Thailand is famous for their many ways of writing the same word. Of course when using the latin alphabet (modern english). Chicken becomes both gai and kai or some other personal choice. Odean restaurant was meant to be Odeon and named after the more famous Odeon circle, a roundabout with the Chinese gate in the middle of it. That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with their crab noodles and crab claws.
But it’s easy to understand why spelling mistakes like this happens. The modern English alphabet (a latin alphabet) is 26 letters. The Thai alphabet is a syllabic alphabet with 44 consonants and 15 vowel symbols that combines into at least 28 vowel forms. And don’t let me forget the four tone diacritics. In other words, the options are plentiful when people start translating Thai letters into latin letters. It’s like a four to one ratio. There is a system for correct translation, but that is obviously not part of the practical world. I have found streets in Bangkok where the street name is spelled differently from one end of the street to the other.
Anyway, Odean isn’t just another noodle vendor. The shop itself isn’t much different from a typical shophouse. But what separates them from the crowd is the prices and the big crab claws. And then we have arrived to the issue. The food. That’s really what Odean is about. And that’s really what I’m here for; the crab claws, the egg noodles and the broth.
Asking for the biggest claws, you’re bill reach 600 bath a bowl. But of course, you can start in the other end, paying 50 or 60 bath for a noodle soup sprinkled with some smaller pieces of crab meat. Also delicious. Crab isn’t cheap anywhere in the world, and Bangkok isn’t an exception.
Crab meat is extremely tasteful and juicy when well prepared. Dry and dull if overcooked. Fishy if not fresh.
When I see vendors specializing in crab, I just can’t pass by. But of course, crabs, like seafood in general, tastes differently depending on where you catch them. My personal favorite is Norwegian crabs from the cold North sea. Served plain, or with very few other ingredients to avoid disturbing the genuine taste of crab meat with an exceptional quality.
My usual choice for crab in Bangkok would normally be the yellow curry version. It goes very well with the slight sweetness you find in saltwater crabs from Surat Thani province. A god spot for the yellow curry version is Krua Apsorn in Dinso road close to the Giant Swing.
But Odean is about big, bigger and biggest crab claws. It’s about crab noodles. The bowl of ba-mee up nam (crab noodle soup) put in front of me has a clear broth as expected. Luckily not to salt as it can be many places. The egg noodles are standard and well prepared. The crab claw is steamed. It strikes me that red in nature often is a color indication poisonous and stay away. Here, the red color on the claw just wakes my appetite. And it is a wonderful bowl taste wise. The claw could have been slightly more juicy, but it’s loaded with taste. It’s quite clear that attention is given to all aspects of the food making.
The menu is two pages and they have an English version. Dim sum and crab meatballs are on the menu, as is prawn wontons. Be aware that the noodle dish with crab claws can be ordered with the broth on the side, in other words dry (heng). I add a tiny amount of chile and fish sauce to get it may way.
The dining room is air-conditioned. A pleasant thing these days.
Food: Crab noodles, dim sum, wontons, fish maw soup.
Price: From standard to expensive (crab claws)
Open: Daily 9 am – 9 pm
Phone: 086 888 2341, 084 703 4042
Address: 724-726 Charoen Krung Rd, close to Wat Traimit and the Odeon with the Chinatown gate
How to get there: Take the MRT (Metro) to Hua Lamphong. Take exit 3 and walk for 4-5 minutes. You can also come by express boat. Go off at Ratchawong Pier and walk from there.
The cultural corner – Chinatown gate
From a touristic point of view, the Chinatown Gate in the middle of the Odeon traffic circle isn’t a must see, but you will most likely pass it anyway. The Odeon Circle is named after a cinema that once stood nearby. The gate marks the ceremonial entrance to one end of Chinatown and is a relatively recent addition to the list of sights in Bangkok as it was built in 1999. The purpose was to commemorate the King Bhumibol’s 72nd birthday, but also to celebrate the cultural diversity of a modern city.
The building of the gate is also a symbol of the bigger transition of Chinatown as such, an ongoing process to move away from being a rather seedy district towards a more refined tourist destination. The transition has taken place for decades already, and in this sense, more refined also translates into loosing some of it’s identity. Some changes are good, some are just making the area a lot more similar to other areas, and that’s not really what coming for when visiting Chinatown. One thing is the more troublesome routes to find the older opium establishments, but the transition also affects the attitude of the area and the food that is served. You still have fantastic spots to stop by to fill your stomach, but overall the quality has gone down in the 10 years I have been traveling here.
Anyway, the gate is worth a photo or two, and you might stumble onto locals giving offerings and prayers at the gate, especially during the annual Chinese New Year celebrations. The gate is only a short minute walk away from Wat Traimit and the Golden Buddha, and also on the way to the more central parts of Chinatown.
Getting there: From Hua Lamphong, with all it’s ongoing road work (Early 2016), the easiest way is to take Exit #3 (instead of the normal route, taking exit # 1, then crossing the bridge and continue on Rama IV until you get to Mittaphat Thai-China Road). You then cross the river on the bridge (part of Khao Lam road), then turning right into Soi Sukhon 1 and walk (passing both Chong Kee and Si Morakot) to the intersection with Mittaphat Thai-China Road where you turn left and the Odeon will be in front of you.