Samui Wining & Dining
Going Native

Joining the locals for lunch at one of Samui’s longest established restaurants – Bpe Chuan Chim.

 

21This month, our photographer, Khun Krit, and I took a drive up to Bangrak to sample some local cuisine. It’s up on the north-east corner of the island near to Big Buddha and the airport but is still only ten minutes from Chaweng. We were headed for one of Samui’s oldest restaurants; one that’s still going strong after more than 20 years.

 

There’s no name in English on the sign, it’s just in Thai script. Locals call it Bpe Chuan Chim, which roughly translates as, ‘you are all invited in to taste or try the food’ (the word ‘bpe’ sounds like the first two letters of better). And hundreds do just that every day as the place is a bit of an institution and attracts people who live and work around there, including lots of the airport personnel and passing tourists. And it’s easy to find, too, being directly opposite Saboey Resort and next to the Picnic Basket restaurant, just a minute’s drive from Big Buddha.

 

It’s owned and run by Khun Som Sii and her family and not much has changed over the years; not that it’s needed to. There’re just 11 tables and I counted around 40 people coming and going in the space of an hour when we were there so you might have to wait a short time in the busiest periods. Even though everything is cooked to order, the service is pretty quick and at lunchtime it needs to be as working folks don’t have too much time to dally. Plastic chairs and table coverings complete the look and it’s comfortable enough for a quick bite to eat.

 

Matching the number of tables, there’re just 11 items on offer, which are written in English. There’re no prices on the menu but, simply put, every dish is 40 baht plus an extra 10 baht if you want a fried egg on top of your meal, which is popular with a couple of their rice-based dishes. With each of the dishes you can choose to have either pork, chicken, squid, prawns or vegetables or a combination if you wish. Basically, they have noodle soup, fried rice, fried mixed vegetables, fried noodles; khrapow rice with fried basil, red curry, rice and chili, rice with garlic and pepper, sweet and sour, rad na, and pad Thai.

 

You could order everything on the menu and it would still cost less than a meal-for-one at any of the smart resort restaurants. And between us, Khun Krit and I had half a dozen dishes just to try. We didn’t get close to finishing them but if you order too much they will happily put what ever is left into a take-away box for you to enjoy later. I did notice that quite a few of the airport workers were ordering two dishes, eating one and taking the other away. And I don’t blame them; everything we had was very good and filling and if I had to pick I would say that the fried pork with garlic and pepper, and the sweet and sour chicken were probably my favourites.

 

A word of warning on one of the dishes; the fried prawns and squid with chili is served very spicy, and it could spoil the flavours from the following dishes if you are sampling a few.

 

Open from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm it’s a good place to stop off if you’re out and about exploring for the day. You can also get cold beers at very reasonable prices, with Chang being 45 baht and Singha 50 baht (soft drinks are 15-20 baht). And it’s one of those great little places that has free water on every table and as soon as you sit down you get a glass with ice and you can help yourself to the water; it’s safe to drink and isn’t from the tap but from large 20-litre bottles.

 

Friends who live around the area tell me that it’s busy throughout the day and it’s not that there isn’t competition around; there’re plenty of small Thai restaurants in Bangrak. Even at a conservative estimate of 100 people a day, over 20 years that’s around three quarters of a million meals that have been served and that should probably tell you all you need to know. If locals go there then it’s a sure bet that the food is very good. I enjoyed the food, I liked the service and I particularly loved the bill at the end – what there was of it!

 

Johnny Paterson

 


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