Chawang Khaao Raad Geng (ชวางข้าวราดแกง) – Southern Style Restuarant

CHAWANG MAE UWAY – SOUTHERN FOOD RESTAURANT
375 ซอย วังหลัง 4 Siriraj, Khet Bangkok Noi, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10700

Most restaurants representing the southern food of Thailand have a display of various dishes ready to serve over rice. At Chawang Mae Uway, however, the spread is impressive. Daily the restaurant makes anywhere from 30-40 different dishes. Each day those dishes are not the same either. Of course, they have the foundation dishes that everyone expects to get when entering their shop, e.g. geng som, muu palo, nam prik and veggies, etc. You will be guaranteed to find something that suites you.

Pork and Boiled Egg in Chinese Herb Broth (muu palo)

Origin of Chawang (#Aunties of Thailand)

The restaurant has been a family run business. Today, the original chef is 90 years old.  Over 30 years ago, the restaurant was passed from Auntie to Mom. These days, after 50 years in business, the daughters take care of the restaurant. Mom now rests in a house down the road. Her fifth daughter, Ungit, is the main manager. Most of her siblings went to study and learn, and she decided to help her mother in the kitchen. Ungit’s older sister was the third and stayed to help as well. But once Dtoy married, she went to live with her husband and Ungit stayed back. Dtoy returned after her husband’s death and is now 72.

They both had watched as her mom had raised 7 children with the restaurant as a way to make a living and support the family. Ungit had studied as a girl, perhaps until the age of 14 or 15.

Khanom Jin with Naam Yaa (slightly spicy)

Skill of Cooking

“It just came to me,” Ungit described of her cooking skills. She enjoyed it too, and had the heart for it. Some of her siblings became doctors, others are professors at Chulalunkorn and Kaset universities. She studies in the kitchen.

As for Dtoy, she said it came from the love of eating. All she had to do was to taste the food and she would know what needed to be added. Some of the other siblings could taste that it was missing something, but they never developed the skills to modify the dish until it was matching their taste.

A taste of the South

The foods flavor is different than many southern style restaurants. Each province, and each Amphoe (sub-district) within the province will have its own style of flavoring the food. For example, the palo with pork belly and boiled egg was slightly sweeter and more herbal than other dishes. The flavor was deeper. The geng som (orange curry) was spicy, yet balanced with the sweet-sour of the soft coconut meat and papaya.

Geng Som – Yellow Curry with fish

The food matches the flavors of their origins.

A relative started Chawang, and then passed the restaurant onto their mother. The origins of their aunt is from the province Nakhorn Sri Thammarat, in the amphoe Chawang (for a limited view of the region, check out the amphoe’s collection of Instagram pictures). Hence, the name of the restaurant and the unique flavors originating from this kitchen.

Sweet Pork Strips

The choice of 30-40 dishes they make each day is dependent on the ingredients they get from the market every morning. Almost all the vegetables and other basic items for the food comes up by train from the South. They pick it up from the Bang Noi train station and return to decide what to fix. They always have the basics, but there is a seasonality to much of the food. So, depending on the season you may get a specialty curry, or a different fresh fish catch.

Clockwise starting from top left: Yellow curry with snails, fish in orange curry, mango and veggies in orange curry, boiled fish with turmeric

A wide selections of curries is always available; colored deep yellow from the use of turmeric.

For a taste of the South, it’s worth taking a morning to explore Bangkok Noi train station. Once you get hungry for a real meal, drop in for an authentic meal from amphoe Chawang. You surely won’t be disappointed.

Our Menu – We’d Reccommend

Penang Curry with Pork – Not typically this brown color, you will find this authentic Thai dish an adventure into the variety of cuisine possible in Thailand.

Sataw (stink bean) stir fried with gapi (shrimp paste) – It may sound unappealing, but this is one of the staple favorites of many southerners, and once you get a few bites in you will understand why the balance of the herbal beans works well with the salty sauce of shrimp paste.

Khaao Yam – Rice salad is a refreshing dish (perfect for vegetarians) including sour green mango slices, a variety of herbs, and toasted coconut flakes. It is brought together with a sweet and salty sauce, and in case you like it more sour you may consider squeezing a wedge of lime.

Sweet shrimp – You only need a few bites to have a candy-like experience with these shrimp. It is perfect to balance with the spice and salty of other dishes.

Fried fish of any kind – This one is unique for many non-Thai people (okay, Americans…), because of the full fish on the plate, head and all. Slowly pull away the meat from the bones on each side, and make sure to get a spoonful of the deep fried garlic that tops the dish as well.


If you like Southern Food and you’re looking for another adventure, check out our post on Southern Food at the Flats.

