The French like to slow cook. Boeuf Bourguinon, pot au feu, cassoulet—all that stuff ends up in a pot where you cook it for hours (and even then it always tastes better the next day, reheated). Cassoulet is made with white beans (ideally from the small town of Tarbes) and chunks of meat: lamb, duck confit, Toulouse sausage. Although a Southwestern dish, it’s a heavy winter food: rich, fatty and filling.
Have it at: Chez Pape for B430. 110/1 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-255-2492. Open Mon-Sat 4pm-midnight, Sun 11am-10pm.
Cold Cuts (Assiette de Charcuterie)
You can probably get better ham in Spain and Italy, but France does do marvelous prepared pork specialties called charcuterie: rillettes, terrine, saucisse and saucisson. What does it all mean? Rillettes is pork slow-cooked in its fat and served cold, as a spread. Terrine (and pate) are similar, but usually using chunkier cuts of meats, and not quite as much fat. Saucisse and saucisson are dry, cured sausages that one cuts in thin slices, like salami. Have them before a meal, with red wine.
Have it at: Le Petit Zinc’s assiette de charcuterie is B290/550 (small/large) and includes Serrano cured ham, saucisse seche, rosette de Lyon (a kind of saucisson), rillettes de porc and some duck or pork terrine. 110/1 Sukhumvit Soi 23, 02-259-3033. Open Tue-Sun 11am-midnight. Closed Dec 23-Jan 3.
This is comfort food for the kiddies but the difference between an American cheese sandwich and French fast food is the sharp Emmental cheese from Switzerland. Toast the bread, slather with butter and béchamel, add a slice of proper ham, top with the cheese, and finish browning in the oven. Fried egg optional for the protein-hungry.
Have it at: Café Tartine for B190 (B215 with an egg). G/F, Athenee Residence, Soi Ruamrudee, 65 Wireless Rd., 02-168-5464. Open daily 8am-8pm. BTS Ploenchit.
This is a classic, a favorite and a deceptively simple dish. You take raw ground beef (snobs hand chop it) and mix in a bunch of stuff (chopped shallots, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, capers, an egg yolk). But because it’s so simple, the seasonings’ proportions are a high-wire act, and because it’s raw, the beef has to be perfect.
Have it at: Le Bouchon for B580. 37/17 Patpong Soi 2, 02-234-9109. Open Mon-Sat noon-3pm; daily 6:30-11pm. BTS Sala Daeng.
Confit de Canard
Confit de canard is becoming pretty ubiquitous on Thai menus. It’s made by slow-cooking a duck’s leg in the duck’s own fat. Snobs complain that local ducks are too lean, not free-range or not fed the right stuff, but honestly this is one dish that a lot of places get surprisingly right if they can resist the urge to overcook it.
Have it at: Oskar has an unusual presentation for its confit, serving it as morsels layered with mash potatoes and then oven-baked. Duck parmentier, B250. 24 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-254-6357. Open daily 6pm-2am.
To the rest of the world, mussels and French fries are as Gallic as Gallic gets. But even the French will admit this stuff is really from Belgium. The dish is a shockingly simple, but dazzling, combination of mussels (usually cooked in white wine) and fries. The problem is that in Thailand most places serve green mussels, which aren’t nearly as good as the kind growing on the northern shores of Europe.
Have it at: Bouchot, where a pound of blue fin mussels is B620. 110/1 Sukhumvit Soi 23, 02-259-3033. Open Tue-Sun 11am-midnight.