Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

9. Food

coffee-club

The one thing it seems everyone asks about is food. Sure, we all eat and most of us enjoy it.

Regrettably, critiquing and describing and commenting on food is a weak area for me, but let’s take a swing at it.

Real Thai food

A sampling of what Tukata assured us is real Thai food.

First of all, if you’ve eaten in Thai restaurants in the United States or similar countries, that’s probably not what we ate most of the time. But, since I can only (barely) remember one Thai restaurant experience, that statement comes not from me but from others in Thailand.

Scattershooting, let’s start with water.

We were told nobody, even the locals, drink the tap water. As I mentioned earlier, we used jugs of drinking water at home and I saw those all over.

Bottled water was also a hot item in grocery stores and many dining areas. Restaurants served drinking water at the table.

Did we like the food?

I liked everything. Well, everything but a wrap we got from a market, but what I didn’t like there was some sort of dressing she put in it.

Chicken foot snack

Leah chomps down on a chicken foot. Yes, she did.

Leah wasn’t that crazy about it, which is surprising because she eats almost anything. True, she ate everything, she tried it all, but didn’t like it that much.

The most common meat was chicken. That might have been that many of the street vendors from whom we purchased food were Muslim. Other places served a lot of pork.

In fact, one particularly fun spot was one where we didn’t even know the name. Our hosts referred to it as All Pork, No English. Tukata ordered for us and, whatever it was, we liked it.

Suffice it to say I often did not know exactly what I was eating.

In one instance, we were munching away on a snack on a stick – a popular cooking and serving method for the street vendors – and Tukata waited until we finished before asking if we liked it.

The meat was a little tough, but it was incredibly flavorful.

She was laughing as she explained it was chicken intestines.

That was the same time Leah tried a chicken’s foot. I let Tukata have mine because she loves them and I’d had one in Bali on my first Asian trip. Leah was quite the trooper, eating away even though she didn’t like it that much. Again, the flavoring is what makes it edible.

There was also a lot of noodles and rice.

old-town-pancake

A friendly young lady in Old Town on the island of Kho Lanta prepares a tasty dish they call pancakes.

In fact, a popular finger food is sticky rice. As the name implies, the rice sticks together, usually shaped somewhat like a short banana, wrapped in plastic for ease in carrying and snacking.

Like so many things, the cost of food was amazingly cheap, particularly from the street vendors who tended to cater more to locals than tourists.

We sampled a variety of restaurants, as well, including a German place conservatively named Biergarten & Deli. I think I had a schnitzel, which was good, but I was disappointed in the beer selection.

One special night was a visit to Friends Park, which is a little difficult to explain from what I know about it.

Apparently, especially during the daytime, it is a park and offers bouncy house types of entertainment. But at night (when finding the turn is almost impossible), the open restaurant is where things are happening.

My understanding is the owner and/or operator is Russian and is a friend or a friend-of-a-friend of our hosts. However things were strung together, Catherine and James had inside information about the evenings Friends Park would be serving Russian dumplings … and we were there.

To be honest, I wasn’t too excited about dumplings, but they were quite good. On top of that, the place was simply entertaining. It’s quite small and we were, therefore, not far from the pool table, where a loud and fun-filled match was going on.

Later, they fired up the karaoke and a Ukrainian guy we met later was belting out a song in his native tongue that entertained everyone, probably more because of the feeling he put into it than any talent.

To no surprise, the same food in tourist areas would cost more and restaurants there could be as expensive as back home.

One spot that seemed to cater to both was Coffee Cup Club. It was a short walk from the house and offered both local and western breakfasts. We visited twice so I could try each.

One costlier restaurant was Ruen Mai – old wooden house – was is on the outskirts of Krabi Town, not too far away.

What sets it apart from everywhere else we ate was a tremendous effort at establishing ambience. Like most dining establishments in southern Thailand, Ruen Mai was outside, but most of the tables were under a large roof covering a hardwood floor.

Other tables, including ours, were spread out under trees laced with twinkling lights, nestled between canals and ponds full of fish.

No doubt it's fish

My Single Sunfish at Ruen Mai.

Speaking of fish, I ordered the beauty on the right, “Single Sunfish.” I wasn’t sure exactly how to eat it, particularly under the dim lighting, but I dug in and found it quite tasty. Ruen Mai is said to have as authentic Thai food as can be found in a restaurant.

There were a couple of oddities we found at most of the sit-down restaurants.

Food was sometimes delivered in a piecemeal fashion. Your dishes would not necessarily come at the same time. It didn’t seem to be in courses, simply as each was prepared.

Often, though, you were served much more than what you ordered. Think of it like getting chips and salsa at a Tex-Mex restaurant … and a few more things.

Another point that should be made is the eateries put a lot of emphasis on presentation. Take for example the decorated coffees featured in the top photo, which came from the aforementioned Coffee Cup Club.

Another example is the salad shown in the last photo. That was served at the Carnivore Steak & Grill in Ao Nang. Having such a blatantly English name tells you it is targeting tourists and its prices reflected that, but it was a wonderful meal.

Carnivore saladI had the namesake Carnivore steak, which is wrapped with two slices of bacon and topped with onions grilled in garlic butter.

This section started off talking about water and I’ll finish with alcohol.

Nobody in our group was that much of a liquor drinker, but the local beers factored into just about every evening.

The most popular beers, it seems, are Singha, Chang and Leo. The latter is what our hosts drank and I followed their lead, but maybe that was more because it commonly came in 630 ml (21.3 fluid ounces) bottles.

My preference is a stout beer, but I had to do without until we ate at Carnivore, which features an impressive selection of imports – particularly Belgian. I enjoyed a couple of their Kasteelbier Darks.

Plus, for some reason, someone with the restaurant came around and offered free shots of something. I’m sure we were told what it was, but whether we understood I don’t remember.

That wasn’t the first time such an event happened. At Friends Park, mentioned earlier, the owner came around offering a shot of vodka to everyone.

And none of us wanted to be rude.

return-to-index

dinner-choices

Proceed to 10. Markets / shopping

 

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