Published on September 21, 2007
A long queue forms on weekdays in front of a nondescript shop off a narrow lane of Rim Tang Rod Fai Kao Road, behind Tesco Lotus Rama IV.
Those in line are hungry people, and most of them workers clad in the uniform of a motorcycle messenger - dark jacket and trousers. The line leads to two big chopping blocks piled with mounds of chopped fried pork. There are three huge frying woks and heaps of boiled eggs, a big pot of steamed rice and busy helpers arranging the plates and plastic bags filled with rice.
Welcome to the world of Je Jong's popular crispy pork rice, where about half the population of Bangkok's messengers eat daily. Anyone looking for a hearty, simple meal of fried pork, boiled eggs and steamed rice is welcome here.
"I decided to open my own restaurant selling fried pork and rice out of frustration to feed my daughter's craving," says Je Jong or Jongjai Kitsawaeng who has been serving her crispy-fried pork for three years.
"She loves the food and she always went out to buy it from the nearby pushcart," Je Jong explains. "One day I found that the seller only gave her four small pieces of pork for Bt10, and that drove me up the wall. It was outrageous for the seller to give her only four pieces of pork, so I told her I will cook the dish for her myself and maybe I might open a restaurant selling just that for a much cheaper price."
So she began by marinating strips of pork belly with chopped garlic, white pepper, salt and fish sauce. She also thought about the perfect way to fry her pork by using two, instead of just one, main woks. The first frying wok has a higher temperature, to make the pork belly crispy, while the second wok on lower heat cooks the pork through. Je Jong coats her pork strips with a flavoured flour solution before placing them into the boiling oil.
She says it gives her pork an extra and distinctive texture, which hooks her customers. The dipping sauce of nampla and toasted chili flakes gives it that extra something special.
A mound of pork and a brimming plate of steamed rice is just Bt20. For extra protein, a half-boiled egg is Bt5 extra. Je Jong will throw in some extra rice for free if you happen to be very hungry.
"They can add more rice as much as they want," says Je Jong. "We have a bucket of fresh vegetables for folks to snack on, too."
Je Jong's is generally packed with people battling for tables. The lines will be lengthy during the lunch hour, with both dine-in customers and buyers who take the food back to their offices. Some orders call for as many as 50 bags of pork rice to go, which is typical when it comes to business at this little place.
"I always come here to stock myself up for the rest of the day," says Sommart, a messenger who shared the table with us. "I live near Samrong, which is quite far away, and
there are nearby places that sell the same thing as Je Jong, but not as delicious. Je Jong's pork is delicious and cheap and fast, and I also get a balanced meal with her free vegetables, too."
Je Jong's pork is sold at Bt200 per kilogram if you want to stock up to match with your own rice. For big orders, call ahead and send a messenger to pick up the food.
Je Jong Moo Tod
(Je Jong's Fried Pork)
348 Rim Rod Fai Kao Road (behind Tesco Lotus Rama IV), Khlong Toei
Daily, 6am to 3pm (closed Sunday)
(083) 013 2574
Sirin P Wongpanit
The writer can be reached at www.ohsirin.blogspot.com.