we decided to have brunch.

The first dish Ying and I ordered was pad sai bua nam man hoy (ผัดสายบัวน้ำมันหอย), lotus flower stems stir fried with garlic and oyster sauce.

I’m a huge fan of lotus flower stems, both stir fried and in curry.

What to eat in Ayutthaya
Freshwater prawns in Ayutthaya

But the most famous thing to eat at Ruay Goong Pao (ร้านรวยกุ้งเผา), and also the most famous thing to eat in Ayutthaya, is freshwater prawns (กุ้งแม่น้ำ).

Bangkok Thais sometimes drive to Ayutthaya just for their fix of the freshwater beauties.

I had eaten plenty of freshwater prawns before, but never as good as the ones I had this day.

prawns
Look at that juice!

The prawns were first sliced in half, then roasted over charcoal, only on the shell side.

I think it took about 10 minutes until they were finished cooking, and I could see the juices and oils melting from the heat.

Goong Pao (กุ้งเผา)
Insanely delicious freshwater prawns in Ayutthaya

Goong Pao (กุ้งเผา)

Before filming, Ying and I ordered a plate of their biggest roasted prawns, goong pao (กุ้งเผา). There were 3 prawns on the plate, equalling 1 kg. and they cost 1,500 THB – a bit of a splurge, but well worth it.

The meat of the freshwater prawns was so incredibly luscious and sweet, and along with that head oil, it was unbelievably delicious. I thought they were even better than the lobster in Hua Hin.

Prawns
Look at that butter!

Just check out all that buttery head oil… WOW, it was unbelievably good. So good I could hardly contain myself, I almost fell out of my chair.

Kam goong pad cha (ก้ามกุ้งผัดฉ่า)
Kam goong pad cha (ก้ามกุ้งผัดฉ่า) – prawn claws stir fried

Kam goong pad cha (ก้ามกุ้งผัดฉ่า)

I also ordered the kam goong pad cha (ก้ามปูผัดฉ่า), which was the meat from the freshwater prawn claws, stir fried up with green pepper corns, garlic, chilies, and finggerroot.

It was marvelous.

Ayutthaya prawns
Jumbo freshwater prawns in Ayutthaya

After our insanely delicious feasting of freshwater prawns, we then did a bunch of filming, both the preparation of the freshwater prawns, and myself eating again!

ตลาดบ้านแพน
Ban Phaen Market (ตลาดบ้านแพน)

Ban Phaen Market (ตลาดบ้านแพน)

After the most insanely delicious prawns I had ever eaten in my life, we then drove into the small town of Ban Phaen (บ้านแพน), about 20 – 30 km. from central Ayutthaya town.

60 or so years ago, Ban Phaen (บ้านแพน) was home to a flourishing market, where traders came from all over to conduct business. Nowadays, it’s a little on the sleepy side, but home to some classic, and old-school restaurants.

(จุ้งบริการ
Owner and chef at Joong Borigan (จุ้งบริการ) restaurant

Joong Borikan (จุ้งบริการ)

Our first stop at Ban Phaen Market (ตลาดบ้านแพน) was Joong Borikan (จุ้งบริการ), an absolute classic of a restaurant, with some serious character to it – it was the exact type of restaurant I love and search for.

Joong Borigan (จุ้งบริการ)
The restaurant had some amazing character

The house was old and made of wood, with some nice clutter and just everything was old and antique, kind of the like Wattana Panich in Bangkok, but even more old-school.

The owner of the restaurant had been cooking for around 40 – 50 years, serving up traditional Ayutthaya recipes.

Tom yum goong
Cooking tom yum goong

We came to film a scene in the TV show for tom yum sai bua goong mae nam (ต้มยำสายบัวกุ้งแม่น้ำ), a traditional version of Thai tom yum soup… and little did I know it was going to be the BEST dish of tom yum goong I’d ever eaten in all of Thailand. Period.

He was an absolute wizard in the kitchen, tossing in the ingredients like second nature.

Tom yum sai bua goong mae nam (ต้มยำสายบัวกุ้งแม่น้ำ)
Tom yum sai bua goong mae nam (ต้มยำสายบัวกุ้งแม่น้ำ)

Tom yum sai bua goong mae nam (ต้มยำสายบัวกุ้งแม่น้ำ)

He started by heating some soup stock in a wok, and then proceed to add in the combo of tom yum herbs like chilies, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves.

