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Hong Kong home cooking in Chiang Mai

This weekend, we're heading back to Chiang Mai where I recently discovered an independent Chinese restaurant that merits a mention in this column.

Published on August 19, 2007

The Northern capital boasts several good Chinese eateries but most are in the major hotels, among them Jasmine at the Royal Princess Chiang Mai and the Oriental Dhara Dhevi's Fujian.

Friends had told me I should try Mei Jiang in Saenkham Plaza, a small restaurant whose chef and owner hail from Hong Kong. With that recommendation, I could hardly resist, especially when they added that the prices were very reasonable.

This clean, café-style restaurant offers a smallish menu, which I prefer as most Chinese or Thai restaurants tend to have big, bible-thick menus with hundreds of items, making selection very difficult.

With only two of us lunching, we couldn't order too many items but in the interests of this review we still opted for far more than we could eat, starting with the steamed shrimp wrapped in rice dough served with a soy-based sauce.

The shrimp was crispy and sweet and while I found the sauce a little too salty for my taste, the dish was well prepared, with the right attention paid to both taste and texture.

I love pigeon and Mei Jiang serves it up fried. The meat was moist, tender and very aromatic. Other than the heat, I could have been enjoying my meal at a sidewalk restaurant in Hong Kong and with that in mind, I decided to order a range of home cooked dishes that ordinary Chinese enjoy so much.

We had stir-fried tofu Ma Fu-style, a simple but delicious dish, and I particularly relished the stir-fried aubergine with ground pork, which tasted even better with a steaming bowl of rice. These two dishes are also very healthy because they contain more vegetables than meat.

We finished with rad na nua, flat noodles with beef and Chinese broccoli sauce. This is a favourite with most Thais and is usually eaten as a snack or at lunchtime, with several condiments such as chilli in vinegar, sugar and ground dry chillies. In Hong Kong, the dish is usually served without the additional seasoning added.

I enjoyed it Hong Kong-style and the sauce reminded me of how it's been made for me on my travels, with the scent of the smoke from the wok in the sauce. It was very good but we were unable to finish it - I had ordered too much.

The Mei Jiang experience was very positive, especially considering the price of all the dishes ordered. Try it next time you're up in Chiang Mai.

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