|Supanniga Eating Room’s comfy and contemporary ambiance|
Here’s a question I always get when my or other people’s foreign friends come to town. Where to take them out to eat? We want a nice proper Thai place that still serves Thai dishes that we recognize, both in looks and flavours, but contemporary enough for a fun casual meal. We want a place that looks nice and presentable, yet not way too fancy and too pricey. We want a place that conveys perfectly the sense of Thai style of everything, but nothing over-the-top like heaps of chilies and spices that some people have been misrepresenting them as equal to the traditional Thai tastes. Because being hot and spicy is certainly NOT Thai.
|A board presenting their specialties, wooden table carved with Esan mat-weaving pattern, and their two famous cocktails of watermelon mojito and supanniga passion fruit|
Then, there’s this new place called ‘Supanniga Eating Room‘ smacked right in the middle of Bangkok’s busiest, but not hardest to access, areas of Sukhumvit Road. Located in a narrow shophouse between Thonglor Soi 6 and Soi 8, Supanniga Eating Room is everything I would ask for in a restaurant to recommend to friends, either Thais or out-of-town. The small and homey place is bright and nice with wood-and-yellow interior decoration; it is chic but not pretentious. I go there to have a nice, scrumptious better-than-average meal when I feel like a treat of my own.
|Poo char – stuffed crab with crab meat and minced pork|
Supanniga, Thai for the Yellow Silk Cotton tree abundant in Thailand’s North, Northeastern and Central area, serves dishes of an owner’s family. The recipe are collected from his late grandmother who, hailing from Trat (the easternmost seaside province of Thailand), brought with her ways of the local cooking when she moved to live with her daughter’s new family in Khon Khaen. It is in Khon Khaen that Khun Yai (the grandma) practiced cooking the way she had always been by incorporating the Thai Northeastern ingredients and ways of life into arrays of delicious dishes of her family. The result is the mixture of dishes, some sending a strong reminiscence of the sea and the other with pungent tastes of herbs infused in homemade chili pastes used in many of the house’s specials.
|Yam neur lai – spicy salad of beef shank|
Good thing about this place is that they do not try to serve Thai food western way. A Thai meal is always meant to be shared with a plate of steamed rice for each person. While lacking the traditional songs and dances, Supanniga Eating Room is where you can bring any foreign friends to enjoy a real Thai ways of eating – sharing with middle spoon tucked into each dish.
Our meal consisted of yam neur lai (spicy salad of beef shank) with thinly sliced shanks just blanched and still chewy and dressed with Thai-style spicy lime-based fresh chili sauce complete with the aromatic herbs such as cilantro and Thai celery. The best thing about this dish is the crispy garlic liberally sprinkled over the top of the dish, giving it a special unique aroma unlike any other Thai spicy salads you might have eaten.
|Scrumptious kai look khoey|
We also ordered kai look khoey (deep-fried half-boiled duck egg in palm sugar and tamarind sauce) which is a very old Thai dish. Many young people today might have grown up without seeing this dish around in the house because it is quite a mess (as you can tell) to prepare. First, the eggs need to be boiled perfectly so the yolks are still gluey and thick and then deep-fried (with oil-splattering everywhere) to create the crunchy coating. The sweet and sour sauce is prepared by patiently stewing coconut or palm sugar with tamarind paste into thick caramel texture with the tastes well-balanced between sweet and sour. Then, there’re crispy fried shallot and dried chili and just the leaves of cilantro on top of the dish to complete the unique ensemble.
|House’s specialty of moo chamuang|
Here is one of the house’s specialty – moo chamuang (pork curry with chamuang leaves) which is Chantaburi’s famous dish prepared with chunks of pork and their local sour chamuang leaves. Supanniga’s recipe is a little bit different from other places for they only use the pork neck instead of the belly to avoid excessive fat and accentuate the taste and aroma of the leaves by quickly grilling them before adding into the stew pot. The result is the dish is naturally thickened and so irresistible with steamed rice. The dish is a little bit spicy like any curry should, yet sweet and best of all sour and aromatic from the leaves with the pork just perfectly tender.
Then, we also had this crab roe chili paste served with fresh vegetables. Crab roe chili paste is something you would often find when travelling throughout Thailand’s eastern seaside provinces – a reminder of the fact that you are now close to the sea and so the abundant seafood. The idea is simple, Thai people eat lots and lots of chili pastes, hence myriad of variations. In this case, the rich and luscious crab roe is to contrast with the bright and bold tastes of fresh chili and lime, toning down the hot and torturing tastes. Again, nothing here is too overwhelmingly tasty. This is how Thai people cook and prefer – a well-balanced tastes of everything and nothing too overwhelming.
|Beef shank soup with tomato|
Then we tried another of the house’s specialty – beef shank soup with tomato. It looks simple and it is very comforting. This dish will please any beef lover who likes Thai-style soup, meaning the way Thai people cooked prior to adopting a full-blown caramelized-onion-base soup. This soup has no chili and it can go solo as a soup or accompany rice as a savoury. Either way, it is an excellent and tasty dish.
And I forgot to mentioned the poo char which is the stuffed crab meat pictured at the top of the page. The steamed and pan-fried pieces are pretty delights and served not with the typical sweet plum sauce, but Trat-style chili sauce that adds the nice pungency to the dish. Or, if you must, you can order this as an appetizer before delving into others as a full-on and delicious Thai feast.
|Poo Eur tea to help digestion, jelly-stuffed lamood fruit and bua loi as desserts|
Supanniga Eating Room has 3 floors, seating about 80 people. Jazzy records start playing at around 7pm for dinner. For a total chill-out vibe, head up to the third floor where a small outdoor balcony can seat about 10 people.
Supanniga Eating Room opens daily except Mondays for lunch and dinner. T: 02-714-7508. Expect to pay about Bt500-800 (without drinks) per person. Dishes starts at about Bt150 ++ .