The sun sets early in Betong, a quaint border town straddling the edge of the Malaysian state of Perak and Thailand’s southernmost province, Yala. By 6PM, the sky goes completely dark, shutters close, and the lights come on for night businesses – bright, white fluorescent ones for the streetfood stalls, seedy red ones for some massage parlours and bars. It was too late to do any sightseeing after checking in to our hotel at 4PM, so we just went out to town for dinner.
After Googling for recommendations, we went for Chinese food at a place called Ta Yern at the town centre, close to the clocktower landmark. I was tickled when I looked up at the electrical lines…
So many birds! There must have been hundreds of them roosting on the power lines. Be careful when walking underneath lest you get a ‘surprise’ bomb lol.
It was full-house at the resto on a Friday night, comprising mostly Chinese and Thai families. The setting was typical of a Chinese resto in Malaysia: red plastic chairs, big round tables. Service was pretty efficient, seeing as how they didn’t have that many staff and the resto was packed. The Chinese-speaking Thai lady gave us some recommendations, including the house special, Betong chicken.
Thailand has one of the largest overseas Chinese diaspora in the world, and they brought with them the Hainanese Chicken Rice. Chickens from Betong are said to be the best for prepping this dish, as they are free range and farm bred in a natural environment, which supposedly gives the chicken an unrivalled tenderness and flavour.
The version at Ta Yern lived up to expectations. The chicken was tender but firm (as befitting chickens that run free range), not too fatty and smooth. The soy sauce was not overpowering but enhanced the flavour of the meat. Deep fried shallots added fragrance. Usually I take out the chicken skin coz it feels fat and yucky, but the one here was done so well it actually complimented the flesh. Really good!
Stir fried veggies were okay – cauliflower, baby corn, mushrooms, pork slices, squid.
(Right) A hot bowl of tom yum soup to warm the belly. One of the better versions out there ! It was spicy but had us coming back for more, fanning our tongues out as it burned oh-so-good. Chock full of ingredients and herbs, the soup gave us a much needed kick to balance out the milder dishes we ordered. Also great with rice.
Last but not least, we ordered a fried chilli grouper. The fish was humongous. Betong is landlocked, so the seafood can be quite expensive, but since seafood is a staple of Thai cuisine, we thought it’d make a nice addition to the meal. The fish was fresh and fleshy, while the sauce’s spiciness had a creaminess to it as opposed to the tom yum soup.
The meal came up to 800baht for the four of us, which is approximately RM100. Can’t say it’s super cheap, but then again we did order a fish which can be quite pricey in this area.
TA YERN RESTAURANT BETONG
23 Sukyang Road, Betong Thailand
Open for lunch and dinner.