Nong Khai Noodle 2

Chiang Mai is a very surprising district which boasts its own cuisine, but yet has room for other disciplines. Nong Khai Noodle 2 is one of the surprising “finds” in town, but be warned - others have found it too. Every time we have gone there it has been busier than the Stand-By counter at Chiang Mai Airport. The other surprising feature is that this is a Vietnamese restaurant. But there is another even greater surprise - but you will have to read further to find it!

The restaurant is a double shophouse around 100 metres past the Amari Rincome Hotel and on the same side as the hotel. Be careful, or you can miss it! On the street frontage side there is a hot noodle kitchen with two cooks working harder than a pair of one armed paper-hangers. At the back of the shophouse is a cold (salad) kitchen with another 3 busy workers, while serving duties are done by another two staff, who at times are literally running around with plates of food.

The first impression is just how clean it is. It may be a shophouse style eatery, but it is not grubby. The tiled floor is kept mopped, the cook tops are continually being wiped, the table tops are clean, as are the plastic stools. Even the cutlery, while neither sterling silver nor EPNS, is clean and polished.

On the tables are the usual collection of Thai spices, some tissue dispensers, toothpicks and drinking water - and the menu. How I wish some other “ethnic” restaurants would realise that while it may be very authentic to use the ethnic terminology, not everyone will understand. Working on the fact that a picture is worth 10,000 words, Nong Khai Noodle 2 gives you a totally photographic menu, and the Dining Out Team of four could immediately find items to order, even by the point and grunt method.

The menu items are not expensive. They range between 25 baht for some of the “PHO” (Vietnamese soups) to the princely sum of 50 baht for the naem nuang which consists of diced sausage and vegetables with lettuce, basil and rice paper wrappers, or the ban hoy which is sliced BBQ pork with noodles and diced vegetables again. At the back of the menu are the drinks - 10 baht for soft drinks and a whopping 30 baht for Singha beer, or 60 baht if you want the large bottle!

We went for an assortment of food items (at the price you can’t go wrong) and stayed with soft drinks being mid day and further work was in order! One dish that really took my fancy was the kuan han, which was a beautifully prepared and presented pork dish wrapped in garden salad and a wonderful sauce to go with it, while the Vietnamese prawn spring rolls (por peai sod) came a close second.

For Madame, it was the naem nuang with the assortment of lettuce and herbs that went with the rice wrappers (of which there appeared to be plenty - but you can always ‘fork’ the items too).

Mention should be made of the different accompaniments to the different dishes. There were none too spicy and the crunchy peanut on the top added to the taste. I loved them all! Even the strange looking ‘grey’ one! Perfectly suited to each dish.

Ah yes, I promised you another surprise. That came in the form of the delightful owner (and exceptionally hard worker) Ms. Midori Ichige, a Japanese chef who studied in Vietnam! Chiang Mai is truly multicultural.

The Dining Out Team loved the food at Nong Khai Noodle 2 (in fact it was the third visit for Miss Terry and Madame) and when you look at the quality and the price, it is difficult to beat. The Vietnamese cuisine is sufficiently different to make it an interesting change from Thai or Northern food. Do try it, but remember that this is more of a lunchtime eatery than anything else, closing at 6.30 pm. Very highly recommended.

Nong Khai Noodle 2, 7 Nimmanhaeminda Road, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 895 027 and closed on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month.