Ruen Mai Thai Yai

Spend B. 50 and come home with change!

Another ‘gem’ this week, but can be a difficult one to find (when all else fails, phone!). The name is interesting too, as Ruen Mai Thai Yai, means the Thai Yai (hilltribe) wooden house (I think!). You get to the area via the Superhighway heading to Doi Suthep, but instead of turning right to Mae Rim at the intersection, turn left towards the Rajabhat Institute and Changpuek, then left again into Muang Dam Phra Kod and look for the “3 Minimart” at which you turn left into the correct soi (indicated as Soi 8 on the business card, but no soi number on the street sign!) and look for the restaurant’s own signage! Complicated? Yes, but it is worth it, just believe me.

The restaurant building is open on three sides, and with the overhead fans, was quite cool, even in the middle of the day when we went there. The glass-topped tables were clean, the tiled floors were clean, and it was very well patronized.

While we were waiting, some fired glazed glasses with cold water and ice were brought to our table. Again showing that this was a cut above the ‘everyday’ local Thai restaurant. On the table there are also woven ‘Vietnamese coolie hats’ that are covering the usual containers of fish sauce, chilli powder, vinegar and sugar.

The next shock is the menu. There really isn’t one, and certainly nothing in English, though this may have been done by now. On the table there are some small sheets of paper with the dishes (in Thai) and the diners tick off what they would like. For the non-Thai’s this is difficult, but again I say, yes it is worth it, just believe me. The choices are very restricted and cover a Pad Thai, a couple of noodle dishes, and a soup, a kao soy, a green curry, a sweet pork with garlic and a saffron rice with chicken. The staff are fortunately bilingual enough, so you’ll get by, and always remember that you can walk around the tables, see something you like and point! It always works.

There is also a selection of desserts (kanom Thai) which are something extraordinary, we found out. The owner’s wife is a prize winning desserts chef, and there are many different examples of her craft available, including such items as a blue kanom Thai, with the colouring done by using sweet pea flowers. Other desserts include the American ‘brownie’, Swiss rolls, sponges and a toffee cake. The owner’s wife has a sweet tooth.

We tried a selection of dishes at this restaurant, being joined by the owners to produce a circle of diners large enough to have the gamut of dishes to taste. I was particularly taken with the kao soy which is cooked using a Mae Hong Son variation, making it less ‘rich’ than the usual Chiang Mai version. I have to also admit that I am a kao soy ‘junkie’.

The Pad Thai, which came with shrimps was excellent, and the sweet tasting garlic pork was also very flavoursome, a dish that comes with many items, and you mix them together. Here was the next surprise. That garlic pork dish was the most expensive, coming out at B. 30. In fact all the items were between B. 15 and B. 30. Now it was easy to see why the place was well patronized. Good food and good value gets them in every time.

We finished by attacking the range of desserts, and Madame confirmed they were indeed very rich, some very different, but very nice!

Quite frankly we were amazed by the food at Ruen Mai Thai Yai, though on retrospect, looking at the number of locals who were eating there, we should have realized that this restaurant was something special. The cleanliness was the first aspect we noted. The food was very, very good. And the prices are so low it is ludicrous. Highly recommended!

Ruen Mai Thai Yai, Chottanachangpuek Soi 8, behind the Rajabhat Institute, telephone 053 213 092, 09 434 9922. Open 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. and closed Mondays only. Street parking only.