 

Map of Chawang:

5 Life Lessons Learned from a Foreigner in Thailand

Learning Thai has opened up doorways of insight into Thai culture and a deeper understanding of what lies in the minds of Thai people. It has also revealed some important life lessons:

Life Lesson 1: Focus on the Mind

 

As a Westerner, I am used to hearing about the brain, but rarely about this deeper concept known as the mind. It’s common to hear Thai people referring to their จิตใจ (‘jit jai’), or heart. This word is a combination of ‘mind’ (jit) and ‘heart’ (jai).

You may hear Thai people saying that their ‘jit jai’ is ‘sabai’, or feeling at ease, content, not busy in the mind. When you ask them how they are feeling, they speak straight from the mind. They give importance to the mind, which is their leading force in life.

If your mind is happy, your life is happy.

If you change your mind, you change everything

 

 

Life Lesson 2: Give

Thai people are some of the most giving and hospitable people. Regardless of how much they have, they know how to give with a full heart and a big smile.

One example that stands out clearly in my mind was a trip south to Chumphon. In a matter of a few days, I experienced 3 situations that left me feeling the warmth of southern Thai hospitality…

1. On a visit to a temple, I happened upon a festival and a group of Thai aunties fed me a piece of cake from a larger cake that was for all of the temple visitors, as they taught me about the significance of the festival. They made sure everyone there received a piece.

2. One morning, sitting and having a traditional Thai breakfast, a group of older men came along – men that gather at this spot daily for morning (Thai traditional) coffee talks – and struck up a conversation, asking how foreigners feel when Thai people refer to them as ‘falang’. With their best efforts at English, they shared their perspectives, and when everyone was full and finished with breakfast, they insisted on paying our bill!

3. The next morning, eating breakfast, the head chef and Aunty owner  of a local curry shop happily gave a bundle of bananas from her farm.

 

Life Lesson 3:  Be Grateful

 

Aligned with the idea of giving is gratitude.

One pattern I have noticed after living here for some years is the respect and gratitude that Thai people show towards their parents. They regard their parents in the highest respect, as the givers of life and opportunities. You may find many children working and learning side-by-side with their parents, learning real life skills from a young age. In interviewing the children or adults at various restaurants, I find that it is not uncommon for people’s purpose in opening up a restaurant, or working, to help and give back to their parents. To return many of the favors their parents have done for them throughout their lives, whether by giving money, happiness, or comfort back to their parents. When chatting with one of the owners at Raan Mai – Baan Café for example, she enthusiastically shared about her driven intention to help and support her father. Without having any knowledge about wood or coffee, her dream eventually came to successful fruition as a result of her gratitude.

Thai people recognize that those who have done favors for them — their mothers, fathers, teachers, or anyone who has done something good for them, or made them come to an important realization, or helped them develop or change — should be people worthy of their gratitude.

Contemplating about all of these people I have encountered really gave a hit to my heart… The question arose in my mind as to why it wasn’t a natural thought in my mind to give back to my parents for everything they have done for me, for my entire life… That is, until I came to Thailand.

 

Life Lesson 4:  Make your life happy

A common trend I have observed in speaking with Thai people, no matter what position they hold in this world, is this notion that having “enough” is well, enough. The main goal for many Thais seems to be the desire to be happy — to live a happy life with just enough, and to be happy doing the best they can with what they have. For them, it isn’t about how much they have, but how fulfilled they feel in their minds.

I once shared a conversation with a van driver who easily opened his heart to share his life’s story. He told me of his past and how he used to chase material things and money, thinking they would bring him happiness…which he found out later that it did not. He shared how happy he was with his present-day work, that he is happy to work with young children, who bring his life joy and a sense of fulfillment. This, he explained, is the real happiness for him. He told me that he doesn’t need much money or presents but that “making himself happy is the biggest gift he can give himself”. My perception did a complete 180 after hearing this man speak his truth. I realized that his social status or job did not matter one bit compared to the immense joy he had found in his life. This is the largest asset one can have in their lives.

Where the Western perspective emphasizes external sources of happiness, Thai people seem to have found the real deal intrinsically.

It is no wonder that Thailand is known as “the land of smiles”.

 

 

Life Lesson 5: Sabai Sabai

 

‘Sabai sabai’ is a phrase you will encounter often here in Thailand. It is the English equivalent to ‘chill chill’ or ‘take it easy’. In essence, this means ‘don’t take things so seriously’, relax about them, and don’t worry too much.

This phrase can be used to lighten up a situation or reassure people that they don’t need to be so serious and their minds not too busy with thinking. It is a good reminder to not take life so seriously and to be relaxed no matter what situation you meet. Everything will pass, and most things are never as big as we think they are.

Life is as serious as we make it out to be…But with a simple ‘sabai sabai’, it can feel a lot smoother and happier.

 

Thank you to the Thai people for being great teachers, and for giving me many good lessons along the way.

