When I find myself in an unfamiliar province somewhere in Thailand and am in need of something to eat, my first course of action is typically to call Suthon Sukphisit. Khun Suthon writes the Cornucopia column that runs every Sunday in the Bangkok Post and is a wealth of knowledge about regional Thai food and interesting restaurants. In fact, I think Khun Suthon has been so many restaurants around Thailand that he's beginning to get them mixed up. On a recent trip to Suphanburi, a province about two hours north of Bangkok, I called Khun Suthon to ask if he had any recommendations and without hesitation he replied, "You should go to Paa Muay, it's in Pang Plaa Maa District, just outside Suphanburi." I made a mental note and headed off to Bang Plaa Maa, only to find that there was no Paa Muay, but rather the almost identically-named restaurants Phii Muay, Paa Muay (different tone) and Mae Buay. Not wanting to bother Khun Suthon any more, we placed our bets on Mae Buay, grandest of the lot. And although I haven't yet confirmed it with Khun Suthon, I'm pretty sure we made the right choice.
If you can read Thai, the best thing you can do in provincial restaurants is to order straight from the list of recommended dishes, usually the first page of the menu. Mae Buay's recommended dishes included mee krob, shown above. Unusually, the dish included egg and was garnished with crispy pork rinds. The slightly sweet noodles were great tamed by the crispy/sour/sweet sides of pickled garlic and Chinese chives.
There was hor mok plaa chon:
a 'steamed curry', as David Thompson likes to call it, of snakehead fish. Slightly spicier than most, creamy from coconut milk and revolving around freshwater fish, the dish exemplified central Thai flavours and ingredients.
There was phat chaa plaa maa:
a central Thai-style spicy stir-fry using the somewhat coarse freshwater fish that is the district's namesake. Although oily, I love this dish particularly for its typically generous amount of garlic and green peppercorns, ingredients typically used in an effort to mask 'strong' tasting meat or fish.
And finally there was the sour soup, tom som plaa khang:
Unlike the more popular sour Thai soup tom yam, tom som is made tart by the addition of dried/salted plum and young ginger. The plum provides the soup's sourness with a salty undertone, and coupled with the very fresh freshwater fish, the dish was the perfect bookend to a delicious, balanced central Thai meal.
Thanks, Khun Suthon.
Mae Buay 44 Moo 5, Bang Plaa Maa District, Suphanburi 035 587 077
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