Ya Dong Street Liquor

Today I was at a loose end. Fanfan working through the previous night meant I was left tiptoeing round the condo and as always I end up at the pool to ‘work’. A couple of work beers down and I find myself relaxing on the pool edge overlooking local life on the street below. The day passes into evening hours and the opposite coffee stand (Kafeh Yen) packs away to be replaced with Ya Dong Street Liquor. Thai alcohol. The Ya Dong stand is run by a local ladyboy; she sets up shop, filling glass bottles, squeezy bottles and cleans her equipment like OCD. I take little persuading to join her.

What is Ya Dong?

Ya dong street liquor is a herb infused Thai alcohol made from local Lao Khao (white spirit) and a number of ‘health enhancing’ herbs. Traditionally used as a medicine and blood tonic Ya Dong is rumoured to enhance libido and boost strength. ‘Lao Khao’ the Thai alcohol used in this potent concoction is a cheap and nasty rice whiskey favoured by rural folk of Thailand (accounts for 2/3 Thailand’s alcohol consumption and probably a high % of road deaths). Ya Dong is served with a salt, chilli and sugar dip (prik glua) and sour, unripe mango (mamuang priew). Thailand’s answer to the tequila shooter.

Shot Glass, Ya Dong Street Liquor, Thai Alcohol, Bangkok, Thailand

Roadside Boozing

I catch the rare window of opportunity between the opening of a Ya Dong stand and the impending bombardment of local labourers and motorbike taxis. “Small bottle please”, “Honey?”, “Yes please…” The ladyboy grabs an empty red bull bottle and adds a squirt of honey from a squeezy ketchup bottle. Out comes a funnel and in pours the potent Ya Dong mix from a reused Sangsom alcohol bottle. The bottle of Ya Dong is brought to my table along with a shot glass, chilli dip, unripe mango and cup of water. The ladyboy joins me at the table to listen on my problems “Ron Maak… (it’s very hot)”. I have few problems. I fire shot after shot and am soon on my way. For the small bottle of  4 Ya Dong shots (150ml) it costs 30Baht. For individual shots it costs 10Baht each. Crazy cheap.

More Please…

Ya Dong is served warm probably due to surrounding heats. It is also uniquely Thai with Thai signature tastes. Sweet of honey / Ya Dong mix, Sour of unripe mango, Salty and Hot of the salt and chilli dip. It, in fact, tastes really good though few would admit it. Ya Dong is looked down on in Thai society. I’ve not once seen a foreigner at Ya Dong and middle-class will likely shun it. For a country which aspires to Hi-So (high society) the Lo-So are often ignored and left behind. Tonight I was going to celebrate the Lo-So. Show me the way to the next Ya Dong stand. Not far. A quick walk round the corner I find a more traditional Ya Dong stand with large glass bottles. I often pass this Ya Dong stand lit up at night. Unfortunately no seats available so I get a bottle to go and drink Ya Dong at the swimming pool. Guessing I’m the first person to do this.

8 thoughts on “Ya Dong Street Liquor”

  1. Interesting how Thais shun certain drinks as something that only “low society” drinks. I guess the same happens in Western society when you have the choice between something like Grey Goose vodka vs. Smirnoff or something like Heineken vs. Coors Light. The only difference is we don’t usually have our own personal Lady Boys serving us in this part of the World. 😉

  2. Ya dong is alcohol ethanol ) I came from the country drinking is forbidden , be cuse of people use alter native ( 90 alcohol and ethanol ) same test as ya dong ,,,,

  3. certainly not the first foreigner to do that! looks very similar to a place i would occasionally drink after work. soi 39? i had 3 other favourite spots for yadong, but sadly they seem to have disappeared after dear leader has cleared the streets

  4. Ya dong is my favorite when ever I am in Bangkok.It is so authentic and you cannot buy it at ant other place. I like drinking it at a street corner while chatting with locals. I have been offered with many a free drink by hardworking Thai people, especially by Motorbike taxi people. It is like getting the taste of their social profile. I like associating with locals as I travel f FOOD, PLACES and PEOPLE. Long live Ya Dong

  5. You can buy it anywhere and yadong means herb, however, there are different types (like the ones in the jars shown) from China and that’s not the same as adding the Eleven Tigers herbal mix to whiskey white.

    Lao cao is very bad as it shreds the lining of the throat and there’s where B and D vitamins are absorbed. Vit B is essential for alcohol detoxification in the liver, so what happens is as with other very nasty industrial chemicals, you can starve to death whilst eating a balanced diet as that part of your digestive tract finds it almost impossible to absorb what it needs. I am told Marmite disolved in hot water can fix this as then it is much more easily absorbed.

    What I want to know is, as yadong red is very tasty and does not make you wince heavily and want to be sick, are the herbs actually making it safer as I don’t feel it burning or am I just numbing my throat so that I don’t feel it burning. I have a feeling it makes it inert but don’t know.

    Yadong from China is very good for the body in small amounts. Many people drink it every day in just one shot in the morning or three, spaced out throughout the day—even rich people.

    Yadong can get you drunk in a really good way, like excitable and whilst you will black out as you won’t stop shooting them back, aside the inevitable black eye and saw jaw, it’s fun to meet all of the new friends.

  6. Never knew the whole China connection and wish I didn’t know the Vitamin B bit. Is it similar to Baijiu or a completely different alcohol? I know where your coming from with the burning. Holding it in your mouth you can literally feel it so god knows what it does to your insides. I honestly just expected yaa dong to be watered down slightly. They say it 40% but there’s no real way of knowing since its brewed elsewhere.I posted a more up to date thing on this but it’s mostly on Lao Khao: https://live-less-ordinary.com/lao-khao-thai-rice-whisky-thailand/

  7. I live in the suburbs of Bangkok and there is a very busy local evening market nearby that boasts several Ya Dong stalls. I always slip away to my favourite one while my wife is stocking up on ingredients for her next Tom Yam. It is a fantastic experience. I have never actually gotten drunk from Ya Dong, I worry that the hangover would be unbearable, but one or two shots is fine and is a great way to meet some friendly local people.

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