By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
The Nation Weekend
WHEN IT comes to seafood, particularly crabmeat, Viya Crab Co in Chaiya district of Surat Thani has a well-earned reputation for finding only the best.
As a leading manufacturer and distributor of seafood products, the firm exports some 300 tons of crabmeat annually and four years ago expanded its reach to the dining retail business with the opening of a standalone restaurant Chaolay Seafood on Bangkok’s Nawamin Road.
Chaolay Seafood restaurant offers a wide selection of seafood dishes and delicacies – all are also halal-certified.
Catering to people living and working in downtown Bangkok, the second outlet of Chaolay Seafood just opened on the sixth floor of MBK Mall with an extensive list of seafood dishes mostly cooked in Southern style. The dishes are also halal-certified, meaning they adhere to Islamic dietary rules – no pork or pork by-products and no alcohol. The entire production, including storage and the utensils and equipment used, are processed according to halal requirements.
The new branch can accommodate about 60 diners and boasts floor to ceiling windows to allow the light to pour in. Deliberately low key, the better to appreciate the food, the dining area is equipped with wooden tables and chairs, plus marble tables with brown sofas. The shelves are decorated with household kitchen utensils such as mortars and pestles, enamelware and pots. Blue crabs swim in the glass tanks.
“Surat Thani, my hometown, is one of the best sources of blue crabs with sweet and delicate flesh though the price is higher than other sources. The wholesale price for the chunks of crabmeat taken from the paddle-legs can cost Bt3,000 per kilo,” says Mareeya Laojaroen, a daughter of Viya Crab Co’s founder.
“My mother started the business by distributing fresh crabs from Surat Thani to Yaowarat – Bangkok’s Chinatown – until she could manage to open a plant in her hometown of Chaiya district. We have supplied seafood, mainly crabmeat, to leading local restaurants and other countries including the US, Singapore and Hong Kong. We also set up a crab bank to promote sustainable fisheries in the community,” she says.
The best-selling product of the company is the ready-to-eat pasteurised canned crab under the brand Siam Crab. The restaurant is a good channel to promote its products to retail customers through a dish amusingly called Crab Condo (Bt1,350).
A 454-gram jumbo-sized can of crabmeat is steamed and served on a plate, allowing diners to slowly remove the can to reveal the layers of crabmeat. Diners can opt to eat some portions, then ask the staff to cook the rest as they prefer, in hot sour soup or stir-fried with curry powder, yellow chillies or black pepper without extra charge. The canned crabmeat is also available to take home.
Cooked Rice with Crabmeat
A single dish of Cooked Rice with Crabmeat (Bt159) looks simple but tastes heavenly. The jasmine rice is simply cooked with crabmeat, crab roe, chopped chilli, red onion, garlic and spring onion and seasoned with freshly squeezed lemon juice and fish sauce.
“This is the easy-to-make dish we always eat at home when we have leftover crab. The dishes we offer are mostly our family’s recipes,” says Mareeya, a graduate in food sciences from Kasetsart University.
Fried Banana Prawns with Turmeric
Fried Banana Prawns with Turmeric (Bt400) offers large-sized sea prawns cooked with fresh turmeric and garlic. The fresh turmeric will be pounded and marinated after the dish is ordered to give off an aromatic and flavourful taste.
“Poultry and other meats are processed according to halal requirements. Soup is made from vegetable stock and the pork fat usually added to tod mun goong (deep-fried shrimp cakes) is substituted with chicken breast,” she adds.
Deep-fried Whole Sea Bass with Sweet, Sour and Spicy Sauce
A whole sea bass weighing around 900 grams to one kilo (Bt480) is deep-fried and seasoned with sauce and gives off a combination of sweet, sour and spicy tastes. The sauce is made fresh upon ordering with pounded chilli, garlic and onion, chopped tomato and pineapple then seasoned with fish sauce, lime juice and sugar.
Batter-fried Bai Liang Leaves with Spicy Dressing
While the young, edible leaves of bai liang –grown mainly in the South – are usually used for stir-frying with egg, here the older leaves are batter-fried until crunchy and seasoned with a spicy dressing made from chopped shrimp, pound roasted peanut, red onion, Chinese celery, chilli, lime juice and fish sauce. It costs Bt220.
Hot Sour Soup with Sea Bass and Young Coconut Shoots
No Southern meal is complete without hot sour soup. The curry paste is made fresh daily by blending chilli, garlic, fresh turmeric then seasoning with tamarind juice, shrimp paste, fish sauce and sugar. A hot pot with sea bass and young coconut shoots (Bt220) is ideal for those who like their food fiery.
Rice Dumplings and Nipa Palm in Coconut Milk
Two desserts are on offer: warm rice dumplings and nipa palm in coconut milk (Bt55) and chilled nipa palm in syrup (also Bt55). Both are perfect to end the meal.
“The coconuts used in the restaurants are from my grandfather’s plantation in Chaiya. Each outlet has its own grating machine to make sure that we get very fresh coconut milk. Nipa palm from Surat Thani is used as the main ingredient for desserts because it’s considered my hometown’s native mangrove palm,” says Mareeya.
Nipa Palm in Syrup
FRESH FROM THE SEA
Chaolay Seafood on the sixth floor of MBK Mall is open daily from 10am to 9pm.
Call (098) 880 9065 or search for “@chaolayseafoodhalal” on Facebook.