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EATING OUT & RECIPES BY NOI
 

Suntori offers the freshest fish

By Christopher Sujarit
We are navigating the land of smiles often times a tad bit lost, unable to fully wield Pasa Thai to our fullest, patiently bearing barriers between us and our home. Luckily, when we stay open and curious, we learn that much more. There is a Japanese concept, “wabi sabi,” that is untranslatable to English. Roughly, it represents the beauty of something imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Suntori offers you a chance to transcend barriers and experience Thailand in your blood.
The chef/owner of Suntori journeys three days a week (Wed to Fri) all the way to Sriracha, Chonburi to select the best catch to serve his customers the following four days. The menu contains 4 pages of fish, a page of sashimi/nigiri sets, lots of beer and sake options, and dependable side dishes such as Gyoza, Tempura, and Udon. The menu is more of a suggestion, and you should definitely leave ordering up to the head of waitress and the chef (they’re the ones who know the fish!). There are exactly about 15 photos of the chef holding his most memorable catches with a fish- eating grin, snapped in the middle of this 5 table restaurant.
Our group of five tried the Squid (grilled, with lime), Oni Ari (sashimi plate), Kariki and Ike Katsuo (both grilled), Nigiri Set B (tuna, salmon, shrimp, egg with fish eggs, others), and of course, about 10 large Singhas. All the fish can be prepared sashimi, nigiri, or grilled… this is art. The chef is familiar with every part of the fish, and every familiar swipe of his knife produces sashimi with the best fat marbling I’ve seen and tasted (peek at the photos). Each gleaming slice of sashimi is cut 2cm thick. This is the purest, most tender sashimi I’ve tasted since my visit to Tokyo. The grilled fish is cooked to perfection, and the squid and octopus are must- have knockouts. Seriously, try the grilled octopus and you will never view calamari the same way. If you like beer, sake, or whiskey (some of us more than others), they have a little or a lot of that for you, too.
Suntori has quietly garnered a significant number of loyal Japanese expat diners in Chiang Mai, even though there are seemingly more “Japanese-y” offerings elsewhere. Why? The food is excellent, the fish and craft are respected, and the service is perfect. But I can’t help but chocking it up to some of that “wabi sabi” ness the Japanese have named, but which we all appreciate. You see, every week different fish travels from the shores of Sriracha, to the kitchen of Suntori, through the loving expert hands of the chef, and to your plate. What you experience is a true expression of the land, which changes and is never “perfect”. Let’s leave the $30 a sushi sliver extravangaza to the Jiro’s of Ginza station, and to the shiny people of Sky Bar in Bangkok. I’m in Chiang Mai, so I’ll take my fish uniquely Thai. Wasabi, wabi sabi. The price of dinner with drinks ran 500THB, without drinks 250THB.
Suntori is located inside Saha Sripoom Plaza on Manee Nopparat Road (the northern moat road running east to west), after the Buaraya Hotel and one street before Chang Phuak Road. Right now there is a big sign reading “GALATO” that is at the entrance of the Plaza.
Reservations are strongly recommended (the restaurant has only 6 tables, comfortably spaced) Thursday to Tuesday, 11am to 2pm; 5:30pm to 10pm. 05- 328- 7209, 08- 7023- 8898


 

RECIPES BY NOI

Laab Pla Khao (Northern recipe)

Laab is a spicy minced meat salad. Any kind of meat can be cooked; pork, beef, chicken, duck or fish but the ingredients might be a little bit different depending which meat you choose.
Fish might be the easiest to cook because it needs less ingredients and spices but there is still a lot of work and methods of preparation. That’s why we cook lab on special occasions, because there will always be many people to help prepare and also laab sounds similar to the word ‘Luck’ in Thai.
The best fish for laab is Pla Khao. It’s sheatfish (Phalacronotus), one of the most highly valued fish species in my hometown. It can be found in the Nam Ing river (a branch river from the main Khong river) and natural ponds. Most of people like eating this fish raw but it is better to cook it by stir frying it in a couple spoonfuls of cooking oil because eating raw freshwater fish might give us worms!
Chop 500g of fish meat with a little bit of galangal, coriander, spring onion and Vietnamese coriander. Then boil 100g of the fish skin and chop into small pieces.
Then boil the fish bone in half a liter of water and add lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and salt. Take off heat and let it cool.
Then pound together roasted chili powder, 3 roasted shallots, 5 cloves of garlic and a little bit of Ma Khaen(Thai prickly ash tree seeds).
Then add the pounded spices in 100cc of soup. Salt is allowed to add but fish sauce is forbidden because its smell will destroy the smell of the spices will give the lab a fishy smell instead. Stir to mix them together.
Add minced fish to the soup and mix them until the fish becomes gluey then add the boiled fish skin.
Stir fry in 2 spoons of cooking oil.
Serve with fresh vegetables. Cucumber, long bean and cabbage are recommended.
The next time we might do beef or pork for Laab, these are more complicated however and need more spices. Enjoy eating!


 
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EATING OUT

RECIPES BY NOI