I remember quite well the time I went to study in the southern part of Thailand. What I learned was, apart from differences in language and culture, one thing that we should know and not miss is the food. The food there is rather hot and spicy made from a variety of chillies and herbs and the tastes are salty, sweet, sour and very hot. The south of Thailand might be the suitable place for people to exercise their creative imagination in Thai food.
During my student period in the South, I often ate Chinese food which was easy to find in the city. After many recommendations from others, I decided to eat southern Thai food at many restaurants near the beaches for special occasions or a dinner party with friends. When we waited for food to be served, various local vegetables and shrimp-paste chilli sauce (Nam Prik Kapi) were provided to the customers. Everyone looked perplexedly at the food and said "we didn't order these," but the smile from the waitress was an answer that they were free of charge.
My fondness for southern Thai food came back again when I returned to Chiang Mai. There are several restaurants from many Thai regions as well as many countries because many people came to settle in Chiang Mai. I realized that restaurant businesses need to be sustainable and have standards of quality and service. Many restaurant owners use the name of their hometown provinces as a part of the title even though they are in Chiang Mai. At first I did not understand why they did that but I find it is surprisingly memorable. Later, as a customer, I realized that food is a very important part of the overall culture. The differences in ways of cooking, a selection of ingredients and presentation were significant factors in the tastes of food. Apart from the good taste of food, good restaurants also maintain standards and professionalism. If a restaurant extends the business by adding more branches, the recipes and standards should be equal or better in all branches. Moreover, each branch should have its own unique versions of food recipes.
Khun Tukta, Ponsarn Noo-dham, is the owner of "Paktai Pattalung" in Chiang Mai. I would like to recommend this restaurant to anyone who would like to try an authentic taste of southern Thai food. If you choose where to eat southern Thai food, Pattalung province is considered one of the best choices for food in the south of Thailand. The local food there is full of chilli and herbs which are also good for health. The famous food dishes are Khaoyam Paktai (cooked rice mixed with vegetables and Budoo source), Khanom Jeen Namya (vermicelli mixed with a fish soup), Nam Prik Kapi (shrimp paste chilli sauce) and lots of local organic vegetables. Fried eggplants and fried acacia are very good entrée for chilli source. The main dishes are fried fish and herbal fried chicken and almost ten types of hot curries such as fish, pork, meat and chicken. I have found that the taste of curry is very hot and full of turmeric. Thus the color of most curry is yellow which is very edible.
Southern Thai food can be eaten all day but lunch is the ideal time and a dinner party with friends is also appropriate. The feeling and taste are so different from northern and central Thai food. The scent herbs and some seasonal vegetables such as Pakria contribute to the exceptional taste of southern Thai food and will attract anyone who enjoys hot and spicy food.
Khun Tukta graduated from the faculty of Social science, Ramkamhaeng University in Bangkok. She opened Paktai Pattalung restaurant 21 years ago at the irrigational canal Road behind Pingpayom market and Chiang Mai University. On the day that I visited I met some Burmese exchange students from the faculty of Veterinary medicine who enjoy southern Thai food. They told me Burmese food is also very hot so they can eat Southern food without difficulty .
I also found out that the Japanese magazine in Chiang Mai went to this restaurant to interview the owner and promote the food. This restaurant is admired by the Japanese families in Chiang Mai .
That day was also great because Khun Tukta gave me her special recipe for fried chicken. Here are the ingredients for fried chicken and herbs: pepper, fresh turmeric, fresh lemon grass and fresh garlic.
Instruction (Thai way of cooking):
1. Prepare chicken chests and remove the bones.
2. Chop the herbs which are pepper, fresh turmeric, fresh lemon grass and fresh garlic and mix them with chicken until the chicken color changes to yellow. Pour some soy source on the chicken as you like.
3. Bring blended herbs and chicken in the pan with hot soybean oil. Put in small amount of soy source. Chicken will be crispy and has a good scent.
4. Fry the rest of herbal ingredients separately and put them on the top of fried chicken before you eat.