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Huen Muan Jai; Northern food in a lovely atmosphere

By Heather Allen
This charming little restaurant is quite casual with tables set in a terraced garden with small pools and garden sculptures. Stepping through the small gates makes you feel like you are truly in Northern Thailand. But even more so, the food will really make you feel like you are in the North.

The menus are in English and in Thai but if you are not sure of what to order then my suggestion is to do what I and my dining companion did, guess and point! We did order a few dishes we knew such as the sun dried beef and Northern laab, but mostly we just looked at the menu and selected a few.

We were not disappointed in the food either. The portions are not huge but are the size Thai dishes should be; enough for a few people to share. This is really not a place for solo dining as the food is Thai style but it is quite pretty and romantic and is good for friends or couples. Apparently the chef was a former competitor on the Thai Iron Chef and it shows in the delicious food and charming atmosphere.

Some of the wait staff did speak English, quite well in fact and if we had felt less adventurous I am certain they could have helped us choose some dishes had we requested. We were asked if we wanted the spicy food spicy (we said yes) which is also a comfort for those who are concerned about overly spicy food.

The food was delicious, I am not really sure exactly what we ate, having forgotten to write down the names, but that is the fun of such places; trying something entirely new! The prices are quite reasonable, our bill consisted of several dishes and sticky rice as well as a large beer and was under 500 baht for the two of us.

Huen Muan Jai is located on Ratchapuek Road. Coming East down Huay Kaew Road turn left into the soi opposite the Shell Station, go right around the corner and take the first left. Huen Muan Jai is just a few metres up the road. They do have parking but it is not extensive and it is a popular restaurant. And for our reader that likes coordinates, I did manage to find the ones for this restaurant. Open daily. 18.799890, 98.975508.


RECIPES BY NOI: Nam Phrik Nam Phak

Some call it just Nam Phak which is correct because it is made from vegetables (Phak Kad) but when we add ground dried chilies it can be called Nam Phrik Nam Phak.

I have to confess that I was very surprised knowing there are so many different recipes for Nam Phak. I googled and found many interesting ways to make it. In my village we do it a very simple way.

In the cold season Phak Kad grows very well. We need to take the one with flowers. Choose the young part and grind in a stone grinder or nowadays you can use a blender. This doesn’t really give the right texture but it’s ok. Add some sticky rice and salt because after this we will leave it in the container at room temperature for a couple of days. Sticky rice will work like yeast to give a sour taste.

When it’s sour enough we need to fry it on a low fire and afterwards we can keep it for months in the fridge.

How to eat it? Add ground dried chilies, chopped coriander and some salt. It is highly recommended to eat with grilled fish and radish pods (Phak Kee Hoot). Yum!

I found the other recipes, some use a bigger kind of Phak Kad, some fry it until it dries up and then roll Nam Phak into balls for this recipe we can keep it for a year. When we want to eat it we just take it out from the fridge and add some water in to it.

It looks so simple but amazingly needs a lot of skill. Otherwise it might be too sour, too watery or extremely smelly!

In Chiang Mai we can find it in local markets but I never seen it at the Kad Luang evening market.

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