Bangkok is the global capital of street food. The Thai metropolis is renowned across the world for the cheap, delicious eats that can be found in unassuming little restaurants and stalls in its bustling streets.
But there’s one Bangkok restaurant with a difference: it claims to have been serving the same beef stew for over 40 years.
Wattana Panich is a local institution in the Bangkok neighborhood of Ekkamai. Locals and in-the-know tourists flock here in droves every day to sample the delicious soups, stews and noodle dishes churned out from the busy kitchen.
The rich depth of flavor found in these dishes keeps hungry customers coming back again and again. Their beef stew offers meat that falls apart in your mouth, with a rich tasty broth and perfectly cooked noodles. But what is the secret of this incredible, mouthwatering dish?
According to BK Magazine, Wattana Panich has been serving the same batch of beef stew ever since it opened more than 40 years ago. Literally decades of love, care and flavor have gone into the dish to make it one of the best-loved staples of the Bangkok food scene.
Wattana Panich’s chefs use an ancient cooking method, known in some cultures as ‘perpetual stew,’ or ‘hunter’s stew.’ The basic principle is simple: the longer you cook the broth, the tastier it becomes. The soup is kept simmering constantly, allowing an unprecedented, rich, deep flavor to penetrate the dish.
This style of cooking has a long history, and was especially common in the medieval period, to ensure that the maximum amount of flavor and goodness was squeezed out of every ingredient. It remains a common technique in some East Asian cuisines, and today, chefs using perpetual stews can be found in Japan, China, and Thailand, in addition to Spain and the United States.
While individual restaurants vary, perpetual stews are often left simmering continuously. They are constantly topped up with extra ingredients, which then become absorbed into the stew, further deepening the flavor.
According to BK Magazine, the beef stew at Wattana Panich is cooked in an enormous vat, which can be seen by customers as they come in to order. The rich, unctuous stew simmers constantly throughout the day, as the chefs add extra liquid, meat and herbs.
However, the type of stew made at Wattana Panich is not kept constantly cooking around the clock, like many perpetual stews in restaurants in the United States. Instead, the chefs adopt a Chinese technique, and take the soup off the heat every evening, when service is finished.
They drain the huge pot, and strain the soup, taking care to remove all of the small pieces of meat and vegetables. The remaining stock is then cooled and stored carefully, to prevent any spoiling. This is then used as the base for the next day’s soup.
According to BK Magazine, the chefs at Wattana Panich add 55 lb (25 kg) of fresh beef to their soup every day, which is cooked twice to ensure that the meat is perfectly tender. The juices from the fresh meat mingle with the existing soup from the previous day, to produce an incredible depth of flavor.
Following a recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation, the chefs also add a selection of Chinese herbs and spices, to make their stew extra fragrant and tasty. The finished product is a stew with a rich, heavenly taste, served with beef that literally melts in your mouth.
Customers have the choice of beef stew, or a beef soup served with noodles, both of which use the decades-old broth as their base.
Wattana Panich has also, more recently, produced a fragrant version of their stew made with goat, which, according to some customers, is even more tender than the beef.
Let’s hope this Bangkok institution continues to serve up its delicious stew for another 40 years to come.