Chase the dragon to the cook shop
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Chase the dragon to the cook shop

Chop Chop Cook Shop in Yaowarat is where retro dishes are peppered with spice and irony

SOCIAL & LIFESTYLE
Chase the dragon to the cook shop

The name David Thompson is synonymous with Thai cuisine. Until 2023, that is.

For the first time in 40 years, chef Thompson has entered a new world, otherwise known as Chop Chop Cook Shop. An ode to the traditional cook shops of yesteryears, Chop Chop is a mix of an American diner meets cha chain tengs of Hong Kong meets pop art meets 2023. 

In what used to be an abandoned goldsmith shop on Yaowarat and Mangkon streets, Chop Chop is bright and easy-going, in start contrast the chaotic streets outside, in a heritage building. It is in here that one finds shelter away from the maddening crowd, with cooking that has provenance, offering a blend of Chinese, Thai and Western dishes.

The restaurant is on the ground floor of a prominent five-story Art Deco shophouse on the corner of Yaowarat and Mangkon streets. Referred to as “Goldsmith”, there is even a wall of “gold” necklaces and bracelets as displayed in surrounding gold shops. “I knew it wouldn't be easy as there was a lot to contend with,” says chef Thompson. “The building has such character and its ambience could not be ignored. And that auspicious position… the concept had to have merit.” 

The position being that the local Teochew community believe that the swerves and curves of Yaowarat follow the twists and turns of a dragon's back, and swear the fate of Chinatown is borne on that mythical beast of prosperity and good fortune. Mangkon Street is named after the nearby Dragon Flower Temple and Chop Chop Cook Shop is the convergence of dragon on dragon aka double good fortune.

“Chop Chop Cook Shop was born out of Bangkok's oldest type of restaurant, ‘cook shops’. Conceived in the Chinese community, Hainanese cooks prepared dishes for the locals, Teochew Chinese in the main, with the occasional Thai and Western dining or whoever else found themselves hungry when visiting Bangkok,” explains the chef.  The bookshops were prominent from the 30s-70s, and they are an integral part of Bangkok's culinary heritage.  

The food was an eclectic array of dishes, stolid English fare peppered with Chinese favourites du jour, and Thai food as requested. A seafood cocktail or cream of corn soup was one of the first things to kick off a meal, followed by braised tongue, macaroni stir-fried with prawns and tomato, or a breaded pork chop with gravy as the mains, accompanied by a plate of boiled potatoes, mii grop or stewed peas. 

The meal was in the Western manner, with individually plated dishes, usually unshared, served in courses and eaten with knives and forks. And most unThai-like, rice was not de rigueur but an optional side dish. Sliced white bread and pats of butter gave substance to the food. 

Bringing almost the same concept to Chop Chop, chef Thompson’s dishes include the delights of Crab cocktail served with a Marie Rose sauce, which, believe or not, is a Teochew speciality. A British classic and on most tables at Christmas, the dish is generally made with prawn and the sauce is a blend of tomatoes, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and black pepper. At Chop Chop, it does come with some milk bread and a generous dollop of butter. 

What tickled my fancy was the Angels on horseback, which to the uninformed, is a hot hors d’oeuvre of oysters wrapped in bacon. You can also order the Devils on horseback, which are prunes wrapped in bacon, though here the prunes are stuffed with chicken liver. 

I absolutely loved the Madcap Anglo-Malay-Sino-Portuguese curry called debal, aka, curried sausages, which paired well with the Stir-fried mashed potatoes and the Sugar snap pea salad. 

If none of these dishes float your boat, Chop Chop also serves noodles and rice and classic Thai desserts. The Ginger milk curd with candied Chinese plums is a fav of mine. 

The second floor is home to Goldsmith bar, which is straight of a bar from the early 20th century. Under the helm of Dan Miranda, the bar serves spirituous cocktails with rebelistic flair. Libations take inspiration from the varied and potent history of the neighbourhood. Signature cocktails include the Liberation libation, which is a deep purple umami rich mix of shitake infused pinot noir, shochu, chartreuse, blueberry and lime. The Gang sin is a a heady mix of smoky tequila with juiced daikon, kuma tomato and a tropical kick of pineapple and coconut served over cracked ice in a hand-blown glass goblet. Thirsty yet?

Insider's Tip: The third floor of Goldsmith will soon be a restaurant in it's own right.   

Call 09-7008-0519 or visit goldsmithbkk.com.

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