Then he took a couple of jumbo freshwater prawns, chopped them into pieces and added them. The next ingredient, which you won’t normally find in tom yum, was sai bua, or lotus flower stems.

ต้มยำสายบัวกุ้งแม่น้ำ
My mouth is watering just thinking about it…

He loaded the lime juice, cilantro, salt, and extra dry chili flakes into the dry pan, and then scooped the hot soup into the pan (so he didn’t cook the lime juice at all).

All the creaminess was from the head oil of the freshwater prawns, he didn’t add any evaporated milk, like is typical in lots Thai food throughout Thailand these days.

Next time I make tom yum goong, I’m going to try his recipe.

Thai food in Ayuthaya
Insane delicious

This tom yum goong, actually blew my mind.

It was unbelievably good, by FAR the best tom yum goong (ต้มยำกุ้ง) I have ever had in Thailand, ever.

The shrimp were cooked perfectly, not overdone, and not rubbery, and the broth was rich and oily, sour, and spicy.

Tom yum goong
The lotus stems soaked up all the broth

Ayutthaya is famous for lotus stems, and it was an outstanding addition to the tom yum goong (ต้มยำกุ้ง). The stems were like sponges, acting to soak up all the amazing broth.

Joong Borikan (จุ้งบริการ)
With the owner and chef of Joong Borikan (จุ้งบริการ)

This man, the chef and owner of Joong Borikan (จุ้งบริการ) is one of my heroes.

The tom yum goong (ต้มยำกุ้ง) was unbelievably good – I can say without doubt, it was the best I’ve ever had.

restaurants in Ayutthaya
More eating in Ayutthaya

Nope, the delicious food was not over for the day yet…

We drove back to central Ayutthaya town, and stopped at a small restaurant to eat a dish known in Thai as miang pla pao (เมี่ยงปลาเผา), roasted fish, served with leafy herbs and vegetables, rice vermicelli noodles, and sauce.

Thai grilled fish
A nice display of freshly grilled fish

When we arrived, there were already some fish ready to go.

They used pla tabtim, a type of tilapia freshwater fish. Fish is a very common food in Thailand, and especially in places like Ayutthaya, which is surrounded by rivers, freshwater fish and prawns were, and still are, a typical part of the local diet.

เมี่ยงปลาเผา
Miang pla pao (เมี่ยงปลาเผา) is served

Miang pla pao (เมี่ยงปลาเผา)

One of my favorite ways to eat fish is grilled Thai style, rubbed in salt, and roasted over charcoal.

For miang pla pao (เมี่ยงปลาเผา), the fish is served with a basket of veggies, herbs, vermicelli noodles, and sauce. You normally take a leaf of cabbage or lettuce, add in some noodles and fish, and drench it in sauce.

I’m a huge fan, I think it’s one of the great ways to eat fish.

Thai food tv show
Final filming for the day

After eating again, and filming a few extra scenes, headed to an evening market for a few more shots, and by around 8 pm, we called it a night and headed to the hotel (we stayed in Ayutthaya for the night).

where to stay in Ayutthaya
Room at Bann Baimai Boutique Room (บ้านใบไม้), Ayutthaya

Bann Baimai Boutique Room (บ้านใบไม้)

In Ayutthaya we stayed at Bann Baimai Boutique Rooms (บ้านใบไม้)*, a very nice and clean hotel in Ayutthaya. It was nice and small and very relaxing place, with a lovely garden. It’s was a great place to stay in Ayutthaya.

That was it for the day, I was quite exhausted, so just took a shower and went straight to sleep.

(NOTE: I was hired by a Thai TV production company to be the host of a Thai food TV show series (10 episodes), about eating Thai food and traveling in Thailand. You can read the full series of updates here).