Thank you, Thailand, for inspiring me to be a better person and giving me the tools I need to live a fulfilling life.

Koh Samui

5 Things to Do in Koh Samui

Recommendations for a short visit in Samui…

1. Visit the Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai. Admire the stunning architecture and surrounding crystal blue hues of the ocean.

 

2. Relax at Mantra Resort in Mae Nam. Enjoy beautiful ocean sunrises and sets from your balcony, take a refreshing dip in the pool, learn Thai cooking, eat some pizza, do some daily yoga,  or treat yourself to a Thai massage in the luxurious spa.

3. Take a stroll through Fisherman’s Wharf Walking Street and buy some souvenirs or try out different Thai street foods. It’s a night market with a beachy vibe, lots of vendors, street food, elephant walk, restaurants, bars, live music, etc. It gets livelier as the night gets older. If you want to sit down for a meal and people watch while you eat, enjoy some delicious international grub at Bar Baguette.

 

4. Take a day trip to Angthong National Marine Park – It will cost you about 2,000 baht per person with pick-up and drop-off at your hotel. A speedboat will bring you to the park, where you can snorkel with fish surrounded by beautiful corals at Koh Wao. Then, the tour guide will take you sightseeing around the marine park, and you will hike up to see Emerald Lake (Talay Nay), an amazing emerald-colored saltwater lake surrounded by island. Lunch is served at Wua Ta Lap (Sleeping Cow Island) and digested as you go on a kayak adventure around the island’s nature. A true beauty that will force you to stay present with all things natural.

 

5. Spend a quiet relaxing day at Mae Nam Beach — quiet, peaceful, and untouched! Bring your own beach towel and pack a lunch because there’s not much here except you and the big blue!

………

Knowledge Notes

  • If you want to see the “real Thailand”, this is really not where you will find it. However, if you want a relaxing holiday with beautiful beaches in more upscale accommodations, a laidback island feel, and some good food, this is the place to go!
  • Taxis are a bit more expensive here on Koh Samui than on mainland since it attracts an overwhelming number of tourists.
  • It’s very easy to get around using English as most of the islanders are used to foreign, or ‘falang’ crowds.
  • Central Festival Samui is where you can find any daily necessities you may have forgotten to pack, or even try some good Thai food and desserts.
  • Almost everything here is picture-worthy so bring a camera along. But also capture the moments with your mind’s eye and a deep breath of ocean air.

 

Learning Thai: Tips & Resources

The more you stay in Thailand, the more you will find yourself getting used to the sounds and complex intonations of the Thai language. If you truly want to understand the culture and its people, you will commit yourself to learning the language. It’s a fascinating language where words are rich with deeper meanings. The Thai language even has many words that don’t exist in English. It may bring you new insights or a different perspective on life.

Here are some tips and resources to get you started on your Thai language acquisition adventure!

Tips for Learning Thai

  1. Make Thai friends.
  2. Listen…A LOT everywhere you go, with everything that you do.
    1. Listen to others.
    2. Listen to music.
    3. Watch Thai TV series, movies, etc.
    4. Take note of words and research the definitions of recurring ones.
  3. Learn the sounds of the language by learning the alphabet.
    1. The alphabet of Thai is broken into consonants and vowels. Learn the 3 classes of consonants, and the vowels and you will be able to identify the sounds that make up words when listening and speaking.
    2. Search in YouTube for the singalong song, and basics of alphabet.
      1. Search first letter of the alphabet: ก gai.
  4. Start to speak no matter how difficult it feels.
    1. Get feedback from your listeners – if they make faces of confusion, you probably need some more practice.
    2. Use an app on your phone that will recognize your accent as you practice to improve.
    3. Go through the tones using the Thai method of attaching a vowel to a consonant and then saying it with all the tones.

Resource Recommendations

Dictionary

Longdo Dictionary

  • Both an app for your phone and a website, this gives accurate, detailed definitions. You can even read the word used in context of a sentence to check your understanding. Often connects multiple dictionaries, French and Japanese included, to help you cross-reference the translation provided.

Books

Thai for Beginners by Benjawoon Poomsan Becker

Key during your listening phase, when you will spend more time listening to Thai than producing Thai.

Why use it: This book has the basics of the sentence structure, as well as great exercises to help you practice with the tones just like Thais learn as kids. This repetitive practice of combining consonants with various vowels in all 5 tones will give you needed practice as a foundation of learning Thai.

Where to get it: I have seen this book all over, used or new. If you are already in Bangkok, stop by  Asia Books or Kinokuniya to buy a new copy. The benefit here will be that it comes with a CD for listening practice. Or buy it online before you come to Asia. If you are lucky, you might find it sitting around a friends’ house, or  in a hostel somewhere.

