Samui Wining & Dining
Going Native

At Will Wait in Nathon, there’s no waiting required!

 

22-01My favourite way to eat Thai food is with lots of friends, lots of flavours and textures and lots of time. Instead of everyone quietly perusing the menu, with Thai friends there’s a lot of discussion as to what to order, and nobody bothers with a written menu. Often there are consultations with the server or the owner or the people at the neighbouring table as to what is special today.

      As Westerners, we also expect that our appetizer, main course and dessert are dished up for us on separate plates, and arrive at discrete times. We eat with a knife and fork, not a spoon, and we often leave food unfinished on the plate.

      At a Thai table, there are no formal courses. Instead everything is delivered from the kitchen as soon as it comes out of the wok. Dessert is usually eaten as a snack, between meals. An assortment of dishes is shared ‘family style’, and it is not polite to just pile your own plate and tuck in. Instead you add a few spoonsful at a time to your rice from one of the communal dishes, finishing what you take before you reach out again. All in all it’s a very social occasion where you get to taste complementary and contrasting tastes and textures - perhaps something soupy, something spicy, some vegetable, some curry, something fried.

      Eating alone generally means you are in a hurry, on the road, or peckish between meals. It doesn’t have to be unpleasant, and in fact this kind of meal is often prepared by a dedicated vendor where the economy of scale, preparation expertise and passing custom justifies the amount of work that goes into ‘aahan jaan diaw’ (literally one dish food).

     Some people favour one-plate specialists for the quintessential expression of a particular dish. You can find shops preparing only pad Thai (fried noodles), khao kha mu (slow cooked pork over rice), khao man gai (chicken served over rice with a piquant broth) or khuay tiew (noodle soup with a variety of serving options). There are even regional delicacies such as the northern khao soi (a rich meaty curry with egg noodles).

      More commonly, crowd-pleasing establishments offer a variety of specialist dishes along with perennial favourites such as khao pad (fried rice), pad kaprao (a stir fry with holy basil) and phad siew (broad noodles in soya sauce).

       Will Wait in Nathon is great for this kind of food on Samui. Why it’s called Will Wait is a mystery, as the service is efficient and the kitchen is fast. Branches of this popular eatery in Lamai and Chaweng cater largely to foreigners, but the Nathon branch has a regular local clientele stopping in between banking, administration chores or work in the island’s capital. They also have a booth at Central Festival, serving a few of these delicious offerings in the air-conditioned food mall.

         While the restaurant in Nathon offers a menu of popular Western and Thai food, it specializes in one dish meals and does a great job of it. Above the noodle soup station at the entrance are some big illustrative photographs of what’s on offer, which is useful, since the chalkboard is only in Thai. Along with the usual suspects like fried rice, fried noodles and various noodle soups, there are some unusual and delicious surprises. Pad krueng gaeng (a fiery curry served over rice) is at the hot end of the scale, while pak kana mu grob (crispy pork with kale) is more bland.

         I’m attracted to the plates which offer exciting contrasts - salty, crispy, sweet, and spicy - why should eating alone be dull? Khao khluk kapi (rice mixed with shrimp paste) is a terrific lunch dish. The rice appears slightly purple after being stir-fried in shrimp paste, and is served with a dollop of caramelized pork belly slow cooked in palm sugar, crispy shrimp, shredded green mango, strips of omelette, thinly sliced cucumber, shallots, green beans and lime. The combination is subtle but exciting, the taste lingers.

         Another many-flavoured option is khao pad nam prik long ruea (fried rice with chilli paste) which was originally a court picnic dish prepared for long river trips. The paste combines garlic, shrimp paste, chilli, various fruits and vegetables, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and dried shrimps, pounded together in a mortar and pestle, and then seared slightly.

         Steamed rice is then fried in the chilli paste, and served with crispy fish, caramelized pork, salted eggs (duck eggs are creamier), shredded green mango, two kinds of eggplant, wing beans and cucumber. The crispy fish is rich and oily, and complements the spicy rice, sweet pork, acerbic green mango, the explosions of tiny bitter eggplants and cool crisp veggies. Sometimes you’ll find this dish served with white turmeric, which adds an additional refreshing note to the rich symphony of tastes.

         I also recommend the pad Thai here for the delicious charcoal hint to the noodles which are thoroughly cooked but still ‘al dente’ and well-seasoned in the sauce, neither too soggy or too gummy. The dish is attractively presented enfolded in an omelette with chopped peanuts on the side, wedges of banana flower, lime and some chive stalks.

         I’m joined by a friend who orders stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts, exclaiming “Oh, it’s beautiful!” when the plate arrives. He’s still smiling when he’s done.

         Whether you are eating with group of friends, or alone, there’s not need to compromise on Thai food. It should look, smell and taste good and be perfectly cooked without being soggy. And the taste should travel with you for a while, lingering on your palate while you finish your chores.

         Will Wait in Nathon is open from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, from breakfast through to late lunch. You will find the restaurant on the main north south road in Nathon, opposite Watsons and a short walk south from Tesco Lotus. The restaurant is open on two sides to the street, and provides comfortable seating in a breezy atmosphere.

         

Annie Lee


 


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