20 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Michael

    4 years ago

    Hi Mark .
    Have been viewing some of your videos ,great tips on places to go and eat and stay,
    Been to Thailand many times awesome place and food .
    My wife is from Ayuttaya , she is a fantastic cook as well as making all thai deserts .
    We watch your videos on you tube back in Sydney.
    Brilliant work enjoy yourself .
    Cheers Michael

  • John Cole

    6 years ago

    Hi Mark,

    I have just come across your videos … very impressed … as a new viewer I have not seen them all [though I just bought your book for my kindle so I can carry a reference with me on my phone] … I have one question which may or may not be answered in your book or videos, but thought I would put it to you anyway … do you know where you can get a good Tom Yum Pla Korb in Bangkok? I first fell in love with this dish in Ayutthaya many many years ago [I am a long term visitor, turned resident of Thailand] … the very best variation I have had was in Phitsanulok years ago … now it is very hard, if not impossible to find on restaurant menus … when it does appear on a menu I find it sadly lacking when compared to my first experiences … if you can point me in the right direction it would be greatly appreciated,

    Thanks,

    John

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hi John, thank you very much, and so glad that you love Thai food as well. Thank you very much for getting my guide! Ok, in Bangkok, Tom Yum Pla Krob, is usually called Tom Khlong – I believe they are the same thing, just different name. It’s still not all that easy to find Bangkok, so I don’t have it often, but I agree with you, it’s an amazing soup. You might try this place, I remember it being pretty good: http://www.eatingthaifood.com/2014/08/fai-klom-thana-ptt/

  • angelo

    6 years ago

    Mark, The views and food was absolutely beautiful. I was mesmerized by everything….You did a great job of description and detail of your event and how the food tasted. My eyes were fixed to the screen…just amazing. Thanks for sending, and keep going with your journey.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hi Angelo, thank you very much for your words of encouragement. Hope you’re doing great.

  • Brittney

    7 years ago

    I love your blog. It always makes me feel like I’m having the experience while reading. Those prawns really look amazing. I am a fan of eating seafood dishes and should I be given the chance to visit Ayutthaya, I’m going to get myself one those prawns!

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Thank you very much Brittney, I really appreciate it. Hope you can visit Ayutthaya soon.

  • Raegan

    7 years ago

    Hey, Mark: Love your blog. so excited for you and your upcoming television debut. My husband and I will be in Thailand in November and Ruay Goong Pao looks amazing. We will be in Ayutthaya so I was wondering where it was located in Ayutthaya!

    Thanks!

  • Nash

    7 years ago

    Hi Mark,

    God that Tom Yum Goong looks so good and delicious, just wish I knew about this place before I left Thailand, will have to remember this place for my next trip out. It is very rare these days not to use evaporated Milk, and a rare feast to have Tom Yum without it.

    Cheers

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Nash, thank you for reading. Definitely next time you visit Ayutthaya, you’ve got to check this place out, their tom yum goong was unbelievable.

  • Hanna @Hanna travels

    7 years ago

    Oh my, it’s just dangerous to read your blog! I’m already hungry and I feel that I need to travel again soon! Next time, I’ll prepare something to eat before visiting your blog! 😉

  • Maria Benz

    7 years ago

    I can’t keep up with you am going to Soei tomorrow since I can’t stop thinking about the place since I watched your video and now prawns in Ayutthaya which was on my list already but kind of there for one day will now become an obsession to do soon soon!! thanks for the inspiration love, love, love your videos and how you enjoy food!

  • Julian

    7 years ago

    Wow – you found a tom yam goong that’s even better than the one at P’Aor?!? I followed your advice on that one and ate there when I was in Bangkok last year and it was by far the best meal of my trip, so I can only imagine how good this one must be!! This entire post made me ravenous! Am I correct in guessing from the fifth photo that the nets beside the floating restaurant are where they grow the prawns? If so, that’s awesome!

    Love your work Mark – keep it up! Great that you’re trying lots of different video and blog styles these days – I’m enjoying all of them! 🙂 Have you also considered doing more collabs or interviews? Not sure if you’ve met before, but I’d love to see a video of you and my other favourite SE Asian food blogger – Robyn Eckhardt of EatingAsia – having a chat sometime! Can only imagine that you’d be best of friends 🙂

    Cheers,

    Julian

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    7 years ago

    Ayutthaya is actually one of my favorite Thai cities for eating… and yet I’ve never had any of these dishes that you mentioned here! I know it’s a city I’ll return to (I love the night market there!), and when I do, I’ll be sure to treat myself to some of these dishes. I love prawns, and all of these preparations are seriously drool-inducing!

  • Ashley

    7 years ago

    Wow- all three look like unbelievable meals! The prawns look especially tasty! Drooling.