The second time I ate by the river was on a warm bright mid-day in Tha Sala District, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand.
We had gone sightseeing that morning and were famished as our van rolled up to the restaurant.
There were no other tourists apart from our small group.
We had called for reservations earlier were able to get a table by the river next to the floating fish cages.
The sweet shrimp aroma grilling on hot coals greeted us.
Our day is perfect. Clear blue skies above, cool breeze skimming over the almost still surface of the river. The water flow is gentle yet strong and dances at the floating cages where the fish is farmed.
The waiters are friendly and efficient. As the restaurant was packed, we had to wait a while for our food.
We chatted and downed huge coconuts full of water, slurping the sweet soft fragrant flesh in anticipation of a good seafood lunch.
In Thailand, you will find many floating restaurants and eateries perched on old wooden piers serving delicious seafood meals. The locals have got eating by the River down pat.
Their formula is easy. The freshest catch. Fast and simple cooking methods. Local herbs. And an all-star piquant dipping sauce.
We were served two types of dipping sauces before our seafood was ready.
Our eyes widen.
Thai seafood dipping sauce is simply delicious and not that hard to replicate the spicy and sour flavours at home.
Fragrant Thai limes makes a big difference, it doesn’t just provide the tart acidity to balance the fish sauce and palm sugar. It perfumes the sauce which has garlic, cilantro, cashew nuts, green chillies, raw slice onions and roasted aubergines!
The smell of fragrant limes is such an appetite opener.
Some prefer sauce to be very bold, without any sugar at all. But I prefer a more rounded taste with the balance of salty fish sauce, palm sugar with the added heat from pounded bird’s eyes chillis, cilantro roots and garlic.
The other sauce was a mix of rough cut raw onions, bird’s eye chillis, palm sugar and fish sauce. So it was easy to guess our pick initially. But we found out that the pairing of sauces was equally good. Eventually we got so caught up with eating; we mix everything up and dunk our choice seafood in both sauces.
First dish on for lunch was steamed fresh crabs with juicy, meaty rich white flesh that is intoxicating sweet tasting. Good crabs have no fishy smell at all and is totally addictive.
We grab a crab each, break the edible body meat into two, sucking at the golden roe that spills out of the body. With the crab’s limbs set aside, we began to crack the legs and the claws, and used a skewer to pry open and pick out the claw flesh.
No conversation is necessary when eating crabs. We were all happily greedy and ate with gusto.
Next on the menu was Barbequed Sea clams with an accompanying green chilli, garlicky lime sauce with was deceptively mild looking but sharp and screaming hot!
The piece de resistance was the cooked whole river fish baked in foil, so worth waiting for. The fish was fresh, with sweet firm white flesh.
It was a satisfying high protein; low carb lunch and we drank copious glasses freshly squeezed orange juice and coconut water.