Living in a village of “mai mee”: By Farrah Praisal

Each week when you pick up your copy of the Chiang Mai Mail you expect to find a write up on a local restaurant. Perhaps you use this page as a weekly dining guide or at least a place to chuckle at one person’s opinion of new places to dine when you have the time. I certainly hope that I impart some tiny bit of influence on some hungry sole somewhere with my weekly ramblings. If I do manage to do this then I must offer my utmost apologies to that sole this week, and I do hope that he or she doesn’t starve to death as a result of my failure to provide a restaurant for you to visit this time around.
Was I ill? Was I off on holiday at some exotic beachfront location? Was I asked to do a guest review for the New York Times? Alas, this page is not in this state because of anything like that. In fact, I went to three different venues this past week alone, each with the intention of writing an article about how great the food was, how warm the atmosphere, how skilled the service staff and how amicable the proprietor. But I ended up writing this article instead my friends.
You see, we are not a vicious publication. We have no desire to hurt, destroy, punish or judge harshly. If it doesn’t qualify…I don’t write it. As a result of this I was not able to find a new eatery this week that met my simple requirements for a friendly, enjoyable review. I have simple criteria when I write. If deadlines allow I prefer to visit a place more than once before I hit a single key on the computer….everybody has a bad day now and then. I judge pretty evenly on food, service and atmosphere with a point here and there for things like parking, air conditioning and dessert offerings (my Achilles heal). I also try to look at a place for what it is and accept it as such. If I find a great pizza place I don’t expect chic and stylish atmosphere. If I stumble upon a fast food shop that tickles my taste buds I don’t expect four star service. What I do expect is an attempt at providing not only decent and timely service at a fair price but also please don’t be out of half the menu items at 7 p.m.
I can’t begin to count the number of times I have cheerfully placed my order only to be told MAI MEE! One of the restaurants that shall remain nameless this week was quick to tell me that the appetizer we chose was “mai mee” and then five minutes later came back to announce that the entrée we ordered was also “mai mee”. I’m beginning to think restaurants in Chiang Mai should post a “Mai Mee Board” near the door so customers can see before they enter what the place is out of and avoid the disappointment of getting their hopes up and then being told “mai mee”.
Many times my co-diners will tell me to accept the constant “mai mee”, the bad service, the lack of atmosphere or music. I am to ignore the uneven timing, the fact that my entrée came before my appetizer or the sound system is set at a deafening level ten. Don’t be bothered by the fact that while my friend is finished I have yet to receive my food. Let go of the annoyance that what I got was not what I ordered or that the steak that was requested medium well moos when I stick my fork in it.
Sorry, can’t do it.
The waitress or waiter is new is unacceptable. Train them before you cut them loose in the dining room people! Better yet I like the “Oh, but this is Thailand so you shouldn’t expect more”. If standards are not expected then none will ever be met. Perhaps as short a time as seven or eight years ago I could have gone with the excuse that we are a village and my expectations are too high but sadly the village is all but gone and we are in fact a rapidly growing city. If the hotels and fine dining venues can do it and offer 98% of the items on the menu on a nightly basis then so can the rest of you. If a hotel can train a staff of 60 then a small restaurant must surely be able to train a staff of six. It is ultimately the chef’s responsibility to know what quantities to order, to maintain food costs, to inform the service staff of just what they are serving. These things seem sorely lacking and I truly hope the winds of change will start a blowin. Otherwise I will have lots of time for that exotic beachfront vacation…..I wonder if the New York Times is hiring?


Wiener Schnitzel

A dish that you will find in about every restaurant that has any pretensions to having ‘European’ cuisine. It is a traditional dish from Vienna (Wien), and although the usual recipe calls for veal, this can be substituted for meat more readily available, such as pork or chicken (or even turkey). The traditional recipe also called for the meat to be fried in lard, but today a polyunsaturated cooking oil would be much superior.

Cooking Method
Pound the meat thin and flatten out carefully. Lightly salt.
Prepare three plates: Put flour on one, whisk the two eggs and place on the second and cover the third with the breadcrumbs.
Now dip the meat in flour first, then into the egg (covering both sides) and then into the breadcrumbs.
In a frying pan, place the oil, with enough to float the schnitzels. Fry quickly, turning both sides. Do not overcook or they will become tough and dry.
Serve with your choice of potatoes, though a sliced pan-fried potato with onion and bacon goes very well with this dish.

Ingredients     Serves       4
Veal/pork/chicken 4 x 120 gm
sliced thin
For the breading:        
Eggs                     2
Breadcrumbs (commercially available)
Salt to taste
Oil for frying