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.
(Note: you can see all the photos as a slideshow below.)
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
I can only give the address in Thai:
ร้านอาหารน้องเปิ้ล – Nong Pun Restaurant
อินทร์บุรี อินทร์บุรี สิงห์บุรี 16110
Open: 06:00 – 23:00
Google Map, Ayuthaya to Sing Buri to Raan Nong Pun (offsite, opens in new window)
- Photos at Foursquare – lots of photos! (offsite, opens in new window)
Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.
Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.
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Written by Michael Babcock, November 2013 & June 2020