Seafood restaurants in Bang Bao may come and go but Ruan Thai Seafood and Chow Lay Seafood have outseen them all. As to which one of those two to choose, well, perhaps the first, Ruan Thai, whilst not instantly the most attractive or appealing, is a very safe bet.
On our many visits, we have always found the cooking consistent across the board and flavours not tempered too much to western palates – in other words, they keep it spicy if it is meant to be spicy. The menus are long and detailed as indeed they are in all of the Thai seafood spots, with dishes listed at different prices depending on the size of the serving.
Yes, it can be a bit daunting as to where to start and what to order, but a good bet is a whole fish as the centerpiece, side dishes and a large pot of rice – you won’t go far wrong with that.
The Fish Dish at Ruan Thai Seafood
On our latest visit, we tried the whole fish, white snapper in a chilli sauce (pla krapong raad prik). The Thais hard fry the fish in hot oil, so it acquires a delicious crispy skin. Crack through this and you reach the flesh, firm and a brilliant white if cooked properly, as ours was. The sauce, thick, syrupy and not too hot is made from palm sugar, fish sauce, a bit of tamarind juice, garlic and chillies, and simply dribbled all over – a great choice for a group of you to share.
Disappointingly, there was no shellfish, so we plumped for the soft shelled crab fried in black pepper (puu nim phat prik thai dam) and as is the way with soft shells, there was literally noting left on the plate.
We ordered too a soup, Tom Yam Seafood, the hot and sour classic, with lemongrass and galangal, the perfect foil to the sweeter flavours of the fish.. They serve this in a tureen with a small charcoal burner underneath, and little plastic bowls for you to refill.
Finally, we opted for a dish of squid with lesser ginger (pla meuk phat cha), just too tempting to pass up. Thai cooking uses three types of ginger – the obvious one we know in the west and the now not so unfamiliar, galangal, used in soups and pounded in pastes. The third one is krachai or lesser ginger (finger roots), a piquant taste with a distinctive aroma. The locals throw this in stir-fries like the one we ordered (phat cha) but they also add it to soups, curries. It’s integral too in the sauce namya, the fishy one served with the fresh white rice noodle nests, (khanom jeen).
Anyway, we found the the squid a tasty addition to our meal, again well balanced with the krachai not overwhelming the other flavours as can sometimes be the case. To accompany the seafood, we ordered a pot (maw) of rice rather than individual plates, a good tip if there are few of you.
The Bill – Ruan Thai Seafood
Three hours later, the world put to rights, the waiter brought over the bill, 2,500bt for 6 of us. That’s not bad at all for seafood on the bay, with a few beers and some western dishes thrown in for the kids. Service too was just fine, friendly even.
We then took a nice post lunch stroll along Bang Bao’s white pier to the lighthouse at the top, happy indeed that lunch at Ruan Thai Seafood had proved a great way to wile away a Koh Chang afternoon.
We’ll be back.
Menu Tips and Terms
- pla krapong raad prik, pla meaning fish, krapong snapper, raad fried and prik chilli
- puu nim phat prik thai dam, puu, crab, nim, soft, phat, fried, prik thai dam, black pepper
- tom yam, tom meaning soup, yam, this variety
- pla meuk phat cha, pla meuk meaning squid, phat, fried, cha, this variety