To Nobody

Mrs. Chinaarkatakul’s Amazing Noodle Shop

To Nobody

But nobody should miss it

The Dining Out team had visited Joerg and his wife Sunisa almost a year ago, at the old To Nobody Restaurant. With their having shifted alongside the superhighway, it was time to review the new venue.

The building is open-sided, with a rotunda at one side in the front, followed by a covered section with “clouds” painted on the ceiling to continue the ‘airy’ feel, and there is an enclosed air-conditioned room as well. We arrived for lunch and chose the covered section. The tables and chairs are light coloured natural wood, with good quality tablecloths. The dishes are Lampang porcelain and good quality too. It is a restaurant, not a brauhaus!

With background Bavarian music we studied the menu. Yes, it comes in German (and English). And be prepared to spend a little while to wade through it all - there are 73 items, plus specials and beverages.

It begins with soups, around B. 100-120, including a Hungarian beef, and then into cold appetizers (B. 140-190) with the smoked duck breast on cognac-marinated tangerines, served with herb-baguettes looking very inviting. Hot appetizers follow (B. 90-180) with baked goat cheese with olives, chillies and garlic-baguette catching my eye.

Baguettes and sandwiches are next, around B. 150, then salads (B. 100-180) and egg dishes (B. 100-150) and then into fish. There are 11 choices between B. 180 for the herrings through to B. 325 for Royal Project trout with salmon filling.

These are followed by pork, poultry, beef and lamb dishes, most in the mid 200 baht region. There are dedicated vegetarian items, kids choices and desserts! Whew!

Our first dish was a German Weisswurst with sweet mustard, a Bavarian specialty, which came with its own pretzel and grated radish. The white sausage is made from veal and pork, and you peel them by slitting them lengthways and then popping the meat out. The mustard that came with this was sensational, and I could have stopped right there. Forget the rest, Joerg, I was perfectly happy already!

However, the second dish was on its way, a sample from the kids’ menu - a potato pancake with applesauce. Never mind the kids, this was great adult food too.

The next dish was Joerg’s beef olive, where he wraps the meat around gherkins, onions, bacon and mustard and then cooks it. The meat was very tender with an almost ‘smoky’ flavour, and it was served along with dumplings and red cabbage. This was one dish I returned to more than once, during lunch. Looking at my tasting notes later, I had only written one word: “Exceptional”.

However Joerg had not finished with us yet. There was the Rhoener style lamb cutlet to come. This was lightly done after marinating with garlic and rosemary and came with a pear with blueberry jam. The accompaniment was a sauce made from sour cream with onions and garlic, and this was another superb and subtle flavoured dish.

Despite all my pleas, dessert came next - a pineapple meringue with rice, to which I could do no justice. These Germans have big appetites if they can pack away one of Joerg’s meringues as well!

We finished with a coffee, which came in something that looked more like a soup bowl. Again a huge serving! We sat there, burped and marvelled at the meal we had just experienced.

Quite frankly, if all German food was like that which we received at To Nobody, I believe that German food would have been the world cuisine by now. Forget red cabbage, sloppy sauerkraut, hard boiled potatoes and sausage - that is not how Joerg presents his food. Certainly he can make some great sausage dishes, but he makes great anything dishes, with new tastes that seem far removed from the stereotypical German fare. He has elevated his country’s food to new heights. The man is a genius and Chiang Mai is lucky to have him. Very highly recommended. Just go and try!

To Nobody, 44 Soi Tewan, 500 meters from the Superhighway and before Huay Kaew Road, telephone 053 214 483, 01 993 8002, open every day, lunch 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., dinner 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.

Mrs. Chinaarkatakul’s Amazing Noodle Shop

Steve Rhodes

The moment you partake of the first spoon full from the brimming bowl of chicken noodle soup presented to you by Mrs. Rattana Chinaarkatakul, you realize that here, indeed, is a noodle soup with a difference.

The amazing Mrs. Rattana Chinaarkatakul makes her now famous chicken noodle soup.

Obviously many others agree as the shop, which is just opposite Chiang Mai’s five star Mae Ping Hotel, does a roaring trade from seven in the morning until the soup runs out, usually around eight o’clock at night.

So tasty is the soup that many of the Mae Ping’s guests have been known to sneak across the street for breakfast, despite the lavish repast being served up at the hotel.

So what’s the secret behind this delectable soup? A hint can be gleaned from the name of the dish: Kai Tun Coke. The last word is the give away, Coke, or more specifically, Coca-Cola.

One day a reporter from the “Bangkok Post” stopped off at Rattana’s shop and ordered a bowl of noodles. Having eaten noodles all over Thailand, he was immediately struck by the difference and proceeded to interrogate Rattana in an attempt to discover the mystery ingredient lurking amongst the chilies, fish sauce, and other herbs and spices in the bowl. Normally cooks in Thailand are most reluctant to give out sensitive information such as this but, to his amazement, she was more than happy to share the secret with him, even giving him the recipe which appeared in all its glory in the next day’s edition.

A few days later people began arriving in droves. Backpackers of all nationalities turned up clutching copies of the paper and clamoring for “chicken coke”. They also showed their appreciation for the fine fare by jumping up at the end of the meal and writing accolades on the restaurant ceiling.

Glowing testimonials include those from the mayor of Chiangmai to Taiwanese rock singer Theresa Peng who was a regular patron during her many gigs in Chiang Mai. The big spending, big eating rock star would stay at the Mae Ping but dine at Rattana’s, where she’d frequently put away up to three bowls at a sitting.

One night in late 1995 Theresa suffered a fatal asthma attack in her hotel room. Her death stunned her fans and the entire music world and triggered off a documentary on her life by a Japanese television network. They traveled to Chiang Mai to interview people who’d had contact with her but became so intrigued by Mrs Rattana’s noodles that they shot a feature story on her as well.

During the filming an interesting story emerged. Rattana told the camera team that she and her husband Teerayut had once run a beef and noodle shop in Bangkok. The business was doing very badly and was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. In desperation, the couple turned to a local deity, the Chinese Goddess Kwan Im, for advice.

They couldn’t have sought help from a better source. Kwan Im forbids her followers to eat beef so she told the pair to quit the beef noodle business post haste, move to Chiang Mai, and set up a chicken noodle shop. It was here that Rattana received the inspiration to add Coca Cola to the brew. Business boomed beyond their wildest dreams, and the rest is local history.

Rattana puts their good fortune down to following the teachings of Kwan Im and the Lord Buddha who preached that the more you give, the more you get back. When the couple arrived in Chiang Mai, their business was unique and they could have guarded their secret jealously. Instead they shared it generously with all who asked for it and yet their little noodle shop continues to thrive despite the host of imitators who have latched onto the recipe and set up rival businesses. In the process Rattana has become a television celebrity. When the documentary aired on Japanese television, it triggered off yet another wave of noodle buffs beating a pathway to the restaurant door, which can be found at:

97 Kampangdin Road

T.Changklan, A. Muang,

Chiangmai 50100. (Just across the road from the Mae Ping Hotel)

Here’s the recipe:

Chop up a chicken (a Chinese bantam or a boiling hen is the best bet). Slowly stew it overnight in a mixture of water, fish sauce and Coca Cola. No sugar, salt or the dreaded monosodium glutamate are added as the Cola provides all the essential flavors. Rattana throws in a few star anise but this is an optional extra, depending on one’s personal preferences.

In the morning add cooked noodles of your own choice, bean sprouts, and a dash of freshly made dried chili powder (this is made by dry roasting Thai chilies in a frying pan and then crushing them in a mortar and pestle), and you’ve got a breakfast fit for a king.