Frog & Catfish

By Krabi Magazine Jun 12, 2013
We are in a country that loves food. It’s everywhere. You can’t swing any form of furry quadruped without smacking a fried chicken lady or som tam woman around the chops. So it may be somewhat of a challenge to open a restaurant that deals exclusively in Thai fare, wouldn’t you think? Yes, you would. With so much competition around, there should be a few “must haves” in order to make a Baht or two. Great location with passing trade. Lots of tables for lots of customers. A wide variety of food - Thai and Western. Add to this the odd fire show for the “oooh” factor, free drinks and a wide-screen TV and you might just be in with a chance.

So it may come as a surprise that one place has decided to forgo all of these entirely. It’s hardly close to the center of activity and only accessible by car, it has less than 10 tables, zero fire shows and a menu that deals exclusively in Thai food. They hardly even advertise (except this fine publication, naturally) instead relying on word of mouth mostly to tell they world they exist.

So who are they? Gary and Bua are the owners and creators of the Frog & Catfish. Gary hails from Liverpool in the UK and brings with him the genuine, down-to-Earth hospitality they are known for in his part of the world. He was a successful financial advisor for many years before taking early retirement and settling in Thailand. (He was actually ranked as one of the top 5 financial planners in the world, as it happens. So there you go.) It was here he met his wife Bua - a dynamo of a woman if ever there was one. Bua cannot seem to sit still for more than 15 seconds at a time, and it’s understandable to realise that it was she who built the place from the ground up. I say “understandable”, but it’s almost unbelievable when you see what she has done. Every solid table and chair was hand-built by her and her team. The salas and shelters that nestle around the fishponds are her work. Heck, even the ponds themselves where dug and filled by her own 2 hands. Bua comes from a family that deals in timber and furniture, so she has been crafting from wood since she can remember. Gary told us that, unlike a lot of women who may have an envious collection of handbags - Bua has a thing for power tools. The pair of them are so laid back their nearly horizontal.

We took our place at a beautiful shaded area and soon the food began to arrive. Yes, it’s Thai food, Jim, but not as we know it. Forget about your greasy spring rolls and stodgy Phad Thais here. We were presented with raw vegetable spring rolls with herbs that were - and a use this word sparingly - devine. Next to these came fresh jumbo prawn tempura, piping hot, crunchy and wrapped in a banana leaf, all served with a 7 herb dip.

Starting to get the picture? Bua, again, has her hand at the helm of the kitchen and has taken the ancient recipes of Thailand and given them her own twist. The freshest ingredients known to mankind are used and sourced locally. The fish here is to die for. Literally. When I’m eating here, approach me from the front, slowly and with no sudden moves or woe betide you.

Their fish is organically raised and prepared in ways that will make you weep for your mama. In fact, we brought my own parents here over Christmas and my Mother had an almost spiritual experience with her dinner. Crispy fried catfish on a bed of lemongrass and a cashew nut and chilli dip came next and we were not even at the main course yet. Repeat after me - You will not go hungry here. After cleansing our palates with a(nother) cold beer, the main event arrived. Try to imagine what a crispy fried tub tim covered with boraan sauce looks like - and you’d be wrong. A crispy fried what with what sauce? Exactly.

A whole fish fried to perfection with a mound of “old style” sauce is a sight to behold. This is an old Thai recipe handed down for generations and the Frog & Catfish is the only place I have come across that serves it. Shredded unripe mango with spring onions, chili and secret other things all come together to make one killer combination that is not as spicy as you might think. My Mum devoured hers leaving only bones, and she’s not one for the chilli. It’s downright scrumptious and an absolute must-try. No arguments. Other points of note include grilled duck in red curry that almost had my Father moving in there. Of course, they also offer the usual favourites like green curry, fried rice and Phad Thai, so there is something for everyone. They even have a selection of Western food, including fish & chips and steaks if that’s your thing, but the Thai food is the star of the show.

I could go on about the whole menu but there’s really no point. It’s handsdown the best Thai food you can get. The fact that many of the 5-star resorts here are sending their head chefs over to eat here should be all the testament you need. They have heard about the quality of food from their guests and had to check it out for themselves.

The food is A1, the surroundings are amid a tropical garden with gurgling water ponds and fine wooden furniture. Jazz music plays and a faint breeze cools the air. A wooden bar serves English beer and a pool table sits in the corner. A library of 2500 books is available and - oh did I mention the pool? Yes, they even have a swimming pool for guests to use gratis. As they are open from lunchtime onwards, some come for a languid afternoon of nothingness which has them staying for more.

If you really can’t tear yourself away, then you are welcome to stay in one of the 3 new bungalows built - yes, by Bua - that are available for rent. With a choice of full-English, continental or Thai breakfasts to look forward to in the mornings, don’t plan on doing an awful lot while you stay here. Lounging, sprawling and vegetating would top my “to do” list - but they can help you get out and about on trips, tours and the like by organising anything you want.

After our feast, we couldn’t even manage the home-made cheesecake that has been hailed as legendary - and that’s coming from me. I’m ashamed to even put this in print, but there it is. Bottom line is - you have to eat here. Don’t take my word for it either, just Google them and see for yourself what they do. True, they aren’t in the middle of “things”, but a mere 25 minute drive from the centre of Ao Nang. They can even arrange a taxi to collect you and bring you back to your hotel. A trip to Krabi would not be complete without an evening spent at the Frog & Catfish. Just remember to come hungry…. Content

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