Several decades ago the archaeological world was startled by discovery of the prehistoric Ban Chiang civilization in Thailand’s northeastern province of Udorn Thani. Fantastic bronze jewellery and artifacts’, colourful ochre decorator pottery and even indications of silk wearing were uncrathed that predated similar finds elsewhere in the world and threatened to turn the traditional view of ancient history upside down.
So what has the name of Ban Chiang to do with a delightful modern restaurant just off Bangkok’s Silom business district?Nothing, according to owner-manager Surapol Buakaew.”A name is just a name” the young owner told me in his flawless English. He did, however, once have a collection of beautiful Ban Chiang pottery which he has since given away.
Yet Ban Chiang has come to stand for Thailand and the country’s long history, and what name could be more appropriate for charming restaurant which features some of the finest of traditional Thai cuisine
Ban Chiang restaurant is located on quiet Srivieng Road just east of Silom and next to the royally sponsored Silom Club. The restaurant occupies a half-century-old residence which has been tastefully decorated to preserve the feeling that one is actually dinning in a home rather than a commercial establishment the designer, whose wife is the talented cook, is an artist who helped with the spectacular ceiling paintings at The Regent of Bangkok Hotel. Old clocks, photographs of past membersof the royal family, wood canning and paintings all contribute to the relaxing atmosphere which makes the restaurant such a pleasant place to dine.
Judging by the member of customers on the day I came by for lunch, Ban Chiang’s reputation is already becoming established. The prices are quite reasonable and most of the clientele that day was Thai; a sure sign that the food is authentic.
At owner Surapol’s suggestion, I decided to try an order of the todman khaopote, and unusual variation on a dish which is usually a sort of deep fried pancake made with fish flour. Here, however, the fried cake are mad of corn and vermicelli and are served hot and tasty.
Another pleasant surprise was the spiced chicken wings the meat is finely diced along with spices and vermicelli and then breaded and fried in a shape which resembles what chicken wings are expected to look like. I have only encountered this dish once before and found it quite appealing both times, but even more so at Ban Chiang. (At the previous restaurant, which shall remain nameless, I encountered a few tiny bits of bone mixed in.)
I couldn’t pass up one of my own favourited when I saw it on the menu yam pladouk foo. This spicy salad is made with finely chopped fishwhich finely chopped fish which has been fried so that it becomes rather puffy, for went for better description. To my delight, it was crisp and delicious and just hot enough for my farang taste buds to handle, This old time Thai standby is normally accompanied by an ice cold glass of beer, but it went just as well with the white wine I dad chosen to drink instead.
Next came and order of large, meaty shrimp of the type that Thailand I becoming so good at producing. In fact, the local shrimp farms are starting to become major exporters of the home grown crustaceans. The flesh was soft and gentle on the tongue after the spicy salad.
The last main course of this wholesome meal was a white curry made with chicken and coconut milk. It was loaded with lean meat, but was perhaps a bit too sour for my taste. My Thai colleague, however, thoroughly enjoyed it and devoured almost every last morsel in her bowl.
For dessert I had a craving for tuptim grawp, which can best be described as a sweet made up to resemble pomegranate seeds, unfortunately, other dinners had hadthe same desire ahead of me and I had to settle for salim, a sort of sweet treads made of sugar and coconut floating in coconut milk and covered with shredded ice. It was everything it should be, but I had hoped to see well the cook could handle the taptim grawp which is not all that easy to prepare.
Ban Chiang is a place to go for a kindly meal with one’s friends or family. The mood is one of tham sabai (relax and take it easy) and the bill for your meal won’t put you into the poorhouse. A couple could easily eat a filling repast for only 400 baht or so.
The former residence contains five rooms, three downstairs and two upstairs. And can seat up to about 80 people at one time. The ample grounds are also sufficient to be turned into an outdoor dining area, which might be a worthwhile idea when the cooler season arrives later in the year.
Ban Chiang restaurant is located at 14 Srivieng Road, Silom, Bangkok (tel. 02-236 7045, 02-266-6994). Parking space is available on the grounds as well as on the street.
Why not add it to your list of regular places to dine? You won’t be disappointed.