Stepping into Pa Maitree Khanom Jeen is always a rewarding experience. You’re about to savour some of Thailand’s most traditional food, albeit in an extremely modern setting. The eatery also doubles as the owner’s house, so there’s something quite homely about coming here. The restaurant is run by Khun Duangsuda Baimuang, who is more usually known as Khun Ma’am. She is very friendly and professional and also turns out to be very good at speaking English. She puts this down to having worked for some years as a hotel receptionist at a local resort.
This is definitely a family business; Khun Ma’am’s mother and grandmother established the restaurant 26 years ago. It started off very humbly, and has always been in exactly the same place, but some years ago the entire house was given a total makeover, so many people think Pa Maitree Khanom Jeen is a relative newcomer.
To say the food is thoroughly tried and tested is a bit of an understatement. The recipes themselves are, as we’ve said, traditional, but the exact preparation methods and ingredients have been in Khun Ma’am’s family for generations. The results are good enough to draw people not just from round the island, but much further afield; Pa Maitree Khanom Jeen is pretty well-known even in Bangkok, ever since a well- known Thai actor chanced upon the place and spread the word. The family even appeared on a television show, demonstrating the noodle dishes that they make.
People simply drop in (opening hours are 8:00 am until 3:00 pm daily) and take a seat at the tables here. Everything inside is extremely clean – spotless, in fact, and pleasantly cool thanks to the fans. You’re welcome to linger, though for many this is the place that they come to for a quick bite to eat during their lunch break. Incidentally parking’s no problem as there’s plenty of space on the road. To get to the restaurant, simply turn towards the hills at the traffic lights in Maenam, and it’s just a few metres away on your left. The sign is only in Thai, however. Fronting the street you’ll see stainless steel pots that contain the different curries – this alerts you to the fact that you’ve got the right place. You can expect clean, fresh tastes, with ingredients that are filled with goodness.
Everything’s made from scratch, and you’ll find just five dishes that are available, all of which are accompanied by rice noodles (no rice is served here). The dishes are rice noodles with a curry of either crab meat or fish, a delicious green chicken curry, a spicy yet sweet sauce with peanut, then spicy southern-style curry or a jungle curry. You can finish off your meal with the extremely colourful house dessert, which consists of sweet violet potato kept in syrup in a large glass jar. There’s also a variety of chilled drinks to quench your thirst.
You’ll also find on your table – entirely complimentary – a large basket of greens and edible leaves that are the perfect accompaniments to the curry. You can also add hard-boiled eggs too at a little extra. Prices are amazingly cheap by the way, averaging 50 baht a meal. Your food will arrive almost instantaneously as it’s ready, cooked and waiting for the day’s guests.
It looks like it’d be easy to run a place like this, but as laid-back as the restaurant appears, it’s the product of a lot of hard work, and is underpinned by routines that require an inordinate amount of grit. Khun Ma’am has to get up at 4:00 am each working day when suppliers drop by, and then it’s off to the local market just down the road to select the best produce. Everyone who works here seems to remain exceptionally cheerful whilst being very efficient.
With the sheer tastiness of the food, a convenient location and friendly staff, Pa Maitree Khanom Jeen is a great place to drop into. It’s not surprising that the restaurant has become more and more popular over the years. Highly recommended, this is definitely on Samui’s culinary map when it comes to traditional Thai fare.