Boy was he right. I don’t know even where to start. First of all, I was the only farang (westerner) around. Second, when I asked for transport from a local I got big smiles and knowing nods. Upon arriving at Baanrai, after a 10 minute drive OUT of town, I was blown away. Amidst the chaos and dirty side streets was this oasis. As you walk in, you hear the soothing sounds of a waterfall, a live guitarist singing both Thai and American folk songs, and the chatter of Thai families ending their day together at dinner. It’s name actually means ‘country house at sunset.’
When I sat, they gave me a 28 page menu with no less than 15 items per page. It was overwhelming but after a bit of study, my waitress came to take my order. She giggled and offered different suggestions, for which I’m eternally grateful because this meal turned out to be the best of my life.
I wound up with a mound of fried little fish (with spicy sauce), a vegetable and chicken curry, and the dish I’ll be dreaming about for a long time, gaeung curry with pork (northern Thai curry). It was all good, but the gaeng hanglay muu was remarkable. Red, spicy (but they held back a bit for this farang), rich, and deep developed flavors enveloped fork tender, stewed pork that had fatty bits. Eaten with a bit of rice, it was perfection. Later, I even sought out the right curry powder for it (red curry won’t do), and found a recipe I can’t wait to try (see below).
Utterly stuffed and buzzed from my two large Singha beers, life felt complete and it was time to head back to my river refuge, Galare Guest House. My waitress took extra care of me, got me a taxi and made sure I was able to find it outside the gate of Baanrai. I really must write the owners and tell them what a great job she did.
This place is what I came to Thailand for. All along I’ve had good food, some even really good (ex. swimmer crab in yellow curry at Nuhm – at the Metropolitan Hotel and which I recommend, various dishes in the Saochingchao area) quite frankly I had been marginally disappointed. What I’d had here wasn’t better than my sisters butter chicken (it curls my toes to think about it), my moms garbanzo bean soup, anything my chef uncle has ever cooked me…until this meal.
Perhaps it was the ambiance, exceptional food, the gracious waitress, or all of it put together, but this experience was truly remarkable. I will take the memories of this night with me to other far away lands for many years to come.
Gaeng Hanglay Muu Recipee
This dish is prepared in large quantities for important occasions and requires simmering for a long time.
1lb 2oz pork cut into 1 in pieces
2T fish sauce
2T palm sugar
1t gaeng hanglay curry powder (made of equal parts cumin, tumeric, coriander, mace powders)
3T gaeng hanglay curry paste (can substitute red curry paste for this but NOT for the powder)
2 cups water
3T peanuts, roasted until brown
1/2 cup ginger (skin removed, cut into strips)
3T tamarind juice (if not available, pour hot water over fresh SOUR tamarind (not sweet variety) and then squeeze to extract juice)
Put the pork in a bowl along with the paste, fish sauce, palm sugar, curry powder, mix well and leave for 20 minutes or as long as overnight.
Put oil in wok and fry pork and marinade until cooked on outside. Add the water, bring to a boil. Add peanuts, ginger, and tamarind juice, simmer for at least 15 minutes but preferably until sauce is thick. You may need to add some more water.
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