Chak Ngaew Old Chinese Market: A Gastronomic Road of Original Deliciousness
This 100-year-old Chinese community was once a prosperous trade area. However, it has recently revived and become a historical and cultural tourist attraction for visitors to experience a vintage atmosphere and learn about the Chinese local way of life. Plus, this market community is full of mouthwatering food and snacks made by original recipes.
On every Saturday afternoon, Ban Chak Ngaew, a small community in Huay Yai subdistrict, Bang Lamung district of Chonburi province, will be packed with local people and visitors. One popular destination of Ban Chak Ngaew community couldn’t be anywhere else but the "Ban Chak Ngaew old Chinese market" or "Chak Ngaew Chinese market". Not only is the market famous for its local flavorsome edibles, it also takes the visitors down the memory lane to experience its true identity. That explains why Ban Chak Ngaew has become one of the role model communities under the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Public Organization) or DASTA.
Getting to Know Ban Chak Ngaew
Ban Chak Ngaew is a Thai-Chinese community which had been established over a hundred years ago by the Chaozhou Chinese from Guangdong, China.
"Chak" comes from a local eastern language which means a luxuriant forest. The terrain of this area is made up of dense jungles where red cotton trees, white meranti trees, and bungor trees are growing. There are a swamp and a small canal in the community’s area; hence, they call it "Nong Chak Ngaew" as "Nong" in Thai means a swamp. "Ngew" is a Thai word for the red cotton tree but the original Chinese immigrants called it "Chang Ngew" or "Cha Ngaew" which, later, has been mispronounced to "Chak Ngaew" or "Sak Ngaew" as being called nowadays. Another source, nonetheless, says the name "Ngaew" may derive from "Ma Ngaew" or "Mak Ngaew" which is a wild lychee tree (korlan). This type of tree bears red or brownish-red fruits with a sweet tangy flavor and it is commonly found in the eastern part of the country.
Upon entering the Ban Chak Ngaew community, the visitors will firstly feel all the vintage vibes. Along a pathway leading into the market are more than 300 wooden shophouses decorated with red Chinese lanterns and paper signs with old Chinese alphabets. Besides, all the merchants wearing traditional Chinese outfits are greeting the visitors with big smiles, adding warmth and liveliness to the whole environment.
Appealing Local Dishes
Another charm that has enticed the visitors to come to Ban Chak Ngaew community and brought it back to life is the original local savory and sweet dishes. Some are unique menus that can’t be found anywhere else. Thus, tasting Chaozhou Chinese-style cuisine is a must try while visiting the market. Below are the recommended dishes.
- Chinese Steamed Rice Noodle Rolls. What makes these rice noodle rolls so popular are its special homemade soy sauce and a variety of toppings such as minced pork and tofu. Other than that, this shop also has Thai spring rolls with brown gravy as an appetizer.
- Hia Choon’s Deep Fried Crab Meat Rolls. The recipe of these crab meat rolls was passed down from an owner’s ancestor and has never been changed ever since. The crab meat rolls are made with high-quality ingredients and perfect for eating with a sweet and sour plum dipping sauce.
- Crispy Pork Floss by Aunt Mai which is made with her own secret recipe and can be found only at this market. Aunt Mai’s pork floss comes in crispy chunks and can be stored for months. For pure deliciousness, just pair it with a plate of steamed rice or a bowl of hot boiled rice.
- Ba Chang or Chinese Steamed Wrapped Glutinous Rice in Bamboo Leaves by Long Sang Ngew. It is a traditional style Ba Chang made of glutinous rice stir-fried with a number of toppings, namely pork, Chinese sausage, peanuts, lotus seeds, etc.
- Sor Ocha Rod’s Braised Pork Legs and Chinese Steamed Buns. The pork legs are braised in a rich Chinese five-spice brown broth until the meat and skin are melt-in-your-mouth tender. The visitors can choose to have meat only, meat and skin, or everything with offal. It is also recommended to dip mantou or Chinese steamed buns with the nicely sweet and fragrant broth for more satisfying delight.
