Attention: As of a few years ago, Pun Pun used oyster sauce in several of their dishes. Vegans beware and ask before ordering.
Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant
Chiang Mai has many astonishing vegetarian restaurants, but Pun Pun takes the cake when it comes to the story behind the meal. Self proclaimed as a "centre for self reliance," they're not lying; they run their own organic farm and promote sustainable lifestyles locally, the restaurant maintained as the urban centre for both feeding its produce to the public and educating interested parties in their sustainability projects. The food they dish up is both fresh and inventive, and well worth a visit or two. It's also possible to visit the farm as a day trip, or on a 2 day/3 night cookery course. Oyster sauce is used in a lot of their dishes, so if this is a concern then be sure to ask before ordering.
A hidden gem
...and I do mean hidden. We spent a good hour looking for it (not such a bad thing as we'd just had a buffet lunch at Khun Churn not 3 hours prior- hey, it was my birthday and all I wanted to do was eat), but it seemed obvious once we worked it out. Don't make the mistake of trying to follow a map to find the restaurant, and don't get confused by the non vegetarian Pun Pun van outside the temple. Instead just get yourself to Wat Suan Dok and find the monk chat building on the grounds. A pathway leads up the side and along that path is the restaurant.
When we found the restaurant, a lovely man took our orders and brought our meals. As our last dishes were brought out, he smiled and said they would be closing but we were welcome to stay and finish our meal. We paid him and the staff left, leaving us alone in a lovely, quiet, peaceful spot to enjoy one of my best birthday meals ever.
Deep fried shiitake mushrooms served with peanut, tamarind, and coconut sauce (40 baht).
I'm a firm believer that batter frying is a serious skill, and if you manage to fry something that's still crispy 20 minutes after it left the oil and has got cold, then you've got the knack. Fabulous.
Pad Khing Dtow Hoo
Stir fried ginger, tofu, mushrooms, and greens (40 baht).
Paul's choice off the menu, ginger based stir fries are always a winner. Fresh veggies and pungent ginger with cashew nuts can't really fail.
Dtow Hoo Steak
Tofu steak topped with coconut milk and black pepper sauce (50 baht).
Tofu for the win! This protein-rich dish would have been enough for my whole meal were I less of a pig. Perfectly creamy smooth fresh coconut sauce and the best textured tofu you'll ever find, this was the star of the whole meal.
Deep fried home-made sesame tofu and vegetable cooked in onion and sesame oil dressing (40 baht).
Clearly the fact that I'd eaten not long before this meal didn't get through my thick skull the fact that tofu isn't exactly a light foodstuff, so I went ahead and ordered another tofu dish. One day soon I'll be attempting to make this on my own, because it too was deeeeeelicious.
If you find yourself in Chiang Mai and are looking for an inexpensive, nutritious, and sustainable dining choice, then look no further than Pun Pun vegetarian restaurant. Open from 9am – 6pm all days but Wednesday, I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed. Plus you might learn a thing or two!