Vol. VIII No. 26 - Tuesday
June 30 - July 6, 2009



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


DINING OUT & KHUN OCHA'S COOKBOOK
 

Sabaidee Santitham

Charming Lanna style restaurant offers amazing value

Mark Whitman
This Thai restaurant opened earlier in the year on the site of a place called the Golden Ball. It is next to the Santitham Guest House and well worth seeking out. I’ve been there three times since getting back into town and can confirm four things: the food is very good, it offers exceptional value, the service is swift and polite and the décor and overall ‘feel’ of the venue is both elegant and cosy.
So, let’s work through those four plusses.
The food is exclusively Thai with a comprehensive menu divided into three sections, the largest of which comprises some 40 plus choices of ‘main’ courses, ranging in price from 60 to 120 baht. There are also ‘starters’ or smaller dishes and a range of single choices, including various stir fried rice, (pork, fish, chicken etc.), at 35 baht each. They offer stir fried vegetables and stir fried morning glory with garlic also at 35 baht. Portions are perfectly adequate, including the steamed rice.
On my most recent visit a Thai friend and I opted for a whole fish, with a piquant red curry sauce. This was moist and very tasty and cooked to order. With it we had the morning glory, two portions of rice and one of shrimps with cashew nuts, (79 baht). Because we had ordered the fish, (120 baht), we were given a complimentary serving of a pork dish, which my friend enjoyed. With a well deserved tip the food came in at exactly 300 baht.
True, we bumped up the overall cost with glasses of wine at 100 baht, but they serve carafe water and if you want other drinks, fruit juices and soft options at around 40 baht. Singha beer is just 75 baht for the large size and 50 for the normal bottle. Heineken is 60 baht. Now I will agree that plenty of Thai eateries can undercut those prices and that often the food will be equally good. But. And in that word lies the difference.
I doubt whether few if any of the alternatives offer such an attractive setting and, if you get pleasure from dining out rather than just eating, then this is a place for you. There are two seating options: about 20- 24 conventional covers at large tables with comfortable chairs and a similar number in ‘Japanese ‘style – low tables and floor seating with banquettes and other supports. There is a bar situated away from the dining area and on another side a large kitchen which does not impose itself on the diners.
Traditional Thai music occasionally gives way to some conventional western songs but none of it is too intrusive. The over all feel is one of tranquillity, with wood and soft fabrics in abundance and a very large courtyard area in which you are seated and, except for one section, well under cover during this rainy season.
As already mentioned, the staff are a busy crowd. Menus are promptly presented, along with a dish of crudités and iced water and midway through the meal we have – on each occasion – had an enquiry about the meal and whether everything is to our liking. The only fair response is yes, followed by empty plates.
You’ll find this attractive venue round the corner from the guest house at 65 Santitham Road, Chang Puak. Should you get lost, phone either 081 885 1329 or 089 951 4554 or you can go on to the web site at www. sabeideesanthitham.com This has certainly been my most pleasant discovery during the past few weeks and seems to be an ideal place, offering decent food at fair prices in a really pleasant setting. Who could ask for more?

 

Elephant and onion stew

This recipe is one I bring out every couple of years or so, and it still makes me smile. It was given to me by David Levine, a chef who had been in Thailand for some time, so was au fait with the ingredients. The principal constituent is freely available in Thailand, and in fact, you would probably be in line for a city administration grant if you took a couple from the streets any night. The rabbits are harder to find, but I believe you can get them on special order at supermarkets. It is not a quick stir-fry in the wok on the street behind the kitchen, but apparently is worth the effort.

Cooking Method
Cut elephant into bite sized pieces - preferably put aside around four months for this part. Cook over a kerosene fire for three months, or until tender. Now add onions, salt, pepper and flour and cook until done, generally around two days. If more people arrive than expected then add the rabbits at this final stage (do this only if necessary, as most people don’t like hares in their soup)

Ingredients        Serves 3000
Elephant                      1 large
Pepper                          ½ pail
Salt                               2 pails
Onions                     4 bushels
Water                     93 gallons
Flour                            6 pails
Rabbits (optional)                2



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