Wednesday 20 August 2014

Pun Pun (Lung Mor / behind Chiang Mai University branch)

Chiang Mai is a great place for vegetarian food. There are so many wonderful vegetarian restaurants out there, and I must say Thai vegetarian food is fantastic - generally healthy, fresh, and tasty sans meat version of the whatever Thai dish.

Pun Pun is actually a small organic farm and seed saving centre, as well as a self-sustainable community in the countryside of Chiang Mai. They promote sustainable living, and you can actually take courses there from how to build mud huts to organic farming.

They currently have 2 restaurants in Chiang Mai, and another branch is being built. The original restaurant is at Wat Suan Dok (Suan Dok Temple) on Suthep Rd. It's a simple set up, but very atmospheric eating under the bodhi tree and watching monks walk past. A couple of foodie friends introduced me to the restaurant a while ago, and I thought the food and drinks were lovely.

The other night, I had a chance to visit Pun Pun's 2nd branch "Lung Mor"(behind Chiang Mai University). It seems that the menu is pretty similar to the 1st branch, and has dizzying array of interesting dishes to choose from!

The Salad Dok Mai sounded particularly fascinating - edible deep fried flower salad & greens. It looked really pretty too, and the serving is quite large. There are lovely and crispy deep fried flowers on top of a bed of salad greens. I asked the staff what the flowers are, but he said he doesn't know. He just knows that there are rose My guess is that bougainvillea flowers are used. The salad is served with a refreshing side dressing - which I think might be made from pumpkin. 65 baht.

The Gang Musaman (musaman curry) is quite lovely too, and comes with serving of very nice brown/red rice, perfectly cooked. The taste is quite surprising - quite different from the mussaman curries I've had before. I half expected a sweeter tasting curry, but Pun Pun's version is more savoury and has more spice than other mussamans I have tried. The mushroom, tofu and potato give the curry a nice texture and crunch. 55 baht.

Nam Hed Song Kreung (homemade fermented mushroom sausage with garlic, lime, onion and ginger). Nam is a common local dish, normally made from fermenting pork, rice, garlic, salt, sugar, chilli,..etc for a few days. The fermentation process gives the dish a sour flavour. This is actually one of my favourite Thai dishes, particularly Deep Fried Nam Pork Ribs!

Ok ok..back to the mushroom "sausage" (which is actually hidden under the coriander leaves in the photo below!). I must say the mushroom "sausage" tastes rather like the "real" thing (i.e. the pork variety), and pretty similar texture too.

I'm not too sure if Westerners would appreciate the flavours of this dish, but if you'd like to try something different, I'd say give it a go. I think it's quite nice, and goes very well with the chillis, lime, shallots and cashew nuts. 60 baht.

Now to dessert... astoundingly, Pun Pun offers some rather exciting sounding vegetarian desserts! I think these are brought in from somewhere else, but the offering looks amazing from the photos and the description shown on the menu.

We opted from the Mango Cheesecake. Ingredients include mango, cashews, coconut, vanilla, dates, himalayan salt, love and consciousness. I mean, who can resist? Got to to try it. The "cheesecake" is served cold and really lovely and refreshing, albeit on the cute & small side! It's a bit like a smooth mango mousse on a firm coconutty base. Very, very nice.

The drinks are great too. There's a large range of herbal drinks, juices, smoothies and shakes to choose from. I went for the Iced lemongrass, hydrocortyle and mint drink and it was perfect compliment for the food and the hot, sticky weather.   30 baht.

Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant 

Branch 1 - Pun Pun Wat Suan Dok
At the back of Suan Dok Temple, Suthep Rd
Tel: 084 365 6581
Opens daily from 9am-4pm.

Branch 2 - Pun Pun Lung Mor
Suthep Rd, at the base of the mountain & near the entrance to D-Condo.
Tel: 086 181 6051
Opens from 10am-8pm

Please check out Google Maps for location!

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Monday 11 August 2014

Giorgio Italian Restaurant (Revisited!)

Quite a few years ago, when people ask what's the best Italian Restaurant in Chiang Mai, Giorgio was often mentioned. Over the last few years, the number of great Italian / Mediterranean restaurants have mushroomed (lucky for Chiang Mai!) and so the name "Giorgio" has taken a backseat.

I had the opportunity to revisit this Italian restaurant when a friend from Japan recently came to Chiang Mai. Just down the road from the Night Bazzar where my friend was staying, Giorgio was in a good location to have a quiet dinner away from the hustle and bustle of Loi Khro Rd and Night Bazaar.

I found the service excellent and attentive, and the food lovely.

After taking orders, a plate of a couple of rather unassuming bruschetta appeared on our table. I didn't even bother to take a photo. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but it just didn't look as fancy and photo worthy as other bruschettas I've tried around town! But biting into the tomato topped bread, I really enjoyed the smooth flavours and the softish warmed bread. Now I which I have taken photos to show you!

