Nong Bua Seafood is an institution on the Koh Chang restaurant scene, first opening its doors on White Sand Beach some 20 years ago. With its wobbly tables and plastic chairs, broken ceiling tiles and shabby loos as a unique part of it charm, it serves up consistently excellent, real Thai dishes at cheap prices, with an army of attentive staff buzzing back and forth from its kitchen ensuring you never wait more than a few minutes for your food or drinks to arrive and deservedly, it’s always packed.
But as of a few weeks now, they have opened a sister restaurant in Chai Chet, named of course Nong Bua Seafood. It’s an almost identical menu with similar prices but to shake us all out of our comfort zone, they have gone upmarket chic. In the main covered area, brushed concrete walls house solid wooden furniture with cool drop-down lighting, whilst at the back steps lead down to a lovely decked open dining terrace, with separate stairs also heading up to a roof terrace as yet unopened. There’s a wonderful sense of calm about the place, such a contrast to the loud, bustling atmosphere of its White Sand Beach branch. You can leave the terrace and join the public walkway down to the beach at the southern end, with Klong Prao Resort in the distance on one side beyond a patch of undeveloped scrubland and the bamboo thatch restaurants of Lay Lay Tong, Palm Beach and the boutique resort, Flora i Talay on the other. We have talked before about the changing mood at this end of Chai Chet, a creeping sense of cool awareness and Nong Bua captures it perfectly. Indeed, next door, they have also managed to squeeze in a small but very sweet budget hostel, Pajamas, a mixture of rooms and dorm accommodation fronting onto a kidney-bean shaped swimming pool and you can walk freely between it and the restaurant.
At the front entrance, the restaurant lays out the seafood in ice-boats for you to make instant choices on arrival, plates of clams, squid, whole fish, tiger prawns, the usual array, with clearly marked prices. There were four of us, 2 Thais and 2 farangs, so we plumped for a sea bass and those clams, together with a simple western style pork skewer and baked potato, before being led down to a table on the terrace, still slightly dazed by newness of the whole place. From the full menu, we supplemented things with a plate of seafood fried with lesser ginger (pat cha) and of course rice.
We had ordered the fish steamed in lime (pla neung manao) and it arrived, beautifully presented atop the charcoal burner, accompanied by a separate bowl of additional sauce. This is not a spicy dish and the sauce is in fact more of a soup that compliments the fish’s delicate flavour, giving it a terrific fresh summery taste. This broth is flavoured with large slices of garlic, a few birds eye chillies, lime, Thai celery and coriander but the stock used is the key, with many kitchens taking the short-cut and using a cube, which of course produces that very specific stock-cube taste you can recognize anywhere. Here, however, the stock was definitely home-made, our guess being the stockpot of bones and veggies had been put on the night before to create a deep and rich liquor for the next day’s dishes. So no complaints there, just delicious.
The clams were fried in a roasted chilli paste with sprigs of sweet basil tossed in (pat prik pao), again not a spicy dish but a classic Thai way of serving them and there was a very respectable pile to keep us happy. The seafood with lesser ginger (krachai), meanwhile, arrived on a sizzling plate, again very much the Thai way and this did have some kick, as indeed it should. Fresh green peppercorns are also used alongside the chillies and garlic and there was a hint of simple curry powder, a nice addition. Our waitress, a familiar face from the White Sand Beach restaurant, who is overseeing things, brought us a plate of complimentary watermelon and pineapple to finish things off.
There is a full well priced bar, but drinks wise, we took things very slowly so our whole bill with a beer, soda and water was just 945bt. We’ll be back soon to Nong Bua Seafood, it’s a great addition to the Koh Chang restaurants and without any question, it will be very very busy. And the loos, by the way, are just as stylish!
Menu Tips and Terms
pla neung manao, pla meaning fish, neung-steanmed, manao-lime
taleh pat cha, taleh-seafood, pat-fried, cha-with lesser ginger
hoi lai pat nam prik pao, hoi-shellfish, generic, lai-clam, pat-fried, nam prik-chilli paste, pao-roasted