Ming Muang

A spotless oasis on a busy thoroughfare

Chiang Mai seems to have more restaurants than people some days. Take a look at the number of eateries, large and small, that line both sides of Nimmanhemin Road for example. This week we stopped in to Ming Muang for lunch, and I have to say we were very pleasantly surprised, by the cleanliness, the quality and the price.

You do have to be alert when driving up Nimmanhemin, as it is easy to miss it, nestling as it does behind a profusion of ornamental trees on the corner of a small soi.

The restaurant seems to have three sections. There are a few tables under large umbrellas in the front, then there is a covered second section with rustic bench seating and tables and finally at the back there is a brightly painted section with individual tables with chequered tablecloths and a small cocktail bar. Along the wall of the second section runs a long kitchen behind glass, so you can watch the preparation of your food. It is very clean, as is the restaurant itself, and the staff look efficient in their bright yellow shirts. The entire area is open to Nimmanhemin and the side soi, but the ornamental trees and bushes screen the diners from the passing traffic.

The menu is in Thai, with good English explanations, rather than translations. This is a factor many of the smaller places do not understand. It is far better to call a dish “shrimp stir-fried with red-herb curry” rather than the straight translation “goong choo chee”, which means very little to those not au fait with Thai cuisine. Prices are also clearly indicated, even with seafood, so there is no “market price” and an unpleasant surprise later. Many of the items are also available in small-medium-large servings.

It begins with some appetizers between B. 50-70 which include spring rolls, deep-fried chicken and crispy shrimp and cashew nuts mixed with Thai herbs. The next three pages are simply called ‘Recommended’ and cover a wide range of salads and soups (B. 70-80) and then many whole fish seafood items (B. 120-200 - small or large). Stir-fries and deep-fries next (B. 40-60 for single serves) followed by spicy soups and salads and special dishes (B. 30-40). Desserts and beverages round out a menu of inexpensive offerings.

We tried a wide selection of dishes which were very well presented, complete with garnish of a flower or two. They included a very good sweet and sour chicken and an excellent tom kha talay (spicy coconut milk soup with seafood). The choo chee prawns did come Thai style with the shells on, but then again, we were dining in a Thai restaurant in Thailand!

Other items were an amazing large plate of well prepared pad Thai (stir-fried Thai noodles) which at B. 40 represented exceptional value, and a deep-fried fish with Thai herb sauce made with onion, garlic, lemongrass and yellow ginger. This complemented well with the Lanna spicy herb salad which comes with a side dish of green bai chapoo leaves.

Being lunchtime I eschewed the suggested beers or cocktails, but went for an item called Shirley Temple, one of the non-alcoholic ones instead. Very cleansing!

Madame and I were very pleasantly surprised by this restaurant. It does not claim to be an up-market restaurant, but is certainly a step above the standard of the more usual local venues. The taste is Thai, as is the spiciness, as the majority of diners are local people, but the very friendly owner did say that less chilli can be arranged if you let the waitress know at the time of ordering.

I liked the eclectic mix of Northern food, Thai food and Chinese fare that was available, plus a few Japanese sauces and many Thai herb sauces. Again a cut above the standard Thai offerings.

If you are looking for some Asian food, in clean surroundings and at very reasonable prices, try Ming Muang.

Ming Muang, 45/4 Nimmanhemin Road (500 meters up on the left hand side from the Amari Rincome intersection), Chiang Mai, telephone 053 894 444, open every day 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Off street parking.