EATING OUT & RECIPES BY NOI
The ham and salami were standouts on an already
Tapas isn’t meant to be eaten alone, but if you do venture
to Rioja 2 for solo dining, you are my new hero. I am there
with you in spirit, looking over your shoulder trying to
steal your food. For my trip, I invited nine of my closest
friends to join me for dinner.
The proprietor of Rioja 2, Khun Ael, whose mother is from
Chiang Mai, used to manage Bangkok’s Rioja for over a
decade, and has traveled to Spain and back. She is warm,
friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. The restaurant takes
its name from a wine- producing region in Northern Spain,
which is used in the restaurant’s excellent Sangria (we
ordered 7 pitchers).
This place is very easy to find: it is a 1 minute walk south
of the Starbucks at Tha Pae Gate. The sign is a bit
obscured, so look for the Red and Yellow coloring of the
Spanish flag, a color combo that now sends my stomach
The menu offers Tapas (2 pages), Salads, Sausages and
Cheeses, Cold Appetizers, Hot Appetizers (2), Rice and Pasta
(2), Fish, Meats, Veggie Menu, and full page of Desserts. I
say skip the Paella and order adventurously, as most of my
friends extolled Rioja 2’s authentic taste of and approach
to the food.
The standouts of the meal were the Squid in Black Ink, the
Iberian Ham, and the Iberian Salami. The Ham and Salami are
complete knockouts, with gorgeous coloring and a texture
that is perfectly “melt in your mouth” smooth. They are
served alongside sliced bread topped with tomato tapenade.
The white meat of the Squid is gentle in texture and not
overly fishy. The sauce has a creamy, buttery taste with a
hint of citrus and an invigorating picante kick at the end.
The Angel Hair Pasta with Tiger Prawns in white Cognac Sauce
was lively and delicate, and the Beef Stew came with a mound
of the best potatoes au gratin I can remember eating.
The Veggie Tapas have something to offer everyone, including
button mushrooms and roasted red peppers. The Mussels were
tasty, but may not satisfy the most discerning seafood
lovers (coastal snobs, you know who you are, and we love
To finish the meal, we indulged in the Catalan Custard Cream
and the Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream Cake. The Custard was a
novel twist on Crème Brule. The ceiling of the custard is
seared with a torch and perfectly crisp, and the rest softly
whipped with a hint of lemon and cinnamon. The Chocolate
Cake was recommended by Khun Ael, and had us pleasantly
surprised by it’s light and consistent texture.
Come for the ham, dabble in the squid ink, try something
new, and enjoy the Sangria. This isn’t your Thai
grandmother’s Tapas; it’s great, authentic Spanish cuisine.
After 10+ courses and all the Sangria we could muster, the
tab came to ~400THB a person. I am unsure how to finish my
story about Rioja 2, so perhaps I’ll have to visit again…
oh, and the Abondigas (meatballs) were so good!
Rioja 2 is open Tuesday through Sunday Noon to 11 p.m.
Closed Mondays. Reservations can be made on 081-8223813.
The Angel Hair pasta with cognac cream sauce was
lively and delicious.
RECIPES BY NOI
Or, what to do with leftover vegetables
do Northern people do when they have many different kinds of
vegetable left in the fridge or in their garden? You can
throw them away or you can make a delicious mixed northern
veggies salad with your own recipe. You can give them to the
neighbors, this choice sounds good but even better, you can
make ‘Kaeng Kae’.
This wonderful mixed vegetable curry can be made with many
different vegetables and leaves, including many that grow as
ornamentals in your garden. These include Pak Kae (Wild
betel leaves), Pak Tam Leung (Ivy gourd leaves), Ma Keua
Paung (Pea eggplants), Kaffir lime leaves, Cha Om (Acacia
pennata), Pak Chee Farang (Cilantro), Pak Ped (Para Cress
flowers), Dok Kae (Vegetable hummingbird flowers), Dok Ngew
(Dried red cotton tree flowers), Ma Keua (Eggplants), Ma
Keua Yao (Long eggplant), Hed Nang Fa (Oyster mushroom), Tua
Yao (Long beans) and many many others.
It’s ok if you cannot find all of these vegetables because
just the first 5 vegetables on the list are already enough
for a perfect Kaeng Kae.
First make the chili paste, pound the ingredients with your
mortar and pestle;
5-10 dried chilies, 5-10 cloves of garlic, 2-5 shallots, 1
stalk lemongrass, 1 tsp. shrimp paste, and 1tbsp salt.
Then, stir fry 300g of chicken, pork, beef or fish with the
chili paste. Cook for a minute or so and then add 1.5 l of
water. When the water comes to a boil add 600 g of
vegetables from the list above and cook for about 10
minutes. Remove from heat and add roasted rice powder and
fish sauce to taste.
And dinner is ready!