Published on January 18, 2008
One day while on her job as a caterer 15 years ago, veteran restaurateur Churnjuti (Monthienmanee) Sathirasrindh received a customer's order that would change her life.
"A meditation group wanted us to prepare them meat-free meals for their whole retreat," says Churnjuti (whose name means "Please, come to life"). "That required us to venture into good vegetarian recipes. We could have used imitation meats, but we decided to go natural and adapted fresh ingredients for all dishes we prepared."
The result was a big success and the Khun Churn name became solidly established on the vegetarian food map. Today the family runs one restaurant in Bangkok and another in Chiang Mai. There are plans to open new branches in the Ekamai area and in Pattaya. Chiang Mai natives, Khun Churn and her mother Supaporn adapted a lot of Northern cuisines into their menu which ranges from one-dish meals to selections of single entrees with a lot of influences from Burmese and Chinese cuisine. The place is known for its affordable prices as well.
Our meal started with a shot of young fresh wheat-grass (Bt60) which is known to cleanse the body and enrich it with natural protein. From Khun Churn's lengthy recommended dishes, I ordered mushroom omelette hotplate (Bt70) and spring rolls (Bt60) while my two companions ordered deep fried half-shelled eggs (Bt60), stir-fried mushrooms with red chilli paste (Bt60), fresh corn cakes (Bt60) and namprik kee ka (fresh chilli paste).
My spring rolls are loosely packed with herbal leaves, clear noodles, taro and tofu. The big rolls are halved and served with home-made sweet and sour dipping sauce and topped with fresh chillies that really spices up the bite. The packed corncakes are sharpened up with curry paste and some spring onion. Served with sweet dip, it is a good appetiser together with the fresh rolls. I also like the mushroom omelette hotplate which imitates the Chinese-style oyster omelette. The dish is made from starch mixture with assorted mushroom and egg. It is best when eaten hot and when the bean sprouts are still crispy - which we certainly managed to do so.
Brown rice was served for each of us in big portions. The fried half-shelled eggs taste like poo cha or pork-stuffed crabs but here we got chopped mushrooms and eggs instead. If you like fried stuff, you will love this plate, although the egg shells attached to the meat will slow you down while attacking the dish. The stir-fried mushrooms with chilli paste is flavourful, a bit spicy and good when eaten with the rice. Khun Churn says both dishes are inspired from traditional Burmese recipes.
For weight watchers, the chilli paste is a perfect choice. The delicious, not-too-spicy paste has chopped mushrooms instead of minced fish and it is served with all kinds of home grown vegetables and herbs.
By now we were half-filled but managed to order hot and spicy gaeng muang clear soup made from mushroom and local morning glory, stir-fried five-mushroom Chinese-style which is a wonderful take that imitates stir-fried fish maw. The dish is hearty and very tasty and the five mushrooms are reputed to help cleanse the body, too.
There was one dish that we ordered out of curiosity - stir-fried preserved pork which is made from preserved mushroom with sticky rice that sours up the steamed mushroom. It is a wonderful dish given that you want something to remind you of the meat version of the meal.
Khun Churn's Thai desserts include coconut-based fruit stew (gaeng buad) ranging from taro to pumpkin and to banana. We shared a bowl of taro stew and it was worth every bite of our stomach space. Khun Churn's varied menu makes vegetarian much more interesting. A take-away menu is also available.
For more reviews, go to www.ohsirin.blogspot.com.
Khun Churn Vegetarian Cuisine
136/28 Moo 17 Market Square
Bang Khae-Bang Bua Thong Wongwaen Robnok Highway
Daily 10am to 9pm (closed every 16th of the month)
(089) 110 3776, (089) 495 5404
Sirin P Wongpanit