I finally made it back. Baan Chan, the subject of today's post, is a restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Chanthaburi, a province in eastern Thailand. I had been to Chanthaburi several years ago, but other than some nice seafood, didn't really notice anything in particular about the food there. Since then I've learned that Chanthaburi is famous for its fruits, is home to Thailand's most famous rice noodles ('sen chan'), and is also known for the famous black pepper that grows in the area as well as over the border in Cambodia. The border area is quite undeveloped, and the province is also known for dishes that include various types of game, such as wild deer, boar and birds. I like Thai boar (which is usually raised), but don't really want to consume wild animals, so on my visit to Baan Chan I stuck with duck. This included kaeng paa pet, 'jungle' curry with duck:
If you order kaeng paa elsewhere in Thailand, you'll get a soup. But apparently in Chanthaburi the dish takes the form of something like a thick stir-fry, with crunchy bamboo, heaps of herbs (lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, basil, chili, peppercorn and a hint of nutmeg), bizarre bits of duck, and unusually, chunks of unripe banana (the unattractive grayish bits you see there). This is the restaurant's signature dish, and a good example of really freaking spicy Thai food done well, meaning that there was actually a variety of spicy flavours present (black pepper, ginger), rather than just the burn of chilies.
I also had khua kling pet:
Until this meal, the only khua kling I was familiar with was a southern Thai dish that is typically pork or beef braised in a a curry paste until 'dry'. This dish was actually more or less a lot like a drier, spicers kaeng paa without the veggies. Excellent.
After these two, the green curry with homemade fish balls:
seemed like a mild palate cleanser! I thought this was a perfect example of 'real' Thai green curry, which unlike the stuff you'll get in touristy restaurants, tends to be slightly yellow in color, has a hefty layer of oil floating on top, mushy eggplants, and is more watery than most people think a 'curry' should be. I do remember seeing this curry in quite often in Chanthaburi, and recall that is often contained fish, which is somewhat unusual elsewhere in Thailand.
Although I don't think it's particularly associated with Chanthaburi, we can never say no to a good naam phrik kapi:
i.e. shrimp paste dip, served with fresh and battered-and-deep-fried veggies.
The last dish was kao lao:
It's basically a bowl of noodles--without the noodles. Kind of a pointless dish, if you ask me. The broth was sweet, as is usually the case, and was heavy with ground peanuts. Yuck.
I'll definitely be coming back, as I still haven't tried the sen chan phat puu, rice noodles fried with crab, or the kaeng nuea sai krawaan, beef curry with nutmeg.