Lemongrass Thai Cuisine: by Mark Whitman

Friendly eating place on the edge of the Night Bazaar

Rather like sex, eating is best enjoyed in convivial company, without stress and arguably better a deux than alone or in a crowd. Certainly in even numbers… I found this to be very true on three visits to this laid back Thai eatery. By an odd chance on two of those three occasions it was less enjoyable than it should have been, thanks to circumstances engendered by my companions.
On the first visit, my farang eating partner found the music too loud and made rather a fuss about it. He was also less than enchanted by the casual atmosphere, possibly mistaking it for The Chedi a kilometre or so away.
Another meal became a little fraught when an instruction given to the waiter (in good Thai I must admit) was not carried through to the kitchen and the second farang also complained, resulting in a bill offered (but not accepted) with no charge for the food. In each case the meal was less enjoyable than the food and predominant ambience would have suggested.
Luckily, on the third visit my Thai companion and I had a super time. Before I draw any comparison too tightly, I should add that he is a youngish guy, possibly more suited to the style of the restaurant. It is not just a matter of age of course, but a willingness to accept the situation. Thais are better at that than we foreigners.
Not that the Lemongrass is in any way problematic. It is comfortable rather than ritzy. The food is good and plentiful and far from expensive but may not win awards. The service is quick and exceptionally friendly. The atmosphere is suited to the area and the casual diners who obviously enjoy the music (it is not that loud!) while chatting to the young and attentive waiters. In short it is a typically Thai venue, not upmarket but not ‘local’. In a word: unpretentious.
So as a conclusion to my anecdotal intro, I suggest you approach this amiable eatery in the spirit that its immaculately clean and brightly lit interior indicates. Do that and you’ll emerge in to the soi satisfied, replete and around only a couple of hundred baht a head lighter in the pocket.
As the name indicates, it offers only Thai food, with a quite extensive menu boasting plenty of vegetarian options, plus curries as something of a speciality. There’s a large fridge to the rear of the dining area, full of soft drinks a selection of beers (a large Chang is 75 baht) and a choice of red or white wine. They can accommodate about 40 diners.
The menu is brought promptly and a good ploy to stop anyone hovering is to order up a drink and the excellent Mieng Come (60 baht). This dish, should you not know it, comprises edible chaploo leaves into which you pile your own choice from the ingredients scattered on the large plate. These include sliced ginger, tiny wedges of lime which you either squeeze dry or place in the leaf, plus chopped red onion, roasted nuts, some very finely grated crisped coconut and green chili. There’s a bowl of sweet tamarind sauce so you can line your leaf before filling it. This is a delicious and inexpensive starter (one is enough for two people).
The menu includes classic soups such as Tom Kha with prawns or seafood (95 baht), as well as vegetarian options. There are meat dishes, although fish seems to predominate. I enjoyed the sweet red curry with prawns and on another occasion the deep fried red snapper (115 baht), which is one of their more expensive options. Rice comes served from a big pot rather than in individual portions and there are simple one course meals including Pad Thai and various fried rice choices.
The young guys who run and service (and possibly co-own) the Lemongrass are a smiley crowd and seem to be making a go of the place in these difficult economic times. With so few visitors in the City, even to the Night Bazaar and other markets, restaurants are having a difficult time. I think this one deserves your custom and doubt you will be disappointed. You will find it on Loh Kroh Road (but not the busy end) not far from the Royal Lanna Hotel (and according to them quite close to something called Burger King and another wannabee establishment called McDonalds). Ignore those and head for healthy tasty Thai food anytime between 4p.m. and 11p.m. at Lemongrass Thai Cuisine. Phone number 085 757 6337 for further directions.


Curried Chicken Squares

This is very similar to curry puffs, but instead of puff pastry you use slices of bread, like the English toasties. This is a fun recipe for children.

Ingredients                serves 4- 6
Soft white bread              18 slices
Minced cooked chicken   cup
Roasted shelled peanuts  cup
Minced green onion          cup
5-spice powder                1/8 tspn
Curry powder                   1 tspn
Sugar                               tspn
Dash pepper
Soy sauce                       1 tspn
Chopped parsley              2 tbspns
Egg yolk, slightly beaten   1
Oil for frying

Cooking Method
Remove crusts from bread; cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap to keep soft. Make crumbs from crusts by putting a few at a time into a blender.
Combine three tablespoons bread crumbs with chicken, peanuts, green onion, 5-spice powder, curry powder, sugar, pepper, soy sauce, and parsley; mix well.
Roll bread slices very thin with a rolling pin. Cut each square in half, place a teaspoon of chicken mixture on each piece. Brush edges of bread with egg yolk; fold in half to form a square. Pinch to seal, trimming if necessary.
In a deep fryer, heat oil. Fry three or four chicken squares at a time, turning once until desired brown color is reached (about two minutes). Remove from oil and drain on absorbent paper. Repeat until all squares are cooked. May be served with mustard sauce. Makes about 36.