For a place that has successively been running for almost 70 years, Yong Lee (ย่งหลี) – a small restaurant tucked away in Sukhumvit 39, is still looking very good. On a quiet stretch of shophouses that line the entrance of the busy, bustling soi (small road), this restaurant has been holding fast not only to its original delicious recipes garnered by the first owners who opened this place for the first time in 1944, but also to its looks with wooden tables, Tolix-Marias-style chairs and some memorabilia that remind us back to the days when this area of Bangkok was still pretty much a vast remote suburb, with the people still taking it easy, living with their whole extended family in their big houses and lawns.
Today, with Sukhumvit having become one of the busiest and most crowded areas in Bangkok, Yong Lee is still running by the family who opened this place and serving their renowned dishes for those seeking the delicious tastes of the old days. We were there one Saturday morning by BTS (Prom Phong); the restaurant is within walking distance from the main road, which is good because it is impossible to find a parking space there. Compared to other old-timer restaurants in town that have been regularly written about, Yong Lee is what I would say a real laid-back kitchen and a true charm. We were perhaps served by the family members who, even the young ones, were doing whatever they were doing nearby while we were eating with their ears and eyes discreetly on us so they were very prompt on their services. It was like going back in time with the Thai-style warmth and hospitality and food was excellent and affordable. We paid Bt400 for everything on this page, including a big bowl of steamed rice and sodas. This is a place we will go back over and over again because 1. the food variety is excellent and attractive – they have ranges of old-time and classic dishes that we still want to go back and try them all, 2. the food is delicious, 3. the prices are friendly and 4. it is walkable from the BTS station, hence very convenient to stop by.
We ordered their most famous dish of crab-meat dumplings (pu-ja, Bt50 apiece) in scallop shells served with Sri Racha sauce. This dish, made from crabmeat and egg deep-fried with crispy eggy skin, was to-die-for. The taste was mild with a hint of white pepper with its dense but spongy texture similar to a thick full-of-crabmeat omelette, only that this was not an omelette. Usually, other places would mix some minced pork with the crabmeat to substantiate the batter, but in this case, if they did add the pork, I took no notice about it. And with the classic combination of Sri Racha sauce and steamed rice, this piece of pu-ja could make a whole meal if you are by yourself. But who would eat so little when there are a lot more to enjoy?
We also ordered a dish of ‘stir-fried fish fillet with fresh chilies’ (pla tod rad prik), which was downright oily (with a good pool of oil on the shallow serving dish), but again mildly tasty, even with the heaps of fresh chilies you see in the picture. The snapper fillets were fresh and good and the oily chilies only added to the slight increase of heat. Another good plate for the rice.
Their mee-krob (crispy vermicelli), meanwhile, was also tasty and pleasant. Served with fresh lime, chopped pickled garlic and slices of fresh sweet chili, the crispy vermicelli seemed to be freshly fried and quickly dressed with glistening and sweet dressing and minced seasoned ‘dried shrimp’ and lots of fresh chopped cilantro. It is important that you mix everything good together and get each bite a combination of sweet and crispy noodle along with the tang of compliment ingredients together. This was, again, a very lovely dish.
But then, Yong Lee is an old-timer restaurant categorized as serving ‘Thai-Chinese-Western’ fusioned dishes known in Thailand as ‘cook-shop,’ meaning they have their own twists of Western dishes such as stews and salads. So we ordered a ‘beef salad’ (salad neur san) which, in any cook-shop,’ means a piece of pan-fried vinegar-marinated tenderloin served with a handful of mixed greens (iceberg salad, slices of tomatoes and rings of onion) topped with Thai-style creamy dressing. Personally, I found the vinegar-marinated beef so delicious and practical. Because usually, we are not very particular when it comes to choosing the cuts of beef, hence using the vinegar to tenderize it is smart and makes a good tasty result. Although this salad was not supposed to join the other dishes we ordered that went well with the rice, I would still order it for its own sake next time around. It was refreshing, the beef was delicious and tender.
There were so many other things we wanted to order here, but, being just the two of us, we were already too full. This place is also known for their clear Thai/Chinese soups, such as pork knuckle tom yam, minced pork soup with pickles. You can come here for a small delicious lunch or perhaps with a bunch of friends so you can shore different dishes together. We would certainly go back for more when the chances arise. A good delicious treasure!
Yong Lee, about 100 metres on the right of Sukhumvit 39 (coming from BTS Prom Phong station. Daily except Sundays at 10.00-20.30. T: 02-258-8863.