One of the mysteries of the dining scene in Chiang Mai is why
this city, which has a significant population of ethnic Chinese residents
(originating both from Southwest China and from the Teo Chew region of Canton
province), as well as numerous Chinese visitors from elsewhere in Thailand and
abroad, has so few restaurants serving home-style Chinese food. To some extent,
one can attribute this phenomenon to the tendency of local Chinese people not to
go “out” to eat food they can prepare at home, but there’s also the fact that
Thai and Chinese cooking styles have fused in Thailand to the point where many
“Thai” noodle shops and seafood outlets are essentially Chinese restaurants
adapted to Thai tastes and ingredients, so they blend into the overall food
landscape without being recognized as of Chinese origin.
Jiang, a recently-opened a “Hong Kong-style noodle and rice restaurant” attempts
to fill the gap between the existing modified Thai-Chinese eating houses and the
fancier and more formal Chinese dining venues that exist in the city’s major
Ironically, it is located in the Chang Klan Plaza shopping strip, adjacent to
the Shangri-la Hotel, which is still under construction. Since the Shangri-la
will surely have an upscale Chinese restaurant of its own, the owners of Mei
Jiang are clearly confident that their restaurant is filling a unique niche, and
for former residents of Hong Kong and Singapore, like me, it surely is.
This is because at Mei Jiang, one can order Hong Kong delights such as shrimps
in X.O. sauce and scallops in black bean sauce, but at prices totally
unobtainable in Hong Kong. In addition, there are a variety of Mainland and
Southeast Asian Chinese favorites, such as “four seasons string beans with
pork”, “fried noodles with pork Shanghai style” and “fish maw soup with
crabmeat”, all at very reasonable prices (from 75 to 150 baht).
And the best part is not the price, but the taste, which is authentic and rich.
Dishes like “deep fried shrimps with mayonnaise and sesame seeds” are delicious
for their texture and strong flavors, as are simple, but palate-pleasing entrees
like “sliced chicken Yunnan style”, which is a spicy version of boneless chicken
in black bean sauce with pearl onions. The deep fried pork smothered in a
succulent sweet and lightly spicy sauce was also a winner at our table as was
the unusual but savory combination of fried rice with bits of pork and black
olives served with tiny pieces of lime, red chili and cashew nuts.
The only drawback to enjoying a tasty, inexpensive Chinese meal at Mei Jiang is
the fact that its main dining area is small and often crowded.
There is, however, an additional private dining area which can be booked in
advance. Another limitation is the 9 p.m. closing time, which can be
inconvenient for some. But, all-in-all, Mei Jiang (which means Mekong River in
Chinese) is a lucky addition to Chiang Mai’s dining options.
Mei Jiang is located at 191/17-18 Chang Klan Plaza (turn left at the Black
Canyon outlet on Chang Klan Road, about a kilometer south of the Night Bazaar
and proceed about 50 meters). Mei Jiang will be on the left hand side. Hours are
11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for lunch, and 5:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. for dinner. The
telephone number is (053) 821112.
Tuna is plentiful and one of the cheapest fish dishes you can make. This
week’s recipe is just so simple and you use one tin of tuna (about 35 baht),
even sandwich tuna in brine is fine. All other ingredients are freely available
and you probably have them already in your own kitchen. It is a nice way to
“dress-up” the humble tuna and makes a filling and savory dish. Dijon mustard in
the recipe, but you can substitute a smaller quantity of Colmans if you wish.
In a pan, over a medium heat, melt the butter or
margarine, and then blend in the flour slowly, adding the salt and pepper. Mix
until smooth. Gradually stir in the milk and heat while stirring constantly.
Continue to heat until the mixture boils and thickens, but do not over-boil. Now
add the mustard and to this white sauce, add the drained tuna fish and stir
until well mixed and thoroughly heated. You can add more mustard at this point
if you wish. Serve over mashed potatoes, rice, or even toast along with
vegetables if desired.