A very tempting basket of bread and herbed butter was also offered, but I didn't have these as I was anticipating a rather large meal ahead.

First dish - Salmon Carpaccio. This isn't normally a dish I'd normally picked, but I guess it reminded my Japanese friend of Salmon Sashimi! The Salmon Carpaccio turned out to be wonderful - the thin slices of salmon was layered on a bed of rocket leaves, and topped with lemon zest and red peppercorns, and at the time of serving, drizzled with olive oil. Very lovely indeed! 290 baht.

The Grilled Vegetables came next. This was also very nice. The grilled zucchini (my favourite here) was superb with a slight smokey / burnt flavour and complimented well with herbs (not sure which kind) and the smoothness and roundness of the olive oil. The other veggies - grilled eggplant and capsicum were great too, but I liked the zucchini the best. 120 baht.

The Salmon Fettuccine with Tomato Cream Sauce was also lovely. Actually, we ended up choosing it because we couldn't decide whether to go for a tomato based or creamy pasta! In any case, we weren't disappointed. The ribbons of fettuccine itself was perfectly cooked (as far as I can tell!) - al dente. The flavours were perfect too, especially for me. I often find the taste of Italian food from restaurants (especially in Chiang Mai) too salty. However, I thought Giorgio made this dish just right. The smooth creaminess of the sauce was a dream. 290 baht.

Needless to say, there weren't anything left on any of the plates by the time we finished with these dishes!

Oh..and the house red was very nice too. I suppose it'd better be good at 280 baht/glass.

Giorgio Italian Restataurant
2/6 Prachasamphan Rd.
Changklan, Muang, Chiang Mai
Tel: 053 271866
Mob: 086 185 6327
Opens: 11:30am-2:30pm for lunch ; 6pm-10:30pm for dinner
Reservation recommended

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Wednesday 6 August 2014

Bird's Nest Cafe

Healthy and delicious Thai and Mediterranean food are the order of the day for this homey little cafe in Chiang Mai Old City. 

Set in an old Thai teak house, Bird's Nest Cafe has a nice an relaxing ambience with a nice little corner on the 1st floor, and a place to lounge around on the 2nd floor.  

As we enter, we were greeted by a friendly lady on the counter / bar. We do need to place the order here and pay first before taking our seats. 

The menu is not huge, but there is a good range of breakfast; western food, including various types of sandwiches with options of homemade breads - pita, croissant, foccacia, ciabatta and whole wheat; various breakfast sets, tortilla wraps and salads. There are also some Thai dishes available. 

We decided to order one Western dish and one Thai dish, as well as the special Bird's Nest Coffee Latte (mixed coffee with cardamon, cinnamon, clove and star anise).

The coffee was ordered "mai wan" i.e. "not sweet". The spiced coffee was slightly bitter, had an interesting flavour, as you would have guessed from the ingredients! After tasting the coffee, I would have liked a bit more sugar! 65 baht. 

Interestingly, the straw used was of the non-disposable variety, and this fits well with Bird's Nest Cafe's philosophy of looking after our planet - they try to use less plastic and encourage customers to bring their own containers for take away food and drink. 

Organic ingredients and local produce are used as much as possible. A lot of products used, incidentally, are from Pun Pun. 

Grilled Mozzarella Sandwich with Tomato and Onion - We can choose from the various types of bread available (as listed above), and also from two "sauces" - cashew nut pesto or the sour cream garlic oregano.  We went for the foccacia with cashew nut pesto, and we weren't disappointed! The focaccia was very nice, especially with the very generous dollop of the cashew nut pesto (actually, more like half a jar rather than a dollop!) that gives a creamy and nutty accent to the "sandwich". Actually, I probably could have just eaten a jar the pesto by itself!  95 baht

Now onto the Thai dish - Tom Kha Mushrooms (Mushroom coconut soup) with brown rice. Tom Kha is one of my favourite Thai soups, so I was quite eager to taste Bird's Nest Cafe's tom kha. In case you don't know, this soup is a bit like Tom Yum soup with coconut milk added. The coconut milk tones down the strong spiciness in Tom Yum and gives a more mellow and rich flavour.

So how is Bird's Nest Cafe's Tom Kha? It's actually quite nice, but the flavours have been toned town, I guess to suit the mainly Western and Japanese clientele (from my observation from the one time I've been to the cafe!). Although it wasn't spicy at all (at least to me!), I still enjoyed it a lot.  85 baht (includes a plate of brown rice.. in this case!).

Bird's Nest Cafe is a lovely and comfortable place to relax and have some good healthy food. The rest of the menu seems quite tempting too, and would love to go back to try it if I get the chance. I particularly like their philosophy of looking after the planet, and serving as much organic ingredients as much as possible. 

Singaharat Rd Soi 3
Opens daily 9am-8pm
Music and Film events on Friday nights.

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