A delicious meal at the River Ping Palace

Mark Bremner
Having eaten several times at the River Ping Palace, this was an easy choice for my first column. The restaurant is situated on the banks on the Ping River, on Charoen Prathet Road, diagonally opposite the Holiday Inn. There are several restaurants along this stretch of the river and the River Ping Palace is easily recognized by the distinctive red Chinese lanterns on the road (and on the river bank itself).
The restaurant itself is part of a unique guest house consisting of various old teak buildings. The owner and hostess, a lady of Chinese-Singaporean heritage called Esther Ting, explained to us that the complex is over 100 years old. It is easy to see that she has spent many loving hours assembling a selection of art from around the world and from Chiang Mai which reflects her personality and makes this one of the most romantic settings along the river.
The cuisine is mainly Thai, with a smattering of Western and Chinese influences. Our small group of four decided to go ‘Thai style’ and choose several dishes to share between us. We started with appetizers. A specialty of the house is the ‘Mae Mode Chom Ngam’ which translates to “witch on a broom” and consists of fried minced prawns wrapped around stalks of lemon grass, 3 sticks (150 baht). This is the only restaurant I have found which serves this delicious appetizer. We also ordered ‘Pik Gai Yak Sai’ – 2 boneless savoury and crunchy chicken wings stuffed with seasonal fresh vegetables and shitake mushrooms (150 baht). Garlicky and tangy hummus served with fresh home-made foccacia is a recent and very welcome addition to the menu (100/200 baht). The spinach and bacon salad was ‘to die for’ and we licked the bowl clean (150 baht).
I love ‘Gang Hung Lay’ so I had to try it here, it’s a Northern pork ginger curry dish, stewed for 4 hours (150 baht). Having had this dish at several restaurants, I consider myself quite an expert – and I was not disappointed – the pork was extremely tender, cooked to perfection and not too spicy one of the ladies in the group selected the ‘Tod Kratium’ which is a deep fried Ruby fish with crispy garlic (250 baht). This scrumptious fish came with a trio of sauces; plum, three spices and sweet chilli sauce.
Our group consumed every crumb of the absolutely delicious (and essential on every visit) fresh mango cheesecake – a steal at 100 baht per serving.
The restaurant boasts a well-stocked bar, offering beer Singha (120 baht), Margaritas (200 baht) and Vodka with Crème de Cassis (150 baht). However, one of our group was a wine connoisseur – he chose an excellent bottle of Sangre de Toro 2006 from the Familia Torres vineyard priced at 950 baht – amazing value (check out the local supermarkets if you don’t believe me!).
The service was attentive, and the head waiter spoke excellent English. The whole evening cost 650 baht per person including a large tip. This is definitely a place not to be missed, especially when entertaining guests from out of town. It is also an ideal romantic setting for that special anniversary. Reservations are recommended, please call on 053-274-932.


Balinese Fried Rice

Here is something a little different from the usual Asian fried rice. The garlic and chillies will give this a little more zing than standard fried rice, but remember that the degree of spiciness is under the control of the cook! The secret with all fried rice is to use the boiled rice left over from yesterday which has been stored in the fridge.

Cooking Method
Heat the margarine in the wok and add the onions until they change color. Add the ham strips and garlic and stir-fry quickly and then add the chilli sauce and the chopped spring onions.
Now break up the cold boiled rice and slowly add to the work, letting the rice warm up without burning.
When the rice is thoroughly warmed through, add the prawns, soy sauce and fish sauce and continue stirring until the prawns are also hot.
Serve in a warmed dish and sprinkle with the scrambled egg and finally garnish with the tomato slices.

Ingredients                   Serves 4
Polyunsaturated margarine     4 tbspns
Onion, coarsely chopped                  2
Cooked ham in thin strips       225 gm
Garlic, finely chopped              1 clove
Chilli sauce                            1 tbspn
Spring onions, chopped                   4
Cold, dry boiled rice                225 gm
Prawns, small peeled             225 gm
Soy sauce                            1 tbspn
Fish sauce                           1 tbspn
Scrambled eggs                            4
Peeled tomatoes, sliced                 2