: By Farrah Praisal
Surprising finds in a Chiang Mai strip mall
As you are all aware from my prior
ramblings, I crave different cuisines on a daily basis. No
matter how good something is I get sick of eating it very
fast if I do it too often. This was never better
demonstrated than when I managed a string of four star
venues in San Francisco. Friends used to endlessly comment
how wonderful it was that I could eat free in some of the
cities best restaurants on a nightly basis. I got news for
you….it ain’t necessarily so! I have always been a big sushi
lover but after a year of managing the finest sushi bar in
Northern California I never wanted to see another piece of
raw fish again. It took a good year before I could enjoy my
maki and nigiri again. This being the case I was thrilled to
find two new offerings in the Mee Chok Plaza.
Food for me doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to be
good. I am a foodie as opposed to a food snob. I can enjoy a
street corner hotdog one night and chateaubriand the next
and be happy. Hence, I have for the past six years been on
my personal quest for the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail in this
case would be a good pizza.
A few months ago I was told of a pizzeria that seemed to fit
the bill but sadly it was located somewhere in San Kampaeng
smack dab in the middle of nowhere. The pizzeria was called
Bonjorno and they surprisingly agreed to deliver to my home
twice. Both times I enjoyed the pie but the wait time for
delivery was understandably long. This being the case I was
thrilled to find they had relocated to Mee Chok Plaza on the
new Maejo road next to Rimping supermarket.
Pizzeria Bonjorno offers an impressive 20 varieties from the
simple margarita (99 baht) to the hearty bonjorno topped
with tuna, crab, broccoli, spinach, onions and garlic at a
hefty 210 baht. My personal favorite is funghi at 159 baht
topped with delicious fresh mushrooms. The crusts are
excellent — slightly chewy, yet tender and yeasty, and for
the most part crisp and snappy.
Small, personal pies are also available and are nice for
mixing and matching. Pizzeria Bonjorno also offers a variety
of entrees like pasta with meat sauce (150 baht) and lasagna
(150 baht) as well as a number of nice salads ranging from
49 to 99 baht each. They do deliver and the number is
081-0589927. Their web site: http://bonjorno2
Just two doors down from the pizzeria is another welcome
addition to the neighborhood with Pho Saigon. This small
Vietnamese owned restaurant serves traditional favorites
like shrimp on a sugar cane stick at 50 baht and stewed beef
over yellow noodles at just 35 baht. The Vietnamese crepes
(45 baht) are a masterful blend of complementary textures.
The tender pancakes, made with coconut milk and rice flour,
are sautéed to form a crunchy edge, encasing velvety poached
shrimp, vegetables and bits of pork.
I personally enjoy fresh spring rolls as opposed to fried.
The traditional roll (40 baht) makes a light starter, as
steamed rice sheets encase poached shrimp, lettuce, julienne
cucumbers and basil. Crisp and full of herb flavor, the
spring rolls are cut and arranged on their end so the
greenery pokes out, like sushi. A peanut dipping sauce adds
For those of you who enjoy the fried variety they are also
on offer at 30 baht and they look lovely with each gossamer
wrapper promising a wonderful crunch in each bite. Dishes
here come alive with the flavors of our Southeast Asian
neighbor, using lots of fresh cilantro, garlic and crispy
bits of fried shallot. Also available are a wide selection
of fresh fruit shakes, beer and soft drinks.
The kitchen has taken pains to focus the food, but someone
needs to turn attention to the service. While English was
not a problem at the pizzeria it is lacking at the
Vietnamese restaurant. The restaurant also delivers.
With both these venues one needs to concentrate on eating
rather than atmosphere. Both are simple, brightly lit shops
that lack any sort of design style but the food is good and
if you are looking for a quick bite or a light lunch or
dinner either place fits the bill.
Both are located just behind the coffee bus opposite Rimping
supermarket. Parking is plentiful but beware on Monday and
Tuesday when the plaza has a night market that makes it
nearly impossible to get in, much less find parking. Bon
Grilled marinated sea bass
Sea bass in the local markets is plentiful and great quality. You can even go
to the boats yourself and choose your own, just caught that morning. This recipe
is a fast way to prepare and cook thick fish fillets. You can serve this with
noodles or steamed rice.
Preheat oven; set to convection at 400°F.
Rub fish fillets with sesame seed oil and hot chilli oil. Mix together garlic,
lemon rind, salt and white pepper and evenly divide among the filets. Allow to
marinate for 30 minutes, best done in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Heat a skillet on the cook top over high heat, and heat the oil. When the
skillet is hot, place fish in the skillet. Without turning or moving, cook until
lightly brown or until grill marks are apparent, about 3 minutes. Remove fillets
and continue cooking in the preheated convection oven set to 400ºF for about 6
to 8 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes with a fork. Total cooking time
for 3 cm fillets is around 10 minutes.
Ingredients Serves 4
Sea bass fillets 500 gm (about 4 pieces)
Sesame seed oil
Hot chilli oil
Garlic finely minced
Grated lemon rind
Ground black pepper to taste