By Brian Spencer
To single out just one dish — a simple, everyday Thai standard at that — from the culinary vortex that is Tawandang German Brewery’s accomplished kitchen feels a little unfair.
For here at this beer barrel-shaped funhouse, where three house beers are brewed onsite and commonly served in three-liter towers; where visitors are plucked from the audience to go onstage and see whom can slurp a half-liter of beer through a straw the fastest; where a revolving cast of singers — backed by a live band more than 10 musicians deep — belt out Thai and international covers for more than six hours, seven days a week; where wild song-and-dance numbers feature elaborate costumes and choreography for a small troupe male and female dancers; where the baseball-capped servers jump onstage for their own choreographed routines; where Thais are Thai, laughing and singing along and dancing and toasting and playing host of the table and being silly into the wee hours of the morning; here the consistency, quantity, and high quality of Tawandang’s cuisine is often overshadowed by its good-natured bacchanalia.
Tawandang is, hardly, a one-dish pony.
There are few surprises among Tawandang’s classic Thai and German comfort foods, but there are certainly specialties. Fried pork knuckle, a hulking hunk of juicy meat that falls off the bone with a gentle tug, is at every other table; steamed sea bass soaking in a fragrant, bubbling broth laced with Thai herbs and chiles is quite popular; the spicy fruit salad is stellar; there’s no reason the vegetable fried rice, a fluffy mound of grain mixed with vegetables, topped with cashews, and served with a side of spicy fish sauce, should be as good as it is.
Therein lies the secret: Though the menu comprises a very long list of snacks, meats, seafood, soups, salads, and desserts, though hundreds of people pack Tawandang nightly and eat for hours on end, we have never — never — been disappointed by anything we’ve ordered. No off nights, no off dishes, no mistakes during countless visits over the past six years or so. I’m not sure how they do it, but they do it.
So why highlight the grilled squid?
Maybe it’s the quality and freshness. Perhaps it’s the way in which it’s so delicately seared and sliced, or the careful process by which it’s cleaned, cured, and prepped. How it’s spongy yet firm, not chewy and tough; how it’s not “part-y.” How the spicy green sauce — the classic Thai seafood accompaniment — is as boisterous as the entertainment, a piquant mix of chilis and garlic, coriander and lime, fish sauce and shallots and sugar, all blended in just the right proportion; I could (and sometimes do) eat it with a spoon.
Yes, to single out the grilled squid is a little random. It’s such a simple dish, a common dish in many parts of Thailand, but at Tawandang there’s reason why it’s the one dish that we never pass up — and the one we order first, since it’s often sold out early on in the evening. Sold out, or as your Thai server might say, with sincere sadness, “fee-nished.”
Tawandang German Brewery is located at 462/61 Rama III Rd., +66 (0)2 678 11146. Open daily 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.
More from the BKK Must Eats Series:
+ Sweet 16 at In the Mood for Love
+ Early Evening Pad Thai on Soi Chidlom
+ Salmon Agemusubui at Sukishi
+ Spicy Tuna Roll at Yaki Ten
+ Grilled Squid at Pantip Plaza
+ Pumpkin Hummus at May Kaidee’s
+ Seared Tuna at Pla Dib
+ Mexican Food at La Monita
+ Salmon Mania Roll at Zen Cucina
+ Feasts at Jae On
The “Must-Eat Food in Bangkok” game is one without end, kind of like Risk. This ongoing series is not comprehensive, nor does it exclusively list foods I feel are “the best” of anything (though occasionally it might). The modest goal here is to simply, completely randomly, spotlight delicious Bangkok foods to which I often come back, and which you should consider seeking out during your next visit.