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South Asian Cuisines in Bangkok That Aren’t Indian

by Mahmood Hossain

An authentic taste and culinary journey through South Asia.

By Mahmood Hossain

A true lover of food will undeniably ride back and forth on the spectrum of culinary arts. We can all enjoy Michelin-calibre restaurants led by reputable and famous chefs, but we can also indulge in food from street vendors and smaller eateries that are tucked away in various corners of the city. That’s the beauty of living in a metropolis as vibrant and diverse as Bangkok. Among the more popular and frequently visited restaurants, there are a few gems in town that offer an authentic taste of cuisines from countries that either neighbour, or have historical ties to, India. So, the next time you feel a bit adventurous, try visiting the following South Asian restaurants that deliver a unique culinary experience.


Café Kabul

To understand Afghan cuisine, you must first realise its geographical location. At the crossroads of Asia, Afghanistan has a unique connection with its neighbours and their ingredients, spices, and cooking techniques; the country is truly multicultural. It has influences from Iran, Pakistan, and other Central Asian nations. One of its fine examples is the kabuli pulao, Afghanistan’s most celebrated dish, flavourful and cooked with tender pieces of either chicken or lamb, caramelised carrots, and a mix of aromatic spices. With the complexity of local dishes, blended with spices like cumin, cardamom, coriander, and saffron, it takes a skilful cook to create a beautiful symphony of flavours.

Café Kabul, from smaller bites to the heftier dishes, has all the more familiar Afghan staples with the support of Indian and Lebanese items on the menu. Its offerings are generous with both Afghan and Indian kebabs and curries. While this restaurant has plenty of mouth-watering meat dishes, it also boasts a healthy amount of veg options, such as the Burani bangen, Alu zera, and an assortment of delicious sabzi. And to wash things down, there is always a fresh and cool glass of lassi or doogh – an Afghan drink made of yoghurt, water and mint; ideal for the hotter days in summer.

Picture of dish not taken from restaurant.

With a casual, family-friendly vibe, Café Kabul is easy on the wallet and is located in Prasoet Islam Alley, Nonthaburi. Open daily from 11.30am to 9pm. Facebook: @cafekabul


Ministry of Crab

There’s a high chance you’ve either heard of or visited a branch of the famed Ministry of Crab restaurant series, an homage to Sri Lanka’s Mud Crab. Its magic was brought to Bangkok some time ago after the success of Chef Dharshan Munidasa’s original Ministry of Crab in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which was featured in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for several consecutive years. While the Bangkok restaurant may not be new, it deserves a spotlight on its unique menu, influenced by the chef’s Japanese and Sri Lankan roots. The cooks of this particular kitchen have consistently delivered the freshest and finest seafood in Thailand and Sri Lanka, cooked to perfection with a variety of herbs, spices and distinct flavours native to Sri Lanka.

To highlight a few dishes, the menu is filled with Sri Lankan-style crabs soaked in peppercorn and pepper dashi sauces, as well as traditional Japanese techniques of preparing seafood, such as Ikejime, where the release of ammonia is prevented while preserving the sweetness of their meat. For first-timers, you’ll be tempted to claw into the restaurant’s main attraction, the Mud crab, ranging from the half-kilo crab to the hefty 2kg Crabzilla, prepared in the house-signature flavours. However, it offers more than just succulent crabs, from freshwater prawns of various sizes to sweeter endings with the Coconut crème brûlée.

Located on Soi Sukhumvit 31, Ministry of Crab is open daily for lunch from 12pm to 2.30pm, and dinner from 5pm to 11.30pm. Instagram: @ministryofcrab.bkk


BBQ Delight

Similar to Afghan cuisine, Pakistani cuisine is a combination of heavy, Indian-based spices and other ingredients that are of Iranian, Afghan, Persian, and Western influences. A significant amount of its origin can be found in the Mughal era, whose cuisine featured distinct herbs and spices, almonds, raisins, and more. Pakistani cuisine usually consists of heftier breakfast dishes such as siri-paya or nihari, the staple rice; roti or naan and meat curry for lunch; and dinner is reserved for dishes that require more preparation, such as biryani, pulao, kofte, kebabs, keema, and other savoury dishes.

