Yen Ta Fo is a favorite dish of mine. It’s fish balls, it’s tofu, it’s deep fried garlic, squid, noodles, crunchy deep-freid wonton, a handful stems of blanched morning glory and a funky and almost sexy red sauce that gets it’s beautiful color from the slightly sweet fermented red tofu. At the food stall Thi Yen Ta Fo you need to add shopped chili to the ingredients. Quite a lot of it to be honest. A bit like showing the finger to the more traditional versions. And I just love it.
Yen Ta Fo is normally not a spicy dish, but at Thi Yen Ta Fo it certainly is. Not unbearable in any way, but certainly hot. Thai’s are famous for adding their bellowed chilies to pimp a dish, and that’s exactly what they do here. It certainly separate themselves from any other bowl of Yen Ta Fo I have tasted on my journey to eat my way through Bangkok. To add chilies might be a simple trick, but I have no hesitation in calling it innovation. It’s a difficult dish to balance and most bowls around town are sweat and flat and tastes like shit. But then you have the wonderful spots around town, serving superb Yen Ta Fo with a fantastic balance of sweat and sour, often with an outspoken garlicky touch from the bitter and deep-fried garlic. You risk fucking up that beautiful balance when adding chopped chilies, but to my surprise it didn’t. It makes the red sauce less outspoken, and with less sweetness, but you do taste it for a second or two. Then it’s tart and spicy and with the garlicky touch to it. Just irresistible. The main ingredients of the sauce is fermented red tofu, distilled vinegar and pickled garlic, sugar and fish sauce. That is mixed with stock, normally from pork or chicken when served.
I have no problem in calling the served bowl Yen Ta Fo, but it’s different. And absolutely delicious. The ingredients are also very tasty and of high quality, including the tofu and the fish balls, so the chilies is in no way a grip to do some cover up. They just found a very nice alternative to the more traditional way of serving this dish. It didn’t come with dices of blood, which is quite normal.
Personally I prefer Sen Lek rice noodles to go with it, but hey have alternatives.
The popularity of the stall made them incorporate a second cart a few years ago, offering fried noodle dishes like guaythiew kua gai (pan-fried rice noodles with chicken and egg) and the spicy tom yum egg noodles with minced pork and fresh basil. Be aware that there also are other food stalls here, including good pork satay and barbecued pork, but the Yen Ta Fo is what really shines.
The dining is street style with plastic chairs and metal tables. The service is above average for Bangkok, and the food comes with a smile.
If you intend to buy yen ta fo sauce at the supermarket to make the dish at home, it’s much sweater and normally without pickled garlic. Also fish sauce is exchanged for salt. You’re far better off searching a good recipe online.
Name: Thi Yen Ta Fo
Food: Yen Ta Fo
Price: 50 -60 Bath a bowl
Open: Tue – Sun 11 am – 10 pm. Closed Monday.
Address: Its’ a few meters away from Tim House at 337 Maha Chai Road.
How to get there: One of the better option is to grab a taxi at Hua Lamphong Metro station (also the closest Metro station to Chinatown). If you’re down town, a good option is to use the canals and take the boat taxi to Panfa Leelard. Form there it’s a 10 minutes walk. Highly recommended during rush hours. If you’re staying around Khao San Road it’s about a 25 minutes walk.