Krua Khun Paen

A lunch buffet with 34 choices for 30 baht!

Yes, you read it correctly. In Chiang Mai you can have a lunchtime buffet for 30 baht, and if you want to go in the evenings, and are prepared to spend 59 baht you can have the buffet plus a seafood BBQ as well. This means you can eat there all day for under 100 baht! What a bargain!

However, life was not meant to be easy, and this place takes a little finding. Intavaroroch Road is opposite the Suan Dok Gate in the city, and whilst the restaurant is street number 80, I could find no street numbers, a not unknown factor of life in Thailand! It is on the left side going down Intavaroroch Road, and look for the sign that has a symbol like the English letter “A”.

Coming in out of the bright sun, it takes the eyes a little time to adjust, and you will find you are standing in the middle of the hustle and bustle of business Chiang Mai. Along one side and to the back of the building there are tables and chairs, some in alcoves, while on the other side and at the front there are food stations, with every kind of Thai food imaginable. There is also a moving mass of lunchtime diners selecting items and returning to their places.

At the back you can turn left and move into an outside courtyard, again with utilitarian tables and chairs, but covered from the sun. This area is also filled with the Chiang Mai business people. Be prepared to wait for a seat and then grab it as soon as the previous diner has vacated!

Now to the 34 items on offer for lunch. Take your time to walk around and see what is there. If you have a native Thai speaker with you, it will make things a little easier (in other words, you will actually know what you are eating) as there are no English language signs. There were four soups, including tom jued pakarong, gane jued, tom kalo and tom yum. Amongst other dishes there were such items as hor mok in banana leaf ‘cup-cakes’ (the coconut cream based spicy dish), stir fried vegetables (pad pak ruem), a fried bamboo with chicken and pad Thai noodles.

Above the dishes, which are presented generally on large stainless steel platters, there are wonderful mechanical ‘fly deterrents’ like very small overhead fans to keep the winged warriors away.

We tried many of the dishes between us all, and the consensus was that we were eating good quality Thai food, which if presented on individual plates in an a la carte restaurant would cost more than 30 baht for each one. For those who are unsure of what to choose, being a buffet means you can try a small amount and pop back later for more if it is to your taste.

We also tried some special kao chae northern food (not in the 30 baht buffet), an iced rice with jasmine flowers eaten with two local items - a caramelised “hairy” one and some chewy noodle balls. Very different, and very Lanna. This was presented to us by the restaurant and I’m sorry I could not ascertain the usual price!

The Dining Out Team left Krua Khun Paen totally astounded by the value for money that this restaurant is offering. It will be difficult to find a greater variety cheaper than this. Mind you, this is a restaurant you have to try hard to find, as there was no English language signs that I could see. I suggest you take the Chiangmai Mail with you and keep looking for the street front shown in the photograph. Krua Khun Paen also runs cooking classes, so you can enquire about these if you wish to at the same time. This is not ‘haute cuisine’ but good simple Thai food at a very, very affordable price. Worth a visit, even if just for the fun of having experienced some local culture. Recommended.

Krua Khun Paen, 80 Intavaroroch Road (opposite Suan Dok Gate, near Wat Prasingh), A. Muang, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 216 382.