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Bangkok - A Taste of Pa Thong Ko (Thai Crullers) in Yaowarat

klyeoh | Feb 8, 201212:23 AM

A very popular breakfast/snack item in Bangkok of Chinese origin is called the Pa Thong Ko – a Thai naming oddity, as the food item in question is actually Chinese “yau char kuay” (油炸鬼) or “yu tiao” (油條), a deep-fried cruller or long-ish doughnut.

The Thai word “Pa Thong Ko” (Thai: ปาท่องโก๋) actually came from the Teochew-Chinese word for another type of dessert: a steamed cake called “Pak Thong Ko” (白糖糕). Traditionally in both Singapore and Malaysia (e.g. Penang), both yu tiao” (油條) and “pak thong ko” (白糖糕) are sold side-by-side by the same itinerant Teochew (Cantonese: Chiuchow; Mandarin: Chaozhou; Thai-Chinese: Taechew) street-food vendors.

The Teochews come from Swatow (Mandarin: Shantou) district in Guangdong Province, and constitutes the largest Chinese dialect group in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. In Singapore, the Teochews are the 2nd-largest Chinese dialect group after the Hokkiens, and Teochew influences are evident in local street foods in Singapore (koay chiap, p’ng koay, oh-chian, etc.). In Malaysia, the Teochews are a sizeable community in Penang (behind the dominant Hokkiens) and Kimberley Street in old Georgetown is known as “Swatow Kay” (or Swatow Street) due to the large presence of Teochews there. A famous old stall on Rope Walk (near Sawtow Kay) still sells “yu tiao” (油條) and “pak thong ko” (白糖糕) side-by-side.

In Thailand, however, the *real* “pak thong ko” (白糖糕), i.e. the steamed cakes, proved unpopular amongst the local Thais, and died out – leaving those same street-food vendors selling only the deep-fried crullers or “yu tiao” (油條). However, local Thais had by then mistook the name “pak thong ko” (白糖糕) to refer to the deep-fried crullers – perhaps because the itinerant street-vendors in the old days would cry out “Pak Thong Ko, Yau Char Kwai” and the folks only picked up on the first item. Anyway, that was how “yu tiao” (油條) came to be known in Thai as “Pa Thong Ko” (Thai: ปาท่องโก๋) . To the Chinese, this is as odd as a non-American referring to a burger as a hot dog :-D

The most popular Pa Thong Ko stall in Thanon Yaowarat is located near the Chinatown Scala Sharksfin restaurant (that would be near 483-5 Yaowarat Road, Corner Chalermburi, Samphanthawong) – you won’t miss it as the cruller are freshly deep-fried and customers would be crowding around the stall.

There’s another Pa Thong Ko stall, near the Kapoh Pla Rert Rot stall which I wrote about in another thread:

But this stall grills pre-fried – not as crisp/fresh-tasting, and then topped the grilled & cut-up morsels with your choice of topping: sangkaya (pandan-scented egg custard), chocolate, strawberry or sweetened condensed milk. I actually preferred to eat Pa Thong Ko plain, freshly-fried, still hot and crisp.

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