How to use it: Definitely practice with the exercises that it has to give you a good foundation. The structure of grammar is in the pages, laid out clear and simple. Also, if you get a chance to sit down with a Thai person, they will be able to read with you the patterns of vowels with the tones. Repeating after a Thai person as you read is the start of your proper pronunciation, and will also give you a better ear for noticing the differences in tones and vowels when you are listening to others.

Thai Reference Grammar

Why use it: Looking to go deeper into the details of Thai spoken language, and go from speaking broken or street Thai to understanding the true structure. It can clearly explain the structures of common grammar, which will inevitably help you improve beyond your basic level.

Where to get it: In Bangkok already? Stop by  Asia Books or Kinokuniya to buy a new copy. Buy it online before you come to Asia.

How to use it: Study and read, but can apply in your own speech and find these structures when listening to Thai

YouTube Teachers

Adam Bradshaw

Thai with Mod

Kruu Wee Teach Thai

My Mate Nate

Movies/TV

The Billionaire: The Billionaire (official International Trailer)  (True story of the success of Thailand’s infamous dried seaweed snack business—Tao Kae Noi, and the perseverance of the men behind it); Also known as TOP SECRET (Wai roon pun lan): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2292955/

If you’re in the mood for some Thai romantic comedies, check out Bangkok Traffic or I Fine…Thank you…Love you

For the teenager in you, the Hormones TV series, as its name insists, is filled with dramatic, adolescent-themed crises. Why I like it for learning Thai? Because on YouTube, it has English subtitles and after sharpening your listening skills, you’ll be able to pick up on common Thai words and match them to their English counterpart.

Music

Bodyslam

Recommended Listening: [MV] Bodyslam: Last Light (before darkness) (Sang Soot Tai) (EN sub)

Here is the Lyrics Translation if you are interested in decoding the deeper meaning of the song. This site is excellent for learning Thai song lyrics and word pronunciation.

thai language

There is much to learn and tons of resources out there. The rest…is up to you.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and just have fun as you learn and explore. 

โชคดี (Chok dee) – Good luck!

 

Patongo Ruam Chok (Chai 4)

Patongo Ruam Chok (Chai 4)

Address

Open: Saturday, Sunday & Holidays from 7AM until approx. 8 or 8:30AM (or until they sell out)

If you are an early riser or have lived in Thailand for a bit, you are most likely familiar with ‘Patongo’, Chinese-style, deep-fried dough shaped like chromosomes, dunked in gooey condensed milk. This is a breakfast favorite for many Thais…and foreigners as well!

It tastes best when accompanied with warm soy milk or ‘cha nom yen’ (Thai tea). You can also dip this in ‘Sankaya’, a pandan-flavored pudding with Carnation milk. A greasy, not-so-nutritious treat but it definitely is delicious and crave-worthy!

Now, we have test-tasted many different ‘Patongo’ around Bangkok, but it seems that the best-tasting and best-selling award goes to a tiny, mom-and-pop shop right in our hood, Lad Phrao. This place is open only on Saturday and Sundays…It’s a family-run business, with two brothers actively rolling the literal dough and momma counting the figurative dough (taking care of the money).

If you are not an early riser, you will miss out on this but it is worth the sacrifice of sleep. The trick is to arrive at the storefront at around 7:15 AM and get a cue chip (in the form of a poker chip).  Then you can usually go do your veggie shopping at the nearby ‘Ruam Chok’ market for about 20 minutes while you wait for your fried goodie bag. People line up quickly and there is a very small window of opportunity to be granted with these delicacies. In fact, they are usually sold out by 8 or 8:30 AM. The early bird catches the worm!

The alternative to doing your grocery shopping would be to watch the action that ensues  in the creation of these golden fried puffs. The two brothers seem very serious and focused…It’s very difficult to break their flow but if you manage to do, they might share a smile with you. They have clearly been doing this for a long time, as they have a very efficient system to produce a great deal of Patongo in a short amount of time. Their chef hats and white t-shirts are usually soaked by the time they’re done, as they roll dough, fry, turn the dough over, let it cool/let the oil drip off, bag it, and finally — give it to the customer. They have a very large wok filled with a great deal of hot oil. The dough is cut into the same perfectly-sized logs, the Patongo, which are then tossed into the wok. They also have ‘Salapao’, which are large, dough, oval-shaped saucers. These are sweeter than Patongo, and do not usually need to be dipped in any kind of condiment. Both of them turn out to be not so oily (especially compared to other sellers). They are crispy and brown on the outside and soft and airy on the inside. Perfect with a hot cup of coffee (dunk if you dare!) or ‘khai luuak’ (a  cup of soft-boiled egg, topped with Thai pepper and Maggi seasoning sauce).

It is a treat to eat these breakfast delicacies. Just a warning, though, if you do venture out on a weekend morning to taste these Patongo, it will most likely ruin your experience eating it anywhere else. It’s very hard to compare!