Koh Lanta Pizza…. among others: by Mark Whitman

Small, medium or large and all perfectly formed

I was reading a collection of short stories the other day, mainly featuring ‘private eyes’. They were – in the main – time passers, but occasionally one came to life. One featured a detective entering a seedy hotel (it was that sort of collection, all of the ‘dicks’ were laconic, hard –boiled and cynical, all of the hotels were seedy, short term hide-aways for the dangerous). He enters, sees the Chinese desk clerk eating a pizza and says, as way of what passes for small talk, ‘I thought you guys didn’t like fast food’. The reply comes quickly: ‘Pizza not fast food. Pizza take 20 minutes’. Victory China.
And that’s about right, on both counts. Like risotto, pizza has to be prepared fresh and takes between 15 to 25 minutes depending upon the size, the toppings, the nature of the base and, of course, the oven. There is an element of creativity and enormous variation in the quality and freshness of the dough. The best in town is probably at Favola at the Meridien and those at Beccofino are excellent too. These places are classy and expensive and if you choose a pizza there it will be part of the meal, with fancy surroundings and plus plus on the bill. Excellent but not your normal pizza heaven, nor a take away.
And among the many places which specialize in this ubiquitous dish I’d give a special recommendation to Koh Lanta Pizza, which is a friendly little place just off Nimmenhaeminda Road, on the left down Soi 5. They boast a wood fired oven, pizzas in three sizes with a variety of toppings and take the normal 15 or twenty minutes to cook it. Time to share an excellent salad and perhaps a large Singha beer whilst waiting (60 and 70 baht respectively).
Now some readers will look askance at this. Pizza in a ‘dining out’ column. I will agree that it borders on fast food, so, I guess, are other staples of national cuisines – Pad Thai, Scandinavian open sandwiches, the hamburger and so on – but they can be excellent food: quick to prepare or not. No one is going to parade them under a banner proclaiming ‘haute cuisine’, but every so often as a form of comfort food they can be delicious. Which brings me back to Koh Lanta.
This little eatery also offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, pastas and ice creams. They have a modest drinks list, with red and white wine by the glass beer, and soft drinks on offer. The prices are modest as well (pizzas are around 120 baht with extra toppings available) and the service quick and attentive. As you walk up the few steps into the restaurant there is a small patio and while you can eat outside there are seats inside as well, with the kitchen area to the rear. The choice of music is excellent and not too obtrusive.
Their pizza has a base that is neither the over-solid doughy style, favoured by the chains nor the ultra thin and crisp style which is more modern. My tuna pizza with extra toppings of anchovy and chili (160 baht) was excellent. I went for the eight inch version and wondered if I would finish it and was only defeated on the last segment. The salad appetizer was fresh and plentiful.
Plenty of Italian restaurants around town offer pizzas as part of the menu, so it is hardly a novelty. They are good too at La Fontana, Il Girasole, Da Mattia, Billy’s, West’s and many more but if you happen to be in the busy and popular Nimmenhaeminda area then try this little place either for lunchtime or in the evenings. They open from 11 until 14.00 and again from 17.30 until 22.00 hours. They offer a take away service. You will find them at 5/5 Nimmenhaeminda Road, Soi 5 and their phone numbers are 053 212 022 or 089 632 6223.


Vegetarian honey cabbage and pineapple stir fry

We have just had the vegetarian food festival, but vegetarian dishes are very popular these days, and not just for religious reasons. Vegetarian dishes are cholesterol free and every bit as tasty as the more usual meat or poultry based dishes. The resulting dishes are also usually very low in calories, a boon to those weight watching. This week’s recipe is a typical stir fry and after preparation of the ingredients will only take less than five minutes in the wok.

Ingredients                      serves 4
Sweet potato                               1 large
Vegetable oil                              1 tbspn
Onion medium                                     1
Small cabbage, shredded                 
Bean Sprouts                           250 gms
Capsicum (red bell pepper) sliced         1
Pineapple (pieces)                    400 gms
Hoisin sauce                              1 tbspn
Light soy sauce                         1 tbspn
Honey                                       1 tbspn

Cooking Method
Cut potato into 5 cm sticks then boil or microwave until tender. Quarter the onion. Now in the wok, add the oil over a medium heat and add the potato and onion. Stir fry until the onion is soft (around two minutes). Add shredded cabbage, bean sprouts and sliced capsicum and continue to stir over the medium heat for a further two minutes. Stir in pineapple chunks, the sauces and the honey for a further one minute and serve immediately with steamed rice.