Ruen Chan is a small restaurant located in Nuea Khlong district (Krabi Province) along the road that leads up to Trang. I found out it by accident, attracted by a Chinese temple tower sticking in the background, behind some buildings, which I really wanted to visit. So today, being on a journey to Lanta Island, I took the opportunity to make there a lunch break.
A dozen tables lined up in two rows side by side, close to a tank where some Japanese carp were peacefully swimming, simple furniture created by assembling haphazard local objects, among which stands out a little orange rocking chair with Harley Davidson logo painted on and the portraits of King and Queen of our country. It was just a place like many others that can be found here and there in southern Thailand.
I asked what their specialty was and I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t one of the many typical regional dishes, just modified with a personal touch, but rather a dish created by Ms. Som, the nice and skilled local cook which gladly lends herself to “reveal its secrets”.
“Yum Ruean Chan” is the highly recommended from the restaurant staff. The secrets are the fine sliced lemongrass and crispy shrimps and squids. Normally the lemongrass in Thai food will be chopped in quite big pieces that should be smashed in order to let the aromatic oil come out and spread its particular taste and usually will not be eaten while, “The fine sliced lemongrass – Ms. Som said – helps a lot in this recipe because allows to the herb to be easily eaten as well shrimps and squids well crispy match properly with this delicious spicy sauce.” And this simple shrewdness is what make a difference changing this dish into the masterpiece of the restaurant.
The dish is naturally suitable to the Thais palate notoriously fond of spicy food, but can be easily adaptable to the tastes of Europeans just by reducing at will the amount of chili paste and crushed chili.
So let’s see how to cook Yum Ruean Chan
First, make the sauce: put the fish sauce, chili paste and lime juice in a bowl and mix together. Taste the sauce and pour the evaporated milk into the sauce.
The second step is to put fine sliced lemongrass, chopped garlic and chilies into the sauce and mix well and set aside.
Final step mix the batter dipped with shrimps and squids, then fry in a hot boiling vegetable oil, until they are well crispy and put into the sauce. Mix everything together again. Serve in a plate and garnish with fried kaffir lime leaves on top. Eat with steam rice.
Widely satisfied with the former dish, I decided to taste a more classic dish and I ordered “Moo Tod Bai Magrood” or deep fried pork with fried kaffir lime leaves. It was another recipe that impressed me for the simplicity of its realization. The deep fried golden brown belly pork goes very well with the aromatic kaffir lime leaves. It looked oily, which is natural for belly pork, but when you try you cannot realize what part of the pork it is. And it is enough to marinate the pork in soya sauce, without sugar, differently from the majority of the restaurants, to transform an almost trivial dish into a real delight. A glass of cold beer also goes very well with this food.
The ingredients are very basic: belly pork or pork neck, a bit of soya sauce, a pinch of salt, kaffir lime leaves and a couple of cups of vegetable oil; the cooking procedure is also very simple: slice belly pork or pork neck about one centimeter thick. It shouldn’t be too thin, as the pork will turn out too hard after deep frying then leave the pork marinating in soya sauce and salt for 10 minutes. At the same time begin to heat a wok and pour the vegetable oil into it. Once the oil is hot enough, put the marinated pork into the wok and fry until the pork turns golden brown then put kaffir lime leaves into the wok. Fry altogether for a few minutes; make sure that kaffir lime leaves don’t turn burnt. Remove from the oil and set aside. Serve with chili sauce and eat with steam rice or sticky rice.
To complete properly the day don’t miss to have a look, as appetizer or digestive, to the nearby Chinese temple Umm Jingjui Johsugong with its 13-storey Chinese temple, the sacred temple of Nuea Khlong residents, also the venue of the annual nine-day Vegetarian Festival.
Ruean Chan address is:
956 M. 2 Tambon Nuea Khlong, Amphoe Nuea Khlong, Krabi Province
Telephone number: 075 636 595 – Mobile phone: 087 004 64 33
To get there:
From Krabi Town: drive in the direction of Krabi International Airport. Pass the airport and proceed for about 6 km along the route 4. The temple and the restaurant are on the left side approximately 200 meter after the first traffic light.