Categories
Restaurant

A Thai Truck Stop – Raan Nong Pun

This blog takes a look at Raan Nong Pun – ร้านน้องเปิล – which is what I think of as a Thai Truck Stop. It is found in Singburi province about a one hour drive north of Ayuthaya on the road to Sukhothai along AH1 – Asian Highway 1 (AH-1) past the town of Singburi. It really is a type of restaurant called (in Thai) ข้าวแกง (kao kaeng) – literally “Rice Curry.” It serves mostly pre-made dishes – think of it as Thai Fast Food – for travelers. I’ll include a way to get directions at the bottom of the page.

Nam Prik Kapi
Nam Prik Kapi

(Note: you can see all the photos as a slideshow below.)

  Click images of pictures to see larger version.

I have long had a soft spot for this kind of restaurant. In 1992, on my first trip to Thailand, I went to a 10-day meditation retreat at Suan Mokh monastery (offsite, opens in new window) near Surat Thani in southern Thailand. I was there for nearly 14 days. The food there was nutritious, healthy, bland vegetarian fare: they basically recycled 3 or 4 dishes over and over and it began to be fairly monotonous. I was picked up by Kasma and one of her small-group trips to Thailand on their way to Krabi and we stopped at a place in Chaiya quite similar to Raan Nong Pun. It was one of my most memorable meals ever. The dish we see to the left is from Raan Nong Pun and you’ll probably find it at any Thai fast food center or market: Pan-fried Mackerel and Assorted Vegetables with Hot-and-Pungent Fermented Shrimp Dipping Sauce (Nam Prik Kapi, also called Nam Prik Pla Too). This dish is what I think of as “hard-core Thai food.” The dipping sauce has a strong flavor that is unlike anything I’ve ever had in western cuisine; it may be an acquired taste but is absolutely delicious once acquired.

Restaurant Sign
Sign for Raan Nong Pun
Sign for Raan Nong Pun
Look for this sign

The name for this restaurant probably should be Raan Nong Appun – ร้านน้องแอปเปิล – แอปเปิล, (which I transliterate as Appun – there is no ending “l” sound in Thai) means Apple. It has been shortened in the name to the second syllable – เปิล (pun). Presumably anyone who reads Thai understands what is meant. For those who do not, there is, as we see here, the sign with a very large apple to clue us in. If you are driving from Sukhothai, you can enter the parking lot directly from the highway; coming from Ayuthaya, you will have to make a u-turn and come back around. The picture on the right shows the view as approaching from Ayuthaya. The restaurant is found in the Inburi district in Singburi province, about 90 kilometers from the center of Ayuthaya.

Food Line
Food line
Food Servers
Food servers

These Thai fast-food “truck stops” are all pretty much alike. The closest analogy we have in the U.S. is a cafeteria. There’s a line going past anywhere from 30 to 40 different dishes staffed by (almost always) women in neat, often uniformed, clothing. You go through the line and you can either order 2 or 3 dishes over rice or, as Kasma does on her trips, order plates of each food to eat family style. Westerners going through the line may recognize some of the dishes and then there may be many more that look familiar but we can’t quite name. Doesn’t really matter. Just point to a couple of the dishes that look extra appetizing. You usually pay 30 or 40 baht for two dishes over rice.

Thai Fast Food
Some of the many foods
Restaurant Seating
A seating area

There are always many, many trays of delicious looking food (as above left). As you go through the line, you simply choose whatever looks good to you. (On the trips, Kasma always ordered for the group and selected her favorites.) The seating area is pretty basic – tables, chairs, stations where you can get silverware. There are also other vendors where you can get drinks: water, soft drinks, coffee or (Thai) tea.

In addition to the restaurant and food service there’s also a store that sells many different kinds of Thai kanom (snacks) and also a full array of nam prik – chilli pastes and dipping sauces. This particular stop is known for their own brand of kanom piak – a pastry with a sweet filling in a pastry shell. Kasma always hopes to purchase several boxes, both to feed to her tour members and also as gifts for her Thai friends; unfortunately, they often sell out before we arrive and none of the other brands taste very good.

