South of the border in Northern Thailand : By Farrah Praisal

One if the many things I like about Chiang Mai is that even after living here for six years I can find whole new areas hidden away that I never knew existed. Such is “Hippie Hollow”, a stretch of soi tucked away behind Ratchawitthi Road near the UN Irish Pub.”Hippie Hollow” consists of nice, spacious guest houses like the Eagle and a number of reggae and rock

bars but more pertinent for this article it is also home to a place called the Salsa Kitchen.
The Salsa Kitchen has been operating for five and half years under the guidance of its husband and wife proprietors John and Ead. Strangely enough, John tells me that they started their local restaurant career with a bagel shop in the Thapae Gate area of town and naturally segued into a Mexican eatery. Well, strange or not…..it worked!
The setting is simple. It’s a hut style restaurant raised on stilts that gives an island feel to the whole experience especially with the reggae music wafting in from the neighboring venues. Reggae you say? But Farrah, surely you know that reggae is not Mexican! AHA…of course I do silly but among the many traditional Mexican dishes, you will find not only a hint of Cuban cuisine as in the Ropa Vieja, a zesty plate of Cuban cumin spiced shredded beef and pepper stew served over white rice at just 139 baht but also a delicious offering of Jamaican Jerk pork (129 baht) or chicken (119) that makes the music feel just right.
Aficionados can argue for hours who makes the best ribs in the Chiang Mai, but my vote would always go to Salsa Kitchen. The big, meaty ribs are bathed in a chipotle chili Mexican BBQ sauce and served alongside salad, Mexican rice and refried beans. The meat truly does fall off the bone at a more than fair 169 baht. The prices in general are all inexpensive and definitely I would consider Salsa Kitchen a great value for the baht. Because of the food and the prices the restaurant is clearly a local favorite and is usually crowded with a grab bag of locals. I would guess that the tourist trade, unless they are staying in the soi, would be hard pressed to stumble upon the place but they would leave happy if they did.
Salsa Kitchen isn’t your basic burrito joint, though you can get one if that’s what you want. The focus, instead, is on hearty, home-style cooking. The menu is long and wide-ranging (fajitas, quesadillas, tacos, you name it). But unlike some restaurants that try to offer everything on land and sea, variety doesn’t come at the cost of quality. On my last visit I had the Coconut Shrimp (159 baht) crunchy coconut crusted shrimp served with a spicy orange ginger pineapple dipping sauce. My dinner came with a generous portion of potato salad, dirty rice and beans, sweet buttered corn on the cob and spiced pineapple chutney. Together with a refreshing glass of freshly brewed lime iced tea (29 baht) I was plenty full when I left even though I really wanted to try the house dessert special Margarita Pie. Margarita pie consists of tequila, triple sec and lime frozen on a homemade cookie crumb base and topped with fresh whipped cream all for just 39 baht. But alas, I was too late and they were all out so I have something new to try on my next visit.
What’s a south of the border dinner without some margaritas or a fruity pitcher of sangria? Salsa Kitchen offers both at your choice of 69 baht a glass, just 199 for a 600 ml pitcher or 299 for a one liter pitcher of either one. I found the constant parade of flower peddlers and baht beggars a bit distracting but that aside, I left Salsa Kitchen feeling as if I had made a find. That’s not true, of course. Plenty of folks in Chiang Mai have already made it a home away from home.
Salsa Kitchen is open from 2pm to 11pm daily and although reservations are not usually required it is best to call for large parties or special orders at 086-9131325.


Garlic Soup

If you are a believer in garlic as being the vegetable for health, here is the recipe for a very healthy soup. This is a traditional soup from the Bordeaux region of France and is prepared as a dinner item in the hot summer. It was given to me by Bangkok based executive chef, Santo Zoppis who has indicated you should leave 20 minutes for preparation and 25 minutes for cooking. Good food should not be rushed.

Cooking Method
Peel the garlic, remove the stem, and chop very fine. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan. Add the garlic and cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the flour, stir and add the cold beef bouillon or consommé. Cook this soup for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a small salad bowl combine the egg yolk with the red wine vinegar and beat with a whisk.
Remove the soup from the heat and add the egg yolk mixed with the vinegar.
Serve the soup in hot soup cups, and swirl in a teaspoon of cream.

Ingredients             Serves 4
Garlic                                200 gm
Olive oil                               50 ml
Flour                                 30 gm
Beef bouillon or beef consommé 1.2 litres
Egg yolks                                2
Red wine vinegar                30 ml
Salt and pepper
Pouring cream                   4 tspns