It started with a small congee cart in front of Bang Pho market established by his grandfather who emigrated from China with nothing but the clothes on his back.
After years of diligent saving, his father’s generation saw the cart progress into a shophouse restaurant. Today, the legendary congee shop Pae Bronze Pot Porridge 38 Years (Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2021), run by the current third generation, remains a local favourite.
Serving delicious food for over six decades, the great flavours have remained constant over the years even as adjustments were made to keep up with the times. Thalerngdej Piyathammarat, the third-generation owner of Pae Bronze Pot Porridge 38 Years, tells us the story behind his family’s ancient Teochew congee recipe.
What’s in the name?
“My grandfather emigrated from Shantou prefecture in China to Thailand with nothing but the clothes on his back,” shares Piyathammarat. “He started his business with a small cart in front of Bang Pho market selling congee using a Teochew recipe. In that era, my grandfather fashioned scraps of warship propellers into a pot for cooking porridge. We only changed to using bronze pots later, which is the origin of our restaurant’s name.”
“My father’s name is Pae, and 38 is an auspicious number that he liked. My father has always assisted my grandfather, and he loves to sell congee. He diligently saved up until he could buy the shophouse that we are currently in now. I’ve always helped my father out too since I was in fourth or fifth grade. Now that my father can’t work anymore, I’ve stepped in to continue the business full-time.”
The delicacy secrets
Their Teochew congee recipe dates back to Piyathammarat’s grandfather’s time and entails boiling the congee stock using only whole kernel jasmine rice that must be soaked in water for approximately 4-5 hours. Back then, they used charcoal stoves and boiled the congee overnight.
Today, Piyathammarat uses gas stoves for greater convenience, with improved recipes. Instead of plain water for the congee stock, a bone broth is used for its richer flavour. For each customer, the congee stock is freshly boiled with some new soup in a bronze pot, which can withstand the heat. Besides the food not burning and sticking to the pot, this method creates a delicious aroma, while also maintaining the restaurant’s trademark “piping hot until the last bite”.
“I wanted to improve the restaurant by offering more than the pork congee and offal dishes that my grandfather and father sold, now that I’ve taken on overseeing it. I started to develop new congee dishes that included seafood, such as white snapper, shrimp, and oysters for a greater variety. I’ve also added other items such as fish maw soup, yam (Thai salads), stir-fried rice noodles with chicken, rice porridge, dry rice porridge, and more. But one thing that’s always remained of utmost importance is to use quality ingredients, which is something my father has always drilled into me.”
While many congee restaurants may opt to buy minced or ground pork out of convenience, Pae Bronze Pot Porridge 38 Years begins with pork loin slices, which they mince themselves. Piyathammarat explains that sometimes pre-ground pork from elsewhere may contain old or spoiled meat— this was a crucial lesson his father taught him and highly emphasised. “When we would order pork, my father would always order it in slices. We’d then chop and ground it ourselves in order to be able to control the quality.”
He continues, “Another touch that makes our congee delicious and different from other shops is that we only use mid-year rice, which gives off a better fragrance. I still maintain all those hallmarks of quality in my generation. We only use fresh ingredients every day. We’ve also added a variety of ingredients and dishes, while also improving our plating aesthetics to be more pleasing to the eye in order to meet consumer expectations in these changing times.”
What to order?
If you make it to this Teochew congee restaurant with its time-honoured recipes, there are a couple of dishes not to be missed. The Seafood Congee features a smooth and delicate texture made from a pleasant harmony of rice and soup. As can be expected, the seafood ingredients are deliciously fresh. As for Pork and Egg Bomb Congee, you’ll find an egg, freshly stirred in while cooking the congee, really adds an aromatic and rich flavour, complementing their meticulously in-house minced pork. To add even more oomph to their congees, customers can choose to pair it up with some century eggs or salted eggs to their liking. We recommend enjoying it with patongko (fried dough), which really adds a crunchy touch.
Another delight is the Rice Porridge with White Snapper, topped with fragrant sprinkles of fried garlic. Tuck in and enjoy their grounded soybean sauce, enhancing every bite of sliced snapper. In their Stir-fried Rice Noodles with Chicken and Squid, you’ll find rice noodles are wide as your palm. They are fried until mouth-wateringly crispy before they are stir-fried with chicken, squid, and egg in a wok on high heat for that divine smoky aroma.
Their Fish Maw Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms gets the texture just right -- it is pleasantly rich and thick. Scrupulously selected fish maw from Yaowarat is washed and soaked in water over 10 times in order to eliminate any greasiness inside. Then, after being boiled until tender, shiitake mushrooms and quail eggs are added to the soup, which is freshly cooked one bowl at a time. A perfectly mellow and satisfying composition. On the side of sour and spicy salads, the Seafood Yam uses the premium seafood straight from Mahachai Market in Samut Sakhon. With its well-seasoned dressing that is not too overpowering, the fresh seafood is deliciously enhanced.
Legacy passed on
“People have known our restaurant since my father’s generation. A lot of elderly people know about our place, but receiving the Bib Gourmand from MICHELIN Guide draws the younger generation here. This has been of immense help to us, especially during this pandemic where we too have been affected,” the heir shares.
“Our sales have dropped, and, as we all know, COVID has really disrupted the supply chain. This has caused a shortage of certain ingredients, and some may even have increased prices. Nevertheless, we try to maintain the quality and taste as best as we can, because this is the promise we aim to fulfill to customers.”
It’s no surprise at all that Pae Bronze Pot Porridge 38 Years has been around for decades, long enough to be run by its third generation. If you’d like to taste this enchanting Teochew congee that’s considered a legend of Bangkok’s Bang Pho neighbourhood, the restaurant is open daily 6.00-22.00 (sans curfew). Feel free to call the restaurant to check opening times beforehand.
Here’s What Our Inspectors Said About Pae Bronze Pot Porridge 38 Years (Bib Gourmand)
38 is actually the founder’s lucky number; the place itself has been around for considerably longer – since 1962 in fact. Three generations on, his family is still serving savoury congee boiled in its signature bronze pots – try it with oysters or minced pork and an egg.
Hero image: © Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya/ MICHELIN Guide Thailand