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
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.
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.
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.
Beef bouillon or beef consommé 1.2 litres
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper