Three suggestions for delicious early-day meals

Mark Whitman
Most people do not ‘dine out’ every day, but most sensible people manage to have a breakfast or brunch, a meal considered by nutritionists to be ‘the most important of the day’. I have one English friend, (not living in Thailand), who coasts along all day on coffee, a glass of juice and little else. Comes 7.30 in the evening and he is famished and eats a large meal in record time. A recipe for an expanding waist line and a restless night.

The Thai system of eating when one feels hungry and little and often seems a much better idea, and whilst I don’t eat a great deal during the day, typically I enjoy a mid morning ‘meal’ and perhaps a Thai salad or a light tea later on, before an eightish dinner. I’m not a fan of those large lunch-time buffets or ‘Sunday specials’, so beloved of grand hotels. If there is a willing contributor out there who could advise readers on a couple of the best of these, I will happily ‘vacate’ this column for a week or two. Offers please.
And so to breakfast, whatever time of the day you choose to have it. For those on holiday, most hotels make something of a speciality of this meal, and for residents it will often be taken at home. But there must be plenty of demand for early-day food, since Chiang Mai is bursting with alternative venues. Coffee bars, (avoid the imported variety: too expensive), patisseries, cafes and so on. There are specialised places that offer all day breakfasts and nowhere that I know of offers a wider choice than the well established Art Café, across the square from Thapae Gate. Every variation on world- wide breakfasts is on offer from early morning until the afternoon. Another good alternative for quick, easy and inexpensive meals during the day can be found on the lower floors of the two main shopping malls, Central Kad Suan Kaew and Airport Plaza. But here are three of my favourites - each offering contrasted ‘breakfasts’ at around the 100 baht level, or less.

Wat Suan Dok. This large temple on Suthep Road attracts countless visitors to view its extensive grounds and buildings, and also to enjoy Monk Chat. Plenty also come to visit the small open air café, which offers superb vegetarian food at ridiculously low prices. Now please don’t pull that carnivore face. This is not a place for tasteless nut cutlets, limp lettuce and warm water. Rather it offers colourful, tasty Thai food and a range of super soft drinks and juices galore.The produce is organic and fresh as a daisy – an appropriate cliché if only because one of the best dishes is the wildflower salad. All of the salads are special and there are also many soups, hot dishes and brown or white rice. Go along with a friend, (or two), so that you can share the dishes and be amazed at the value and choice. The service is friendly, the seating a trifle rickety and the experience one to return to.

In complete contrast, you can enjoy wonderful set meals and other food at Amazing Sandwich, on Huay Kaew Road, next door to the Soho Bar and opposite the Lotus Hotel. This place has been around since the 1990s and they offer a simple and ingenious recipe for success. The set breakfasts are named after and reflect the food of various cities: so you may choose from twenty or so variations – a Berlin, a Paris, a Copenhagen and so on. There’s a hearty London with the accent on fried food, (do we Brits really consume all that?), or the New York with scrambled eggs with bacon. Prices are from 99 to 105 baht and include fresh juice, coffee or tea and the main dish with toast. I prefer the Continental, with the rye bread and boiled egg and thinly cut cheddar cheese and the Japanese green tea in place of coffee. Or one of their made to order sandwiches. The variations are enormous and you simply tick off your preferred ingredients. The premise is simple as are the premises. It’s quick and easy and the service is charming. Open daily from early morning until evening, closes at 4 p.m. Sundays
Sailomjoy Restaurant. This incredibly popular Thai ‘hole in the wall’ eatery is something of an institution in the heart of tourist land. You will find it on the left at the Thapae Gate end of the Walking Street, next to Black Canyon and opposite the side view of the Montri Hotel. The seating is basic, the service quick and friendly and the choice of food is wide – and cheap. They do set breakfasts at around 60 baht, a huge range of Thai food and my favourite for mid morning is their mango and sticky rice, (30 baht), and a ‘tangmo punch’, (water melon), at 25 baht. But the choice is far too wide to detail here and the menu is in English with lots of suggestions posted around the walls. Like the other two suggestions, this is not for ‘dining out’ in the sense that this column normally means. Rather it offers decent food through most of the day, but not evenings. The choices in Chiang Mai and in the many markets and soi stalls are vast, just as they are for conventional restaurants. Correct me if I am wrong, but is there anywhere in Thailand that offers food in such a variety of venues at such value and of comparable quality?


Japanese Grilled Chicken Breast (Yakitori)

Japanese grilled chicken is BBQ’d several times, with steeping in a marinade in between. The sugar and ginger in the marinade gives the chicken a very different taste, almost caramelizing the outer surface. This is a traditional Japanese dish, but all the ingredients are available here, even the sake.

Ingredients                  serves 2-3
Chicken breast fillets                   6
Sake                                   ½ cup
Dark soya sauce                1/3 cup
Sugar                                  60 gm
Powdered ginger                 2 tspns
Cucumber                          1 small
Salt to taste
Skewers                                     6

Cooking Method
Soak the skewers in water for 10 minutes. Wash chicken breasts, and cut into bite sized pieces and then thread on to skewers. Place over a charcoal BBQ or under the grill until partially cooked.
Mix sake, soya sauce and sugar and pour into a wide flat bowl. Lay skewered chicken in the marinade for five minutes, then turn over and leave for another five minutes.
Now return to the BBQ and grill for another two minutes each side. After this, return to the marinade and repeat the marinade process. Now complete the final BBQ grilling while brushing the remaining marinade over the skewered chicken, to produce a dark shiny glaze. Sprinkle with the powdered ginger.
Shred the cucumber and sprinkle with salt and serve the chicken skewers on small plates and garnish each with a mound of cucumber.