A food adventure
Published/Last edited or updated: 24th June, 2018
Sloppily dressed servers stepped over a yipping dog, concentrating to keep their massive platters of boiled crab from tipping. A plump domesticated boar slept on the bamboo floor. It was just another evening at Farm Buu Nim, a quirky restaurant and seafood farm near the town of Khlung in Chanthaburi province's southeastern corner.
With its wooden decks and walkways built around mangroves and supported by makeshift stilts over a brackish river, Farm Buu Nim serves the namesake soft-shell crab and other seafood harvested daily. The ambiance is rustic Thai, with fish-net hammocks strung above not-so-level bamboo floors and potted plants sitting beside old bike tires and fishing poles.
Heavy wooden tables line the decks and it’s a wonder they don’t plummet through the floors and into the cloudy water below. Some decks have roofs to protect diners from Chanthaburi’s notoriously rainy climate, while others sit under the shade of mangrove leaves. A communal hand-washing sink sits lopsided in the middle of the largest deck—after feasting on crab you’ll be happy it’s there.
Locals, a few Thai tourists and very few foreign travellers catch a small motorboat to Farm Buu Nim from a pier in the south part of Khlung. The restaurant can’t be reached by land, but even if it could, who would want to pass on the relaxing (and free) river cruise?
We started with buu lon for 120 baht, a room-temperature bowl of soft-shell crab pounded with coconut milk, a couple of different types of chillies, some sort of curry paste and pickled shallot. With a hint of sweetness reminiscent of panang curry, the crab was like candy.
Next we went for a little more substance in a large, 140-baht portion kung op wun sen, featuring prawns steamed in a steel pot with a top layer of lightly scrambled egg, a centre of glass noodles and herbs at the bottom. The mild dish didn't burst with flavour but the prawns were as fresh as we'd hoped.
Before we could make a dent in these hearty egg-prawn noodles, the meal’s main event arrived—a full kilo of buu dum (partially cracked saltwater crabs) for 500 baht. Plucked out of the water just below where we sat, the meat was tender and had a good amount of natural sweetness, balanced by a sour and spicy chilli-lime-garlic sauce on the side.
Eating hard-shell crab can be a tad frustrating; the meat is a delicacy so you don’t want to waste any of it, but at the base of the legs, the brittle shells splinter and mix with the meat, and it can be a messy fight to get the smaller bits freed. Needless to say, prerequisites for this sort of meal are patience and the willingness to get your hands dirty.
It took us an hour to work through the half dozen or so crabs, and as we finished, boatloads of locals were arriving to watch the sunset with their own icy beer and mounds of crab.
While Farm Buu Nim is well known among residents of Chanthaburi and even Trat, the staffers were surprised to see a foreigner. There’s no English menu, but if you can remember the word, buu (crab), you’ll probably be fine. Alternately, staff told us that a handful of foreigners have come accompanied by Thai tour guides, and a guide could conceivably be hired in Chanthaburi town or even on Ko Chang.
You'll need to first get to Khlung (Trat-bound buses run throughout the day and into early evening and stop in Khlung, or you can come by motorbike or car) and then find the pier called Tha Buu Nim at the end of Thetsabun 2 Road. Just keep saying "Farm Buu Nim" to locals and they'll point you to the right boat. The restaurant opens for lunch and dinner.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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