A Few Dishes Kasma Orders

I always come here with Kasma, who does all of the ordering; basically, I just eat what is put in front of me. It is always very tasty and surprisingly fresh for food that has been sitting for awhile. I will just include the photos below with a few words about the dishes. Food is cafeteria-style so dishes come and go: you may not see all of the dishes shown here.

Fried Fish
Fried fish dish
Fish Dish
Fish in red curry

To the above left is perhaps my favorite dish here: fish is salted, partially dried in the sun and then fried in chunks. Two things make it special: the type of fish (I can’t tell you what it is) and the fact that it is fried to perfection. This is a dish that can sometimes be hard to order because it disappears quite quickly as soon as they put it on display. On the plus side, it is usually quite freshly cooked when you can get it. On the right is another fish dish: a fish in red curry sauce, perhaps what is called pad ped – stir-fried (pad) spicy-hot (ped).

Vegetable Dish
Vegetables and mung-bean noodles
Thai Curried Fish
Thai curried fish

To the left above is a vegetable dish, served with woon sen (mung bean) noodles. On the right is Haw Moek – (Red) Curried Fish Mousse – which is usually on offer at kao kaeng shops and in Thai markets.

Bitter Melon Soup
Bitter Melon Soup
Acacia Leaf Curry
Cassia Leaf Curry

On the left above is another staple at this type of restaurant, a real favorite of mine: Bitter Melon and Pork Rib Soup (Mara Tom Pak Dong See Krohng Moo). It’s one of my favorite because I adore bitter melon. On the right is a Cassia Leaf Curry dish.


Getting There

I can only give the address in Thai:

ร้านอาหารน้องเปิ้ล – Nong Pun Restaurant
736 ถนนสายเอเชีย
อินทร์บุรี อินทร์บุรี สิงห์บุรี 16110
036582391, 036582390
Open: 06:00 – 23:00
Google Map, Ayuthaya to Sing Buri to Raan Nong Pun (offsite, opens in new window)


See also:


Slideshow – Some Dishes at Nong Pun Restaurant

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

[portfolio_slideshow size=full togglethumbs=true togglestate=open]


Written by Michael Babcock, November 2013 & June 2020

Categories
Food Markets

Donuts in Thailand, An Informal Survey

This is a blog about donuts in Thailand. Over the years, I’ve observed donuts in a number of locations, from chain stores to open-air markets. This blog shows some of the donuts I’ve seen over the years.

Colorful Donuts
From a Bangkok open-air market

As I’ve observed before, there has been a proliferation of western carbohydrates in Thailand over the 21 years I’ve been coming here. (See my blog Western Carbs in Thailand.) Although Thai kanom (snacks) are relatively healthy (they nearly all contain a healthy ingredient such as coconut milk, squash, taro, etc.), some kanom wahn (sweet kanom) can be very sweet – some Thais do have a sweet tooth. (Also see my blog Thai Sweet Snacks.)

(Click images to see larger version.)

It would appears that donuts are fairly popular. In January 2011 we happened to be visiting Siam Paragon shopping center. We saw a line of perhaps 50 or 60 Thais, out the door, and wondered what the fuss was about. Turns out they were all lined up for Krispy Kreme donuts; we saw people walking away with two large boxes of donuts. Thais were still lining up half a year after the stores official opening. Certainly, this reflects the inroads in Thailand of Western food chains.

Selling Snacks
Hawker

These days you can find lots of donuts in any shopping center. There are inevitably a chain or two – Mr. Donut and Dunkin’ Donuts are popular – but you can also find donuts in the ground-floor supermarkets (found in every mall) as well as in the many stores (usually a dozen or more) selling western-style baked goods. You’ll find them in open-air markets, from vendors on the street and even from hawkers carrying two baskets suspended by a bamboo pole. As with the first picture above (taken at a Bangkok outdoor market in 2008), the donuts are often brightly glazed.

