Something uniquely Northern

By Shana Kongmun

Tamarind Village is well known for their beautiful grounds, and charming poolside restaurant. Located in the heart of the old city, they have some parking inside, so it is possible to eat there without having to drive around attempting to locate a parking space.

The restaurant, Ruen Tamarind, is trying something new with their menu this month, Northern food, cooked by a Northern cook in the traditional way. I went with some friends to try out these new dishes cooked by Uncle Tawat, who is the cook this month. Next month, they will bring in a different local cook to try their specialties. These are not your highly trained chefs making fancy food. These are local Chiang Mai people who are sharing their experience and accumulated wisdom about their local cuisine with diners at the Village.

First up was a platter of starter dishes, some really superb sauces to dip one’s lightly steamed veggies in, and other, frankly, unknown dishes that were very good. The platter is a generous size and the variety of starters on it should please most palates.

We were then served a series of local dishes, glass noodles with bamboo shoots, a sea bass curry, a Burmese style curry with pork and a plate of something, I must be honest here, I have no idea what. Some kind of vegetable, spinachy in a way, they called it “local green lettuce” but it was definitely not lettuce. Interesting and unique flavors I must admit, some I have never even tried before. They had a Northern version of laab with chicken that was quite good but I must admit I do like more spice than the average Northern Thai person. But it was pleasantly spicy for the other less hardy diners.

The Burmese style curry Kaeng Hang Lay with braised pork was delicious, creamy and rich with lots of pork and some little potato-like vegetable. Again, local ingredients that aren’t always known. The sea bass curry was another such dish, fish in a curry sauce with local elephant ear leaves. I must confess I am not exactly sure what elephant ear leaves may be. But it was tasty and different.

In addition to the above unknown dishes were given lightly steamed and then stir fried vegetables, mostly known! They were cooked just right, not too little so as to be undercooked but not so much as to be soft and mushy. The stir friend shredded bamboo shoots with minced pork were flavorful as was the bamboo shoots in red curry sauce with fried glass noodles.

Northern food is tasty, but certainly less spicy than dishes from other regions of Thailand so this may suit those who like a bit of spice but can’t handle the three alarm fire type meals many Thais favor.

We ate Thai style, with sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf, and shared all the dishes. I would recommend that to those who visit the Tamarind Village as the portions are quite generous.

The meal ended with a sweet fruit, glazed santol in syrup with ice. Glazed fruit in syrup with ice is a very traditional Thai sweet But I am, again, unsure what a santol exactly is. Santol clearly is the English word but I don’t think it means much of anything to those unfamiliar with local fruits. Nevertheless, give it a try, it was delicious.

The poolside setting is very lovely with lanterns floating on the surface at night, and in this cool season, it’s nice to sit inside with the doors wide open, looking out over the candlelit pool. Very romantic for those looking for a special night out.

Tamarind Village will be changing the menu and the cook on a monthly basis, scouring the neighborhoods of Chiang Mai for local cooks. If you know of someone particularly skilled in Northern cooking be sure to get in touch with them!

Tamarind Village can be found inside the moat, on Ratchadamnoern Avenue. 053-418896-9.


Sautéed prawns in white wine and cheese

Thailand is lucky in that prawns are always plentiful, with salt water and fresh water varieties, and in your local market are very cheap. Large prawns can be found cheaply even in the supermarkets. The flavor from using coriander makes this an ‘Asian’ dish. One important feature with all prawn dishes is not to overcook, otherwise the prawns will get very tough and rubbery.

It is also suggested that you remove shells, heads and tails and de-vein the prawns before cooking, although some people like the tails left on. (Thais are also partial to the heads, but these are not so acceptable to the foreign palate.)

Ingredients                      Serves 4
Prawns                                      24 large
Garlic, chopped                         2 cloves
Onions, diced                              ½ cup
Tomatoes, peeled and diced         2 large
Olive oil                                    2 tbspns
Bread crumbs                              ½ cup
White wine                                  ½ cup
Lemon juice                                2 tspns
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped coriander garnish

Mozzarella cheese grated              ½ cup

Cooking Method

In the wok, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until golden. Add the prawns and sauté for two minutes, then add white wine, tomatoes and lemon juice and sauté for five more minutes, stirring constantly.

Add salt and pepper to taste, add bread crumbs and cheese and sauté for two more minutes.

Serve over a bed of rice or noodles and sprinkle with the chopped coriander.