- Hia Hua’s Duck Noodle is one of the must-try dishes of Chak Ngaew Chinese market. The signature menus are duck noodles and braised duck in Chinese five-spice brown broth. The duck meats are perfectly cooked and tender while the broth is very herby and aromatic.
- Kuay Ba or Deep Fried Wrapped Pork in Tofu Sheet is an authentic traditional Chaozhou Chinese dish. It is commonly found and eaten during the Chinese New Year. Kuay Ba at this shop in Chak Ngaew Chinese market is crispy on the outside and a bit crunchy on the inside. It absolutely is the flavorful snack.
- Vietnamese Crepe. This Vietnamese crepe stall is located at the corner of soi 8 in Chak Ngaew Chinese market. The crispy crepe is filled with toasted coconut shreds, fried diced tofu, bean sprouts, toasted peanuts, pickled radish, and dried shrimps. The crepe is cooked over a charcoal stove, making it smoky fragrant and delicious.
- Chinese Chive Dumplings by Pueng Ou Huak is another dish that is still made traditional way. The highlight of these chive dumplings is the soft and chewy dough. The fillings are ranging from the original chive filling, taro filling to stir-fried papaya filling. Pour the spicy and sour sauce over the dumplings and taste the authentic flavors of Chaozhou Chinese-style dish.
- Chinese Pastry by Jay Da. This is a traditional style Chinese pastry with soft pastry dough. There are various fillings to choose from – mung bean, mung bean and salted egg yolk, taro paste, taro paste and salted egg yolk, black bean, and red bean. Both the pastry dough and fillings are made fresh every day and no preservatives are added.
- Galorgee or Chinese Pan-Fried Glutinous Rice Cake is a dessert that is usually made during important Chinese festivals. After being pan-fried, the glutinous rice cake will be crispy around the edges but still soft and chewy on the inside. Drizzle the rice cake all over with sugar mixed with ground peanuts and black sesame seeds. There is no surprise why Galorgee has become a beloved sweet treat for everyone.
- Khanom Khao Pong or Glutinous Rice Dumplings with Assorted Filling. Khanom Khao Pong is a traditional dessert that is made by pounding steamed glutinous rice in a wooden mortar until it becomes sticky glutinous rice dough. Cover the dough with sugar and ground black and white sesame seeds and fill it with either savory or sweet filling. Since this dessert is so hard to find these days, it is definitely a must-try when you visit Chak Ngaew Chinese market.
After your stomach is full, it’s time to visit “Chao Mae Tubtim Shrine” and pay respect to the Chinese goddess of the sea who is believed to protect all the sailors and voyagers. Moreover, there are other places, namely a Chak Ngaew community museum, an old movie theater, Shu Tueng Chinese cemetery, and an old opium factory (Rong Ya alley) open for the visitors to experience the way of life, architectures, food, and unique local cultures of Ban Chak Ngaew community.
Traveling to Ban Chak Ngaew community
If traveling by car, drive on Sukhumvit (Bangna-Trat) road that leads to Sattahip district. Drive past the 4 Regions Floating Market all the way through to the Ambassador Hotel. Turn left at the Dolphin Show street sign and drive straight for about 7 kilometers. Your destination will be on the left.
Address: Moo 10, Ban Nong Chak Ngaew, Huay Yai subdistrict, Bang Lamung district, Chonburi
Open hours: every Saturday from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Facebook page: Ban Chak Ngaew Chinese Community
When we are at Ban Chak Ngaew Chinese Community, it seems to us that we are traveling back in time as the traditional ways of life can still be witnessed. Thai and Chinese cultures have blended together until they have become unique characteristics of this community. These mixed cultures are being conserved, continued, and developed to be unseen tourist attractions which bring sustainable incomes back to the community.