The Thais also have some snacks that are very reminiscent of donut holes. In Oakland we have donut savant (offsite, opens in new window), which makes the best donut holes around.

Thai Snack
A Thai snack
Inside a Snack
Inside the Thai snack

There are two pictures above of a “Thai donut hole.” I bought this snack from the hawker shown in the picture to the above right in Sukhothai. They reminded me of donut savant so I gave them a try. They were somewhat sweet (deep-fried and glazed) and contain a mung-bean filling, shown to the left, that is barely sweet. They weren’t bad!

Another Hawker
Hawker with 3 snacks
Glazed Donuts
Glazed donuts

Above we see two pictures from Ayuthaya back in 2004. These donuts were sold by the hawker in the left picture. There are highly glazed donuts in the front basket and more traditional snacks in the back basket: the backmost (white) snack is a traditional snack rolled in coconut shreds, and the middle snack is a type of fried dough.

Sukhothai Donuts
Sukhothai Donuts
Tops Donuts #1
Tops Donuts #1

Above to the left are more glazed donuts from the morning market in Sukhothai. To the right, are some colorfully decorated donuts from the bakery at Tops Supermarket at MBK center in Bangkok.

Western & Thai
Western & Thai together
Mae Hong Son Donuts
Mae Hong Son Donuts

The two pictures above are both from the market in Mae Hong Son. The leftmost picture again (as with the hawker above) shows western and Thai snacks sold by the same person. The left tray has very tightly rolled donuts in back next to powdered jelly donuts in the front. The right trays show coconut pancakes (kanom krok) sold in banana leaf baskets: truly the traditional is meeting the modern here! The picture to the right shows deep-fried donuts, some with sesame seeds.

Donuts in a Bag
Donuts in plastic bags
Plain Donuts
Plain donuts in Mae Hong Son

These are also from the market in Mae Hong Son and show small donuts sold pre-packaged in a plastic bag – 8 for 10 baht (about 35 cents at the time). I tried these donuts – each one was about two bites: they tasted just like a plain cake donut back in the states. Not bad.

I should note that like Sukhothai, this market is frequented mainly by locals with just a few tourists; it is certainly the locals who are the target audience for these supposedly western sweets.

Tops Donuts #2
From Tops Market
Tops Donuts #3
Unglazed Tops donuts

Here are two more pictures of the donuts available at Tops Supermarket at the MBK center in Bangkok. My, they do like highly frostinged donuts! The ones to the right are less sweet.

Mr. Donut
Mr. Donut in a shopping center
Mr. Donut's Donuts
Mr. Donut's Donuts

There’s a Mr. Donut in nearly every mall in Bangkok. This picture is from the Imperial World in Samrong (Samut Prakan) on the edge of Bangkok. There’s a Mr. Donut on the lower and the ground floors. I also see that there’s a big sign on the main floor announcing that “Dunkin’ Donuts is coming soon!”


See also:


Written by Michael Babcock, February 2013

Categories
Food Markets Wednesday Photo

Sour Sausage Vendor (Wednesday Photo)

On the Grill

Sour Sausage Vendor
Sour Sausage Vendor

This picture shows a common sight in Thailand – a street food vendor with a very basic set-up:  it can be relatively inexpensive to set up as a vendor. The picture was taken in front of a historical ruin in Ayuthaya.

Sour sausage, in this case, Stuffed Sour Sausage with Sticky Rice (Saigkrawk Naem) is a fairly common street food. It’s a simple recipe – ground pork, cooked rice and salt, mixed, stuffed and left out several days to ferment. The vendor also gives you a bag of condiments to be eaten with each bite of the sausage, typically peanuts, sliced ginger, whole Thai chillies (prik kee noo) – you bite off as much as you want – and often cabbage.

Kasma has blogged previously on street food: Delights of Thai Street Food. On our website, see One Soi’s Street Food Scene and Thai Fast Food: Crowded Sidewalks and Waterways.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.