Oh waiter…err…waitress?: By Farrah Praisal

Although I have met some very adventurous spirits around these parts I know that many of us fulfill our culinary needs by frequenting comfortable, safe restaurants either geared to or operated by our fellow farangs. I am guilty of this myself and I am trying to break myself of the bad habit. All of us should occasionally wander into one of those places that make us a bit nervous or one where we feel we might not belong or for that matter be welcomed. I am proud to say I have done just that recently and I ended up having a true epicurean experience as a result.
People are often telling me about old or new restaurants that they think might be worthy of a write up and for this I am always grateful. On this occasion my friend Matt (not his real name) told me of a Thai restaurant that he thought I might enjoy. The name of the venue is “Golden Ball” and it is located on Santithum Road in an area of our fair city that I don’t often frequent. Although it might look from the outside as if it would be a difficult experience at best, what with nary an English word on the specials board or a fellow farang in sight, it is in reality just the opposite. I was welcomed with open arms by the host Mister Bon, and it was all uphill from there.
The restaurant is made up of several sections. There is the outer table and chair area where “calorically challenged” old men like me who can’t sit on the floor (or get up gracefully if they are foolish enough to try) can maintain their dignity, and there is the Thai style dining room where the limber folks sit traditionally cross legged while dining. There is also a bar and a sofa area for kicking back and relaxing with a cocktail. The cuisine is strictly traditional Thai and the menu is presented in both Thai and English. While the waiters are one o f the happiest, smiley groups I have ever encountered their English hovers around the “hello” stage. This is where the ever present Mister Bon comes in. He is always available to translate, take your order or make recommendations. Several times I just asked him to bring me some good food and he succeeded each and every time.
The music coming through the speakers is Thai rock but it is not overly loud so conversation is easy. It can be a very interesting place for those voyeurs who like to people watch too. Although the bulk of the clientele are local Thai it also seems popular with the students of a nearby massage school and an occasional walk-in tourist who just happens to meander by is not uncommon. The majority of the crowd is younger but it’s obvious that all are welcome. In addition to the rather lengthy menu Mister Bon is planning to create several set menus also in an effort to make life easier for his foreign guests.
I am told that the name in Thai is “Bon Tong” which might prove helpful should you be taking a tuk tuk or a taxi. The logo for the restaurant is a butterfly and the lovely insect appears on just about everything. It wasn’t until after several visits that I figured out the significance of the winged wonder. In a truly “only in Thailand” experience, I noticed that while I was greeted by Mr. Bon the host upon my arrival, I was usually receiving a good bye and come back soon from Miss Bon the hostess. Somewhere between my appetizer and entrée the friendly proprietor seems to magically change from a caterpillar to a butterfly for all to see. It’s all great fun and an experience you won’t soon forget. The place reminds me of a restaurant called the “Universal Grill” I used to visit in New York in the 80’s. The servers were “gender illusionists” and if it happened to be your birthday they would stick a bouffant wig and a tiara on your head and the entire place would sing along. Those were the days!
Oh, I almost forgot…..the food is really good. The chef seems to send out dishes quickly and effortlessly and the taste is wonderful. All your traditional favorites as well as some new discoveries are there and the prices are amazingly low at anywhere from 25 to 80 baht per dish.
All in all, it’s more than just dinner, it’s an experience. You not only go away feeling sated and a bit like you got into a secret place you weren’t really supposed to get in but you will also have fun. For an inexpensive night out, a few laughs and a good meal I highly recommend you give it a try. The restaurant is located adjacent to the Santithum Guest House. Call 053-406043 or Bon 085-1062244 and for precise directions check out their web site at: www.bon tong.com/location.html


Indonesian Spicy Prawn Soup

A light bouillon with just a little spice raises this soup from the mundane. The recipe can be used for crab as well, or for something a little different use both crab and prawn, but halve the quantity of the two. The crab takes a little longer to cook than the prawn so add the crab to the bouillon for two minutes before serving.

Cooking Method
In four pre-warmed bowls, divide the coriander, tomatoes and prawns.
Bring the stock to the boil and then simmer.
Mix the garlic, sugar, lemon juice and chilli paste in a small pot and stir until the sugar has all dissolved. Now stir this mixture into the boiling stock and then pour immediately into the four bowls and serve.
This will produce a spicy prawn soup.

Ingredients                    Serves 4
Chicken stock                            1 liter
Coriander leaf (finely chopped) 2 tbspns
Tomatoes (skinned, sliced)               2
Prawn (fresh, peeled)              125 gm
Garlic (crushed)                       1 clove
Sugar                                    ½ tspn
Lemon juice                         1 tbspns
Chilli paste                           ½ tspn