Going Native – Joining the locals at Yaito Noodle.

Yaito

Chaweng is definitely the place to experience an extremely cosmopolitan cooking scene, but in the town’s haste to please the different cultures that come to dine here, Thai food still remains one of the top cuisines to enjoy. There are countless eateries, stalls and restaurants, wherever you look. But in all of this, it seems that some of the most traditional ways of preparation have too often been sacrificed for modern convenience. Not at Yaito Noodle, however. What makes this restaurant stand out amongst so many others is the way that old-style preparation methods are still adhered to. As any visitor to the island can surmise, corner-cutting is easily done – island supermarkets and wholesalers ensure fair-quality ingredients are available at the drop of a spatula. But what if you want quality that really stands out? Life, then, as well as cooking, suddenly gets a lot more complicated.

At Yaito Noodle, the dishes may arrive quickly at the table, but that doesn’t mean that the entire process is speedy. It isn’t. Far from it. There’s a huge amount of preparation that takes place, for example, making relishes or simmering broth for three hours at a time. And before any of that can take place, the ingredients all have to be purchased. A lot of them come from outside the island; these are traditional ingredients that simply taste better. The real thing, in other words. And thanks to a very efficient supply system in Thailand, it’s possible to get them to Samui in good time.

YaitoThis may all seem a bit unnecessary, but once you sit down and try the dishes you’ll realize how incredibly tasty they are. You sense that this place is somehow special. It’s not just that care and great cooking expertise have gone into the dishes, but the recipes have been adhered to 100% allowing for a sophisticated dining experience. That’s the first surprise about Yaito, the traditional tastes, and the second is the bill. Despite doing everything they can to guarantee unusually refined yet authentic dishes, you don’t see this reflected in the price tag. Yaito offers noodles at their very best. Even if you’re not a great fan of noodles, you may well end up revising your opinions about them. In the right hands, they can be absolutely delicious.

YaitoYaito Noodle is run by the affable Khun Dujruedee Thaitumnus, more usually known as Khun Oh. Asked why she opened this kind of restaurant she says simply that the noodle places she came across very often had ‘too many chemicals’ in their cooking for her liking. Then there was the fact that she knew where to get exactly the right ingredients from and didn’t mind that they cost more. She’s been running Free House Beach Resort and Restaurant in Bophut these last 20 years, so is an experienced hand when it comes to pleasing guests. “Although,” she says, “opening this kind of restaurant is entirely new for me – I’ve never offered noodles before.” She motions to her aunt Khun Tum, who’s doing the actual cooking. “She’s the one,” she says, “who really has the skills with noodles; she knows the recipes and can create her own, too. And she has the experience of opening many restaurants.” She’s had years honing her expertise, particularly with family recipes that have been handed down through entire generations.

YaitoYaito Noodle has been popular from its first days of business, drawing a mix of locals and holidaymakers. The Thais are all happy to find authentic recipes, while the holidaymakers who may not even be familiar with the culinary heritage, simply tuck in. But all are united in enjoying the food.

The restaurant is just opposite Siam Map’s offices – the people who bring you this publication – in the south of Chaweng, right on the ring-road, about three hundred metres south of Bangkok Samui Hospital as you head for Lamai. You’ll find an outdoor terrace, and then indoors there’s also an air-con section, guaranteeing chilled times even in the hottest of weather.

If you’re bringing friends or family, you’ll enjoy the signature dish, simply known as Yaito. It arrives on a single massive plate, ideal for everyone to share. You’ll find four different types of noodles along with an array of pork, pork balls, ribs and chicken. It comes with a choice of either clear soup or a tom yam soup. There are plenty of delights to try at Yaito. The menu’s select but always extremely good when it comes to both taste and price. You can eat well here for under 100 baht. Noodle soup, for example, is 60 baht, Leng Sap (pork bone soup) 100 baht and soft ribs 150 baht. You’ll also find roast pork with rice, fried rice with salty fish, and plenty of other highly tasty dishes at the same great value prices. Khun Tum also makes a very spicy sauce to go with some of the dishes, and Yaito relies on special chillies, just the right consistency to go with the food, and these have been specially sought-out too.

YaitoThe restaurant’s open daily, except Wednesdays, from 10:00 am until 10:00 pm. The evening dishes, incidentally, also feature Thai pizzas, Thai pasta and the addition of a few international dishes.

You can enjoy a variety of drinks with your food, including an iced black coffee that comes in a tall glass. It’s as dark as it is delicious as it is strong. It’s yet another product that comes from up-country and is a small, limited production. It’s extremely tasty and a further sign that Thailand’s coffee production is becoming increasingly popular.

Khun Oh also offers many delicious home-made fruit juices. For many visitors this will be the first time they’ve tasted butterfly pea, basil seed or aloe vera as a juice. There are a half-dozen of these to try.

Last but not least, Khun Oh speaks excellent English, and if it’s not too busy she’ll be happy to tell you about Thai food and culinary customs – and unless you’re incredibly well-informed about cooking, this will all be new to you. Yaito Noodle is a place to watch – with food this vibrant the restaurant can expect to become ever more popular as time goes by.

Dimitri Waring