Make Chiangmai Mail | your Homepage | Bookmark

Chiangmai 's First English Language Newspaper

Pattaya Blatt | Pattaya Mail | Pattaya Mail TV


Rioja 2

The ham and salami were standouts on an already excellent menu.

By Christopher Sujarit
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 grumbling.

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 you).

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.



Kaeng Kae

Or, what to do with leftover vegetables

What 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!

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]