Le Spice - Indian Food … and more : By Brian Baxter

Located in the heart of the Night Bazaar

There are not that many Indian restaurants in Chiang Mai, considering the number of places to eat in the city and that, in my experience, few Thais are enamored of this particular cuisine. There is something about the aromas and the different spices used which puts them off. Of course this is as short sighted as the many farangs who resist the delights of Thai or other ‘foreign’ food through the mistaken belief that one mouthful will set them on fire or ruin their digestion for a week.
Education, education, education!
Given my ignorance of where to go I was delighted when our intrepid photographer suggested Le Spice for our next venue, despite the fact that it is located in an area I very seldom visit. You will find it not far from the Galare Food Centre in the Night Market area of the City and even on our Saturday night visit it was quite peaceful. Whether this was luck or because the number of visitors and tourists is so low this year, I am not sure. The restaurant is not large, perhaps 40 plus covers, with the tables well spaced and the whole feeling is of cleanliness and efficiency, as befits somewhere which relies mainly on passing trade. Not, then, a place which oozes charm or for a romantic evening but a welcome pit stop for those trudging around the bazaar or visiting one of the bars in the market area.
The menu is large and concentrates on Indian food, with over 100 suggestions. There is also a Thai section and a few European dishes, including pasta, so no problem pleasing most of the people most of the time. We opted for the Indian food, of which there is an encouragingly large vegetarian selection, one of the joys of their cuisine, especially in the south. There is also a specials board, where I noted, (but did not try on this occasion), a pudding with ‘saffron banana and ice cream with orange sauce’ at 70 baht. Next time! Beer Singha, which we settled for, is 50 baht a small bottle. Well, actually it was two large bottles, but you know what I mean!
We sorted through and settled on a vegetable biriani (70 baht), an additional saffron rice (15baht), a spicy potato dish, plus fish tikka (160baht) and a prawn curry (also 160 baht). Finally, a nan bread served in neat triangles, with shredded coconut. This was extremely light and all of the food was tasty and fresh. Portions are not that large and this would be an excellent place for a small group to go to choose a whole variety of different dishes for a mini Indian banquet. Prices are reasonable and with a tip our combined meal cost 700 baht, including 200 baht for the alcohol.
Remember this is the heart of a tourist area, not in the outer suburbs and prices are inevitable a little higher where there are people making comparisons with the high cost of eating ‘back home’. This meal would without doubt have cost three or four times as much as in the U.K. In fact the beers alone would have been the same charge.
Still we are not ‘back home’ but happily in Chiang Mai, so there have to be a couple of other plusses. Certainly the service was excellent. The major domo kept a firm eye on all aspects, himself making sure that the tables were cleared and cleaned properly and checking to see that everything ordered had arrived. Our orders were served quite quickly, not surprising since the great majority of Indian food is prepared and cooked well in advance.
It made an attractive change from the sharper, spicier Thai food one has become used to and I resolved not just to return to Le Spice but to encourage a few Thai friends to take an interest in this cuisine. It is bad enough having to suffer the prejudices of western friends without having to put up with unadventurous Thais. I’m sorry I did not notice if wine was available, but here are a few random prices of other dishes to whet your appetite: chicken dopiaza or vindaloo at 95 baht, with other chicken dishes between 90 and 100 baht. Goan fish curry at 150 baht, vegetarian spring rolls, 50 baht. Thai dishes and soups, pastas, steaks and other choices are readily available. You will find Le Spice at Chareon Prathet Soi 6 and their telephone number is 053 234 962.


Pork with Basil

This recipe comes from a very talented Thai chef who worked in restaurants overseas. It is a very traditional Thai recipe and one that is easy to do. A true ‘wok’ dish, it has a tantalizing flavor that comes from the combination of so many items. By the way, it is important to crush the garlic and chilli together. As usual, if this is a little hot for your taste, you can reduce the amount of chilli and remember to remove the seeds before combining!

Cooking Method
Add oil to the wok and heat. Crush the garlic and chilli together and add to the oil and fry quickly. Now add the sliced pork and stir fry until cooked (do not overcook). Add the onion and the capsicum until cooked, followed by the sugar, fish sauce and oyster sauce. Finally, add the basil leaf and stir for one minute and then serve with steamed rice.

Ingredients Serves              4- 6
Pork leg sliced thin                500 gms
Onion sliced                         200 gms
Red capsicum                      100 gms
Green capsicum                   100 gms
Basil leaf (chopped)                      5-6
Garlic                                   2 cloves
Chilli (red)                                    3-4
Vegetable oil                        4 tbspns
Fish sauce (Tiparos brand is best) 4 tbspns
Sugar                                    1 tbspn
Oyster sauce                         1 tbspn