The source for most of my Chiang Mai recommendations (along with Grantourismo) was the English writer Kay Plunkett Hogge who I have followed for many years on twitter. Kay was bought up in Bangkok and has also spent a significant amount of time in Chiang Mai, so when she recommended Puong Thong, saying the cooking was “astonishing”, I didn’t think twice and made my way there for dinner on my last night.
Run by mother/daughter team, Anchalee & Mali Tiaree, Puong Thong is located down on the west bank of the river, to the south of Chiang Mai old town, just past he Ratilanna Riverside resort. They specialise not in Lanna cuisine, but Central Thai cooking, something I was quite looking forward to after eating more pork in a weekend than I would normally do in a month!
The restaurant is basically in their back garden and consists of a handful of mismatched wooden tables looking out onto the river, with the sound track provided by the KTV bar next door, all very good fun and you really feel that you have stumbled across something a bit different.
Considering it is just the two of them, the menu still offers plenty of choice and I struggled to narrow it to Yum Kratiem, a Thai garlic salad and Choo Chee Goong, an aromatic, homestyle river prawn red curry.
Yum Kratiem is made by mixing chopped shallots, garlic and coriander with cashew nuts that have been fried with dried red chilli, fried shrimp and squid with a lime, chilli and fish sauce dressing. The squid is fried for around 10 minutes so it has a great, almost crunchy texture to it that works really well with the cashews and the garlic.
I first tried Choo Chee (or Chu Chi) Curry at Nahm in Bangkok and it quickly became a favourite of mine. It is made using a really aromatic red curry paste that is heavier on the lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal than standard red curries and then finished with lots of lovely thick coconut milk. Anchalee had asked how spicy I wanted the dish and I assured her that wanted it “Thai spicy” which in this case is still pretty mild as Choo Chee is a dish where it is more about the aromatics than the spice levels, wonderfully fragrant and absolutely delicious! If I tell you there are 3 prawns on that plate you can imagine how big they were!
With a couple of beers dinner came to, I think, about 600-700 THB or $17-$20. More expensive than the other meals I enjoyed in Chiang Mai, but then of course river prawns and seafood are going to cost more than pork!
I know most people travelling to Chiang Mai are going to want to try the local, regional food but I would whole heartedly recommend squeezing in a meal at Puong Thong as well as everything was just so delicious and Anchalee and Mali could not have been nicer!
Anchalee has even co-authored a book (written in French) which includes almost 60 of her wonderful family recipes.
Puong Thong (Puang Thong)
Chang Klan Road, just a little past Charoen Prathet Road.
+66 53 820 378
open 5pm-10pm daily