Our road trips to Southern Thailand always involve taking this scenic shortcut through Bang Traboon area of Petchaburi Province.
Instead of taking Highway 4 all the way from Rama 2 to Petchaburi, we took a left at KM. 73 next to the PTT gas station. The winding byway takes us through old-style fisherman villages, old-style salt farms dotted with dilapidated barns and still pretty undisturbed mangrove forests. This is the area where they do a lot of coastal fishing and farming, hence making it one of the best spots in the region to feast on fresh seafood, especially the sweet, flaky yet meaty meats of blue crabs and Thai mackerel fish known as platu mae klong.
We have tried a couple of places in this area before. Once you get into the entrance of this byway, you will see lots of signs leading to many local seafood places. We went to a place called ‘Khun Ja’ at Wat Khao Yeesan, but didn’t like it very much. Too many flies around, poor service, low hygienic standard, and tissues scattered freely on the floors plus no consistency in the food there. Then, we got a tip by a food-obsessed fellow about this place called ‘Daeng Chai Klong’ that sells wonderful steamed crabs and ‘gaeng kua chakarm neur pu’ (curry of seablite chakarm and crabmeat) and whatever you wish for in a local tasty seafood restaurant. We went there right away and so far it has become our most favorite seafood restaurant in this area.
It was almost an hour drive from the entrance of the shortcut. You need to get all the way pass Samut Songkarm and just before you reach the big bridge that crosses Mae Klong River, take a left into a dirt road that leads you to this restaurant. You will see the sign first thing you pass a big mandatory curb. So, you won’t miss it.
This place looks like a fisherman home with a small parking lot that can carry about 3-4 compacts. A few dogs and cats are typically present. Apparently, they have become more popular recently that they have expanded their parking space to another lot nearby. They have also expanded their on-deck seatings with lots of long tables for big families. This is a good place for a quiet meal, especially if you can manage a non-weekend escape. The mangrove-lined Bang Traboon river is gentle and serene, except for the occasional blares of the racing long-tail boats.
As we would expect from any seafood place in this area, Daeng serves all kinds of locally-sourced seafood. Fresh catches of the day are listed on the whiteboard, and you can choose what you like to be cooked the way you like. Apart from my favorite blue crabs, there are also sea crabs, local mackerels (pla tu and pla insee), snapper, cuttlefish, grouper, river prawns and sea prawns. You can have them grilled, steamed, tom yum, gaeng pa (clear curry), pad cha (stir-fried with chilies and herbs) or any which style you prefer. We are not so much into mussels and other types of shellfishes, although they do have those (especially the famous local razor clams) in stock, ready to be cooked at the instant.
As you can see, their steamed crabs are to die for. They are fresh and sweet and need no dipping sauce whatsoever to be great. The price is Bt450 per kilogram and that’s a whole kilogram to be shared between two of us.
We also like their curry in the picture two from top. Called ‘gaeng kua bai chakarm neur pu,’ this is a thick and creamy curry to be served with rice. Sweeter than other curries, this dish in particular is famous for this area where the bai chakarm (seablite) is abundant in the mangrove areas. This place, unlike the aforementioned ‘Khun Ja’ that twice we were there served only dull-tasting chewy and tough and old leaves of chakarm, selects just the young and fresh shoots of bai chakarm which give a great, refreshing burst of sea taste to the curry. You really must have experiences in everything to be great. Eating included 😀 They are also generous about the crabmeat and the price is so generous. About Bt150 for that bowl.
We also order deep-fried soft-shelled crabs which was also lovely although you can just skip the grilled cuttlefish for it is nothing special. I was wishing for a squid (like those sold at Amphawa), but since the Thai word is the same for both squid and cuttlefish (plamuk) and we didn’t ask then which exactly did they mean, this is what what we got.
Anyway, this place has become our staple whenever we go to the South. Sitting there munching on the fresh blue crabs, looking at the serenity of the surroundings, enjoying the chirping birds, the egrets, the cats and the dogs, we found a simple happiness. This might not be the fanciest restaurants around, but I like it. Simple, friendly ambiance and good service, too. 😀