East coast regional cooking comes to town
Ah, grandma’s cooking. In the pantheon of Thai food, there is no more revered sort. Hit a restaurant with some Thai friends and it surely won’t be long before one of them, after tucking into the kanom jeen or tom kha gai, pipes up with “yes, it’s tasty and all, but not as good as my grandma’s”, or words to that effect. Fear not, though. For those of us not lucky enough to have an apron-wearing khun yai there is an alternative to telling them to give it a rest: namely, restaurants serving recipes that belong to someone else’s.
Supanniga Eating Room, a bigger-than it-looks threestorey shophouse, is one such space. For his latest venture, Eh Laoraowirdoge, a young restaurateur who co-owns Parisianstyle café Minibar Royale and upscale Isan restaurant Somtum Der, decided to stop reminiscing about his late khunyai’s homecooked meals and bring her old recipes to Thonglor instead. She apparently hailed from the East coast’s Trad province, where the cooking is “more seaside” as he puts it, before moving to Khon Kaen in the northeast. Net result: a menu like nothing else in town.
To put it another way, cuisine from Trad is rare here (as is most regional cooking other than southern and northeastern), but add her time-honoured recipes, plus the odd Isan dish or inflection, and you have something even more out of the ordinary.
Served on stylish blue-and-white flower-pattern crockery, dishes include appetisers such as ma hor, sunny mouthfuls of minced pork and peanut paste served on tangerine slivers (B90), and pu jah, devilled crab shells filled with crabmeat and pork (B230). Even more surprising are the dishes that make up your main spread – the salads, soups, curries, stews, relishes and stir-fries. The yum nue lai is a tart salad featuring chewy morsels of beef shank and deep-fried garlic (B150), while the fiery yet flavoursome nam prik khai pu with boiled veggies (B190) is made with crab meat and roe and, unusually, absolutely no shrimp paste. Then there was a mild and sweet curry – the moo cha muang (B170) – that “not many Thais know about”. Starring slow-cooked, fall apart pork and sour boiled leaves, our spoon would not stop gravitating towards it.
As well as lots of rarely encountered dishes, another surprise at Supanniga are the ingredients, many sourced from Trad. These include the shrimps, black pepper and, the most liberally used of all, the nam pla, or fish sauce. We found it imparting a saltiness to the ka lum tod nam pla, or fried Chinese cabbage (B120); the deep fried pla too, or mackerel (B160); and a meal on a plate, the khao pad nam prik pao pla salid, fragrant stir-fried rice with crispy leaf fish and salted egg (B160). Meanwhile, more family know-how is at work in the desserts. The intricately carved sapodilla fruit, with its granular texture and brown sugar like flavour, comes implanted with jelly, for example.
Obscure yet approachable, not to mention modestly priced, Supanniga’s menu is exciting, the stuff that essay-length food blog posts are written about. But as we don’t have the luxury of space, let’s just move on and say that the drinks list and setting are impressive too. Martinis ranging in flavour from watermelon to Earl Grey and espresso are mixed strong at the bar (B190-220), while the décor brings the colourful northeast to a raw concrete shell. Think Isan silks on the walls, terracotta tiling, wooden tables grooved like the mai feum (an Isan weaving utentsil), and pictures of blossoming flowers taken at Eh’s Khon Kaen boutique hotel of the same name.
As for seating, the ground floor houses half a dozen tables (as well as the bar), the second private booths, and the third, with its candlelit lounge feel and intimate balcony with cushioned banquettes, is the spot to head for your post-meal cocktail and analysis.
Supanniga Eating Room
160/11 Thonglor (between Thonglor Soi 6 and 8, Sukhumvit Soi 55) | facebook.com/supannigaeatingroom | 02-714-7508 | 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-11:30pm