Pa Yang Restaurant, Hat Yai | ร้านป่ายาง หาดใหญ่

Above: Tom Kati Goong Mae Nam or river prawns in coconut milk soup and assorted vegetables. Live river prawns are delivered each evening and they are delicious simply grilled or lightly poached (with their head butter still nicely oozing) in the coconut milk soup with mixed vegetables (Tom Kati). The river prawns are sold per weight, Bt90 for 100 grams (Bt900 per kilo). The above bowl with four good-sized prawns is Bt400. 

In retrospect, I would say our timing to visit Hat Yai in mid-October was perfect. We have been planning this trip and could manage our schedules only last month with the whole mission just to eat. But then, I sort of forgot to check with the local calendar before booking the trip. We ended up there just during the biggest holidays of all – the Sat Thai festival (October 9 – 13 for 2018) – where most local restaurants were closed and local people took a long leave, at least for a week. And that, sadly, meant we missed almost every well-known, frequently-reviewed places known to men who researched their prospective eateries online. 😀

Above: Gaeng Som Pla Kabok or mullet and assorted vegetables. 

So to mend my own errors, I managed to seek alternatives and thankfully found this wonderful local restaurant – Pa Yang – that is better in their food than their online presence. A hidden gem if you will, because the restaurant is frequented by local foodies who, chances are, will also bring their beloved friends over for a truly scrumptious Thai-southern-style meal.

Pa Yang – the word that means rubber plantation – is actually located in a space of land in downtown Hat Yai that used to be a rubber plantation. This place is family-run and they cook the family recipes that have been passed down from the mother of the current owner. Apart from a good repertoire of Thai southern fares, there are also some special dishes created by the personal tastes of the owning family as well.

FURTHER Reading –  A Long Weekend Guide to Hat Yai + SongkhlaSTAYING AT CENRATA HOTEL HAT YAI

Above: Thai-style omelette with hor mok curry paste and seafood, hence spicy and quite herbally delicious. Bt150. 

The further south you go in Thailand, the more vibrant the tastes you will find in the local cuisines. Pa Yang, however, is not all about the chillies, though the ingredient still tends to play a meaningful role in each dish. Their gaeng som (the clear and spicy curry usually with fish and assorted veggies) which is the measure of the chef in the Thai southern sphere is not that fiery, but well-rounded, high in tanginess from the tamarind with enough spices to fire up your head. But again, this is not the most intimidating bowl we ate in the Thai South.

Like any parts of Thailand, a family dinner in the south is usually shared over steamed rice, hence assorted savouries skillfully picked to compliment each other in terms of tastes. We call this kind of eating ‘Sam Rab’ – meaning a set of savouries to be eaten and shared with an individual plate of rice.

A stir-fried bai miang (Gnetum gnemon) with eggs (above picture) that has neutral tastes can help to soothe the heating effects from other dishes 

Nam Prik is also another Thai food staple that can be found countrywide, but with regional varieties diverse and delicious enough to encourage any food lovers to travel all over the Kingdom. Pictured above is ‘Nam Prik Goong Sieb,‘ a shrimp paste-based chilli paste with crunchy and crispy shrimp, and a typical Southern Thai bowl. This dip is to be served with assorted veggies, fresh and blanched. Pa Yang’s version, however, is a bit different. A bit muddier and more watery and again not that spicy with the nice creamy crunches from the toasted cashews.

Eating a local nam prik also provides a great chance to explore new tastes.  The accompanying basket of fresh local vegetables (collectively called Pak Nor) usually provides some tasty and seasonal excitement. The sour and tingling sensation from the wild mango shoots, for example, or the particularly astringent taste from cashew nut sprouts. Sounds strange, but do try because they are served for some delish reasons.

For those whose palate is not too adventurous, this restaurant also serves something calm and comforting. We ordered a plate of garlic-pepper shrimps (above). The dish was very tasty, delicious, with loads of chopped garlic the way I liked it. But the shrimps – deep-fried prior – were quite rubbery.

My husband is a true arbitrator of taste when it comes to Yum Pla Dook Foo or the crispy catfish salad with green mango salsa (above). This is the dish he ordered in every single restaurant we stopped to eat through this road trip – from Phetchaburi to Ko Yor and Chumporn to Hat Yai, including this one at Pa Yang. Although not exactly a Southern recipe, this dish makes a comforting choice for those wishing just to tuck into something familiar.

Pa Yang is open every day, but they take two days off each month. Call in advance and reserve especially if you come in large groups. 

Pa yang Restaurant ร้านป่ายาง หาดใหญ่: Thumnoonvithi Road, Hat Yai. Daily: 11.00 – 22.00. T: (+66) 081-099-7888.   CLICK HERE for map.
FURTHER Reading –  A Long Weekend Guide to Hat Yai + SongkhlaSTAYING AT CENRATA HOTEL HAT YAI



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