by Mark Whitman
Spacious vegetarian restaurant off Nimmanhaeminda Road
My first visit to this attractive restaurant with its large
garden was with a fellow farang and two Thais. Like all
shared experiences (a movie for example) we had different
reactions to various aspects of it. A salutary lesson for
anyone expressing a published opinion! There was general
agreement about the high quality of the food and most of the
cooking. All of us thought the prices very reasonable and
the drinks quite exceptional.
A minor division came early on with the rapidity of the
service of the actual meal. The food arrived so promptly
after we had placed the order that the drinks which we had
asked for earlier had not arrived. Dishes were placed in
front of us as though a race were in progress. My fellow
westerner was greatly enamoured of this and I suspect that
this was because he is American and as we know one of the
invaluable aspects of their culture they have bestowed on
the rest of the world is ‘fast food’.
With the meal in place and covering the entire table we were
then given our drinks and super they were too. The juices,
crushes and so on are served chilled (i.e. the fruit is
chilled first) and not made cold with ice. There is no extra
sugar. The watermelon punch was the best I have tasted, pure
unadulterated fruit and my citrus crush was subtle and
perfectly blended. An orange drink was considered a little
‘sharp’ but I tasted that too and thought it was just right.
We had brought a bottle of chilled wine with us and an ice
bucket was promptly brought: full marks.
The drinks menu is large and offers most of their home made
fruit drinks at around 45 to 55 baht. They also serve beers,
including some from Germany, Laos and even Burma, plus of
course Thailand. House wine from Italy is 95 baht a glass
and there are coffees, teas and so on. I suspect it is a
nice place to call in on for just one of these freshly
My American friend enjoyed the food as much as the
quick-fire service and maintains that this is more or less
the only reason he goes to a restaurant. Whilst I agree that
there would be no point in eating somewhere if the food was
bad, it seems to be only part of the reason for ‘dining
Apart from the inevitable attraction of not having to
prepare such a complicated meal (we tried about seven dishes
between us) and clearing up after it, there should be that
sense of occasion, however modest. Khun Churn (does that
translate as ‘You Welcome’ or is Churn the name of the
owner?) has pleasant background music, a large garden area
with the tables surrounding the lawn plus an indoor air
conditioned section which looks rather unused. The tables
are decently spaced and there are many of them. It seems
unlikely that you would need to book, as there must be room
for a hundred plus customers. An unlikely prospect in Chiang
Mai at present with a 40 per cent drop in tourism (not the
20 per cent claimed). For all this, Khun Churn does not
offer much sense of occasion. Likewise the staff is pleasant
though not especially friendly.
The food is good though. We asked for the salty and spicy
cashew nuts, thinking they would make the perfect
accompaniment to the Sauvignon Blanc, which had been
designated as an aperitif. Since the dishes arrived so
quickly this plan was thwarted. But they and the trio of
mushrooms (65 baht) were especially good. All of the main
dishes are priced around 50 baht and portions are generous.
Non-vegetarians need not be afraid of a visit, since many of
the dishes are designed to appeal to them in terms of
texture and taste. There is mock duck, tofu masquerading
successfully as chicken and innumerable mushroom dishes
which offer complex flavours, as well as superb vegetable
dishes including morning glory and wing bean.
After this visit, I returned alone to get a better feel for
the place and to look more carefully at the huge menu. I
also managed to ‘pace’ the service by ordering a beer and
the cashew nuts while I looked through the menu for a second
dish. Now this is not a modest undertaking. It comprises 28
pages of food. All dishes are illustrated and given their
Thai names with a good description of the ingredients given
in English. There are five or six choices given on each
page. In addition there are several pages for the drinks
menu. Plus a few ‘sets’.
I settled for the ‘battered vegetables’ and found them
crunchy and lightly coated. Very good: with about six
different choices, including onion rings, green peppers and
zucchini. I avoided the rice this time since I find brown
rice – like whole meal pasta – an anachronism. Dark breads
yes: rye, wholemeal, full corn, pumpernickel since they need
not obliterate the rest of the food. Brown rice (except for
Basmati properly cooked) or those heavy pastas add nothing
to the other dishes or sauces, except a contradiction.
My bill for this more leisurely meal came to under 250 baht,
including service and two small beers. Our meal previously
had come out a little more expensive (though not much)
because we had more food. The only dish not especially like
on that occasion had been the egg plant, which lacked taste.
Most of the food is tasty rather than spicy, though I guess
that could easily be adjusted.
Khun Churn has a deserved reputation as one of the best
vegetarian restaurants in the City. There are plenty of them
around and plenty more which adapt a little to carnivore
tastes. This one makes no concessions and that is probably a
good thing since it does not confuse people nor worry the
more strict vegetarians who may worry about contamination of
the foods. It certainly offers good value when one considers
the portions. And with the large covered area, being in the
open is not a concern whatever the weather. Parking is easy
in that part of the Soi off the main road. You will find
Khun Churn about halfway down Soi 17, from Nimmanhaeminda.
It is more or less opposite the large NES language school
and is open every day of the week.
Avocado and Crabmeat Soup
Avocados are in season right now, and very inexpensive. To
check the ripeness of an avocado, gently squeeze it, and you should feel a
slight “mushiness”. If the avocado feels hard when giving the gentle squeeze, it
is not ready for eating. To remove the avocado from its outer shell, slice the
avocado in the long axis, running the knife around. Take the avocado in two
hands and gently twist and the two halves will separate. Remove the stone, and
then with a spoon gently run around the inside of the shell and the green
avocado will separate from it. The crabmeat can be tinned or fresh.
Crabmeat 250 gm
Avocados, peeled and seeded 4
Onion, finely chopped
Chicken stock 1 liter
Heavy cream 500 ml
Butter 4 tbspns
Flour 1 tbspn
Garlic powder ˝ tspn
Salt and pepper to taste
Mash together the avocados
Sauté the chopped onion in the butter.
Add the flour, garlic powder and chicken stock, then whip until
Add the avocado/crab mixture to the liquid and simmer for twenty
Add the cream and salt and pepper, stir gently and serve.