BBQ Delight, a name that can be a tad deceiving, has been a go-to for many South Asians hoping to get a taste of Pakistan. In fact, most individuals will visit the restaurant just to have an authentic bowl of slowly cooked Nihari – a dish originally eaten by the Nawabs of the Mughal Empire and which Pakistan became famous for after generations of Old Delhi natives immigrated to Karachi. Accompanied by possibly one of the best and pillowy-soft naans in town, the Niharican be enjoyed both for breakfast and lunch. Those same naans are a perfect pairing to the other kebabs and meat dishes on the menu. More importantly, the environment is a very homely one, as if the dishes were brought straight out of your Pakistani neighbour’s kitchen.

Picture of dish not taken from restaurant.

BBQ Delight, located in upper Silom, is open from Monday through Saturday, from 12pm to 11.30pm; and from 10.30am to 9.30pm on Sundays. Tel: 02 631 7526


Bangla House

Like so many other regional cuisines, if you want to truly experience the traditional flavours of Bangladeshi food, it has to come from a Bangladeshi kitchen. If you don’t know how to cook it yourself or have family or friends who do, it’s going to be a near-herculean task to have proper Bangladeshi food in Bangkok. So, what’s the next best thing? Find a restaurant that appeals to foodies without the bells and whistles, such as Bangla House, which is not only worth mentioning but should deservedly be placed on blast for the entire city to enjoy. In fact, some Bangladeshi expats have claimed that it feels like a home away from home.

Bangla House not only provides authentic Bangladeshi cuisine, but it also offers homemade dishes from Myanmar and Ethiopia, and they even have Thai food on the menu. Why that combination? My friends and I never asked; we simply enjoy. Bangladeshi cuisine has a rich legacy of Mughlai, Turkish, and Middle Eastern influences; delectable and diverse, packed with bursting flavours and ingredients, just a tad spicier than the rest. While there are influences from various regions within Bangladesh, I would recommend some of the more popular dishes. Bangla House does exceptionally well, such as its Kichuri, Beef curry, Mutton biryani, and Aloo paratha, among other mouth-watering fish dishes on the menu. It wouldn’t be Bangladeshi food without the fish.

Picture of dishes not taken from restaurant.

Bangla House is located in Soi Pha Suk, branching off Sukhumvit Soi 1, and is open daily from 7.30am to 1am. Facebook: @banglahousebangkok


Himalaya Restaurant

Himalayan cuisine focuses on dishes from Nepal, Bhutan and Kashmir, with an abundance of vegetarian options. The Northeastern parts of South Asia, and Nepal as a whole, use plenty of well-known spices, but the cooking technique comes from the Tibetan and Chinese sides. Depending on the altitude, some people consume a large amount of pork, beef, and yak meat, and they are generous with the chilli levels. How generous? Have you ever heard of Nagaland in northeast India, home to the infamous ghost pepper which once topped the Guinness World Record hottest chilli list? Naga chilli is commonly used in cooking beef and made slightly bearable with potatoes and accompanied with fermented rice or bamboo.

However, at Himalaya Restaurant in Bangkok, the Nepalese dishes are a bit more palatable and slightly easier to digest. There are familiar items on the menu that the Nepalese have put their twist on, by way of Tibet, including steaming-hot momos served in multiple ways and stuffed with various proteins and veggies, with a selection of delicious sauces. It’ll make your mouth water just by taking a glance at the restaurant’s momo menu. Equally impressive are its vegetarian options, such as the Badam sadeko or Aloo achar. No matter the dish, you’ll sense the spirit of the Northeast, as both the interior and the aroma from the kitchen will transport you to the hillside neighbourhoods of Nepal, Tibet, Darjeeling and Kashmir.

Picture of dishes not taken from restaurant.

Open from 11am to 11.30pm, you can visit Himalaya Restaurant at 112/6 Ratchaprarop Road in Ratchathewi. Facebook:


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