Isaan eats are the new hipster-chic in Soi Pridi Banomyong

Grill local Isaan freshwater fish ‘pla yon’ (at left) and 78-year-old grandma Jui ( at right). Photos: Zao Isan / Facebook
Grill local Isaan freshwater fish ‘pla yon’ (at left) and 78-year-old grandma Jui ( at right). Photos: Zao Isan / Facebook

Soi Pridi Banomyong has welcomed a new joint that supports farmers in Isaan and, at the same time, serves real Isaan food — not the dishes adapted to cater to Bangkok tastes — in a hip and chic space. 

Hailing from the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani is Zao, which recently opened behind the buzzy cafe Pridi in Soi Pridi Banomyong 25. 

Think of a sleek, photogenic cafe — but instead of coffee or croissants, Isaan food. Bare concrete walls with a bright orange logo at front really draw diners into the space. Outside are trees, with floor-to-ceiling glass on one side to inject a little green, oasis feel into the concrete venue.

For the food, this place is the definition of modern meets comfort. Owner Nutthida “Eve” Palasak used to be a fashion designer who worked with communities in Isaan, and her design and fashion tastes definitely translated into her restaurant.

All the ingredients are delivered from the same market they use at their Ubon Ratchathani branch twice a week: the Warin Chamrap Municipal Food Market, where vendors gather every day to sell whatever products they have. 

It’s a paradise for lovers of plaraa as the place offers three kinds of fermented fish for different dishes that take months to make. One is fermented for over two years. 

Spicy papaya salad with fermented fish (THB150)

If diners are lucky, they might meet 78-year-old “Grandma Jui,” who created a few dishes for the restaurant. Try the set of three jaew (chili paste), featuring signature Grandma Jui’s jaew, galangal jaew, and fresh Ubon chili jaew served with crispy pork skins and isaan vegetables (THB300). 

The deep-fried, crispy pla yon (local Isaan freshwater fish) with garlic for THB350 will really help with the spiciness. For something refreshing on hot, sunny days, try the spicy watermelon with fermented fish sauce (THB200). Their rice is also something to remember, straight from the local farmers in Yasothon to the plate (THB30 for sticky rice).

Deep-fried, crispy ‘pla yon’ (local Isaan freshwater fish) with garlic (THB350)

Zao is located in Soi Pridi Banomyong 25, best reached by motorbike taxi from BTS Phra Khanong. It’s open 11am until 9pm every day, except Tuesday.

Spicy watermelon with fermented fish sauce (THB200)


155, Soi Pridi Banomyong 25, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana
11am – 9pm, daily (except Tuesday)

This story originally appeared in BK.

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