Australian food writer, Foodie Mookie explores the diversity and deliciousness of Northern and Southern Thai cuisine at the must-try Steve’s Cafe & Cuisine in Bangkok.
Restaurant: Steve’s Café & Cuisine
Location: 68 Sri Ayuthaya road, Soi Sri Ayuthaya 21 (Devet), Vachiraphayabaan, Dusit, Bangkok 10300
Cuisine: Authentic Thai Cuisine
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When travelling it always surprises me how often I end up making unplanned connections that see me travel through unexplored streets on a culinary adventure. When querying a reputable local foodie contact about true Thai cuisine, he suggested I seek out Steve from Steve’s Café & Cuisine and chat one on one about what it is like to live and eat like a local.
Within a few days I am travelling through the bustling streets of Bangkok heading to an address that even puzzled my driver. The roads got narrower and the light started to dim and as we slowed down to park in front of a 300 year old temple – Wat Thewarat Kunchorn Worawiharn. After a quick walk down the lane, I arrive to Steve’s Café & Cuisine perched on the riverside just in time to welcome a refreshing rainstorm.
Steve greeted me like an old friend and quickly took charge ordering dishes so I could sample Northern and Southern Thailand cuisine. Kicking off with a Spicy Lemongrass Salad we progressed quickly to Kaeng Heng Ley Moo (Pork Curry from North Thailand) and Thai Style Vegetable Sour Soup with Salmon (Southern Thailand). The reason I highlight this distinction is, as Steve explained, there is a significant difference between the two regional cuisines.
Generally Thai food is based on salt, sweet and sour often using a combination depending on the dish. Northern Thai food leans to sweet and sometimes bitter flavours using beef or pork. This is heavily influenced by the fact that the northern area is a land locked, mountainous region bordering on Laos and Burma.
In contrast, Southern Thai cuisine is spicier, saltier (with Malay influences) and a seafood skew as it progresses to the Gulf of Thailand. You will also find a lot of coconut in dishes due to the large coconut groves in the region. A typical southern dish is a very spicy, thick coconut seafood curry.
Back to Steve, who I’m listening to intently whilst joyously consuming the dishes he has ordered. I have a foodie epiphany that I love of southern Thai food and my spicy threshold appears to be increasing the longer I spend in Thailand. The Spicy Lemongrass Salad is hot and fresh with a beautiful crunchiness.
Steve is truly engaging as he talks about the personal influence on his love of cuisine – his Mother in Law. This deeply personal connection to food extends to the warm atmosphere Steve has created at his restaurants. “We want people to feel like they are coming into our home … to relax and enjoy our home cooked Thai food” he enthuses. “There are a lot of tourists who dine with us but just as many locals visit with family and friends to enjoy our food” Steve adds.
New dishes arrive and I’m greeted with Grilled Pork with Lemongrass & Chilli and Deep Fried Prawns with Tamarind Sauce. The grilled pork is melded on sticks of lemongrass which cuts through usually oily pork – spicy, salty and citric. For the lovers of fried seafood, the prawn dish is the way to go and the sweet tamarind sauce is a luscious contrast to the salty seafood.
Steve is one of the most engaging and entrepreneurial people I have met on my travels. His passion for Thailand, food, travel and tourism could keep me enthralled for many an hour. Whilst he is quick to admit that he loves spicy not sweet food, he is adventurous in his businesses and openly embraces people into his life. He discusses the many businesses he owns in Thailand including Ja Kin Ya Bon Cuisine & Bar, Steve’s Boutique Hostel, Hotel Stylish and Bed Stylish which is a testament to the personal commitment to the tourism and hospitality industries.
The rainstorm passes and as I am packing up to leave, Steve discreetly orders one final dish. Banana boiled in Coconut Milk arrives. It is an incredibly unassuming dish since the banana is hiding below the grey-white coconut milk. Steve quickly grabs a spoon and scoops up some banana so I can take a quick photo. It is deliciously warm, fragrant, sweet and velvety – it’s like home. It is a beautiful ending to my time at Steve’s Café & Cuisine.
This is my last foodie adventure before taking flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia and it is one that I highly recommend when visiting Bangkok. As I walk down the darkened and now wet laneway towards the 300 year old temple, I start to lose myself in thought about this local experience I may never have had the chance to enjoy if I had not asked my friend the question “where can I get really authentic Thai food”.
Thank you Steve.
Traveller’s Recommendation: Steve encourages travellers to try the Northern food at his restaurant, the specials and allow time to relax and truly enjoy the experience or in his words “slow is good when eating”.