Chicken is one of Thailand’s most eaten meats. It’s right up there with pork and prawn. You can often ask for it as an accompaniment to nearly any dish you order. Fried basil and chilies, with chicken. Green curry, with chicken. Pad Thai, with chicken. Though you could also order those same dishes with pork, prawn or a number of other substitutes. Seldom do you find a dish which is prepared in its own unique fashion. It would take something really special to set it apart. That is where Bangkok’s Ka-Tron Restaurant (though commonly called the “Flying Chicken” in English) has come up with the solution.
Far removed from the city centre, you either have to live in the region of Bang Na, or be in the know with someone who does to know about this one of a kind spectacle (or just from having a free subscription to Where Sidewalks End!!). Mind you, having been in business since it was established back in 1986, it must be doing something right!
Upon approaching the Flying Chicken, you will see a wall of 3 metre (9ft) tall roosters lined against it. It looks like some kind of surreal imperial guards, protecting their fortress. Greeted at the door, you walk into the hen house, which is actually a large, open air patio, nicely decorated with fairy lights and shrubbery. All along the walls are private karaoke rooms (which turned out to cost roughly 500 Thai Baht – $17 USD – for the evening, to rent. Karaoke birthday parties, anyone?). Near the back and off to one side is a stage, where the best of the best Karaoke singers can soothe your soul with their smooth stylings, while you eat… not. It was actually pretty terrible. Quite possibly some of the worst karaoke I’ve heard, in fact, but we didn’t come for the music. No, No. What we came for lay right in the centre of the patio. There was another stage. A long and skinny one with ramps, chairs, strange contraptions, and a display case with decorated helmets and busts of roosters proudly on exhibit.
As mentioned, the Flying Chicken resides out of the city centre. It seemed to be a fairly quiet night when we went (granted it was a Wednesday), and we were the only foreigners in sight. Depending on where in the city you are coming from, you would probably be best off getting on the BTS Sky Train and riding out to the Bang Na station. It is still a bit of a hike from here, roughly a kilometre more, so a taxi or motorcycle taxi may be ideal in this situation. We had decided to walk, though with highway overpasses and construction happening, is was a than less than ideal method, and we decided to cab it home after.
Ka-tron (aka The Flying Chicken)‘s addressis:
99/1 Moo 2 Bang Na, Trad Rd Km 1, Bang Na, Bangkok 10260
Upon opening the menu, there is fairly standard Thai fare found throughout. Leafing through to the back, the drink selection is nearly as large as the food. It appears that the food is not the primary focus of the flying chicken. Not all the dishes at least. The first, and perhaps the most famous dish, is the first item. The main event. The flying chicken – priced around the 200 Thai Baht mark ($6.50 USD). We had to order one!
The flying chicken is a whole roasted chicken. No real frills in it’s preparation, or seasoning. It’s actually the way it’s presented to you which is the reason for visiting the Flying Chicken restaurant. Yes, enough beating around the bush – if you can’t tell by the name, this flightless bird actually takes to the skies before arriving at your table. It’s already cooked by the time you first see it, in fact.
A waiter brings it to the centre stage and rings a large bell next to a huge yellow contraption. The music stops, and all attention is drawn to the stage. From out of nowhere, another waiter flies through the audience and up onto the stage riding a unicycle, and wearing a helmet with spikes protruding from the top, his hands and his mouth. You quickly look back at the first waiter who is now holding your cooked bird, which has been lit on fire! They place it on top of the yellow contraption, and start ringing the bell again. It becomes clear quite quickly, that this yellow contraption is some kind of catapult.
As the unicycling waiter steadies himself, the cord is cut, and the flaming chicken launches into the air. WIth uncanny precision, the waiter catches the bird on the spike on top of his helmet. A perfect bulls-eye. Depending on how many were ordered, this may be repeated up to four times, using his remaining spikes in his hands and in his mouth. He stays mounted on the unicycle until all the flaming, flying chickens have been launched!
Moments later, the music starts up again, and the chicken is brought over to your table – still standing upright on the spike on a plate, and surrounded with some garnishes. A tiny flag has been placed out the top of the chicken, and the flame, of course, has been extinguished. This whole process gets repeated throughout the night as the flying chicken orders continue to pour in. During slow spells, they keep their skills up to par, and the entertainment levels high by catapulting oranges, limes and even olives which the unicycling waiters flawlessly catch on their helmet spikes one after another!
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Please Note: Although Where Sidewalks End typically will only make posts about things which are exceptional and must see attractions, there is occasionally some grey areas. This happens to be in one of those. The experience was phenomenal! It was hilarious, and exactly what we wanted! The setting was very nice, and made for a fairly romantic (and comedic) environment. The food, specifically the flying chicken itself, was quite disappointing. I’m not sure what type of alcohol they used to light the precooked bird on fire, but it certainly ruined the taste of the food itself. It could have been lighter fluid for all we could tell. The music as well was quite bad, even by Thai karaoke standards. We couldn’t believe some of the singers actually had the guts to sing like that in public!
All of this being said – you can certainly go without having to order the flying chicken. Someone else will inevitably order one at some point in the evening. You’ll be able to watch other people’s gasoline doused birds soar to their plates, while you enjoy some dishes which may have never spent any time in the air, or on fire. Alternatively, you could just go straight for the Thai whiskey, sit back and enjoy the show. It was certainly the highlight of the evening (and Marianne’s birthday of course) – and I wouldn’t hesitate to bring some friends there again.
This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!
Follow this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.
What’s the craziest way a meal’s been served to you? Were there any flames or unicycles (or both)?? Was the food any good or was it more about the show, than the meal? Share your stories in the comment section below!
From a young age, Ian was always a wanderer. He's since travelled to all 7 continents, and has spent the majority of his life pursuing this passion. Follow him in his off-the-beaten-path adventures and discoveries!