Baan Suan Khao Kram Krabi Farmstay บ้านสวนเขาคราม
When we pulled into the Baan Suan Khao Kram parking lot about 11am on a Thursday, I was shocked to find it congested with cars.
We’d driven 4.3 km off Highway 4 (Petchkasem Road) on a narrow concrete road winding through palm oil plantations. As we got further into the palm oil, we wondered how there could be a restaurant out here at all.
There is really and truly nothing around Suan Baan Khao Kram, except for palm oil and the looming karsts that make the Krabi landscape so magical.
If I hadn’t been chatting with the owner, Siri, on Facebook so she knew we were coming and I knew she was there, I would have assumed Suan Baan Khao Kram Krabi Farmstay was closed down for the pandemic.
It was so far away from everything, so remote, how would people in normal times manage to find it? How could a place this far out remain open and even thrive in a period when restaurants in downtown Ao Nang were stacking up their chairs and putting up “closed until further notice” signs?
About Baan Suan Khao Kram Krabi Farmstay
The farm-to-table restaurant model was dreamed up by Siri’s husband Den around 2016, after a large-ish gathering of relatives on the farm.
The restaurant sits on property behind Den’s mothers house. It was once a rubber farm intermixed with other fruit trees, but when rubber prices crashed the family cut the trees down, kept the fruits, and decided to go organic (or at least, stop spraying chemicals on the trees and vegetables).
They added a water-catchment pond, which filled with natural water from the nearby Khao Kram mountain.
Den’s mother is somewhat renown for her cooking among the family. But when word got out to friends of relatives and friends of friends of relatives, the family decided it was time to actually open a restaurant.
Siri doesn’t know exactly how the restaurant came to be so popular, but she guesses it’s mostly to do with her mother-in-law’s cooking.
Through word of mouth and some social media, Baan Suan Khao Kram is not just surviving this rough period, but doing well considering the lack of domestic and international tourists, the empty cottages (they are not allowed to open for overnight guests), and the general economic downturn.
The Thursday morning that we arrived, there were “Reserved” notices on many of the tables and within 30 minutes there wasn’t an empty table.
It was a good thing we had booked in advance, and arrived early to choose our durians, because by the end of the lunch rush there was hardly any durians left either.
Lunch at Baan Suan Khao Kram
The menu is designed around fruits and vegetables that grow on the farm, what Siri calls their “signature ingredients.”
The menu looked great; full of fresh colorful vegetables and good home country cooking.
But rather than save our appetite for the Durian after lunch, we decided to start with dessert (priorities, y’know).
On the day we visited, there were durians, pomelos, and mangosteens available for purchase at the entryway to the restaurant.
Durians of Baan Suan Khao Kram
I think Siri and Dene were surprised when we picked out kind of a lot of durian for 2 people and proceeded to open them all. Before lunch.
As far as we have noticed, Thai people usually follow a big meal with a few polite pieces of durian as desert. But we are not responsible grown ups, nor do we worry about our blood pressure or count any carbs, so for us it was time to dive into the D’ and get our veggies in later.
Organic Durian Baan
We started with the Durian Baan just because it smelled so powerful. If you’re a durian lover, you know that irresistible urge to open!
All of the durian from Baan Suan Khao Kram currently grows in the garden area behind Den’s mother’s house. These trees are old, but Siri is not sure how old. Older than Den.
Of the three fruits of Durian Baan that we purchased, each looked and tasted differently. This is because the term Durian Baan simply refers to durian trees that were grown from seeds, and each tree is genetically unique and distinct from the others.
The yellow-fleshed one was smoother and more butterey, but as is so often the case my fingers kept reaching for the petite white-fleshed one, which had a cookie-dough sticky texture and a slight bitterness tinged with some sparkling chemical reaction that made time slow down, if just for a little while.
Kop Chai Nam กบชายน้ำ
We also purchased one named durian variety that was cut-harvested, meaning it was not allowed to fully ripen on its own and fall.
Kop Chai Nam is a big fat durian. Unlike Durian Baan, it’s an old established variety, a clone of another tree. The tree is fiarly young, just five or six years old. Thanks to the popularity of durian (combined with lack of labor available to help with planting vegetables), they are slowly trying to expand their durian garden with interesting varieties.
Maybe because it was a young-tree fruit, but it hadn’t ripened properly leaving some of the edges crispy. The taste was very sweet, but otherwise not remarkable.
It was kind of lucky, because if it had tasted as good as the Baan we would have gobbled up everything and not had any room at all to taste the fabulous farm-to-table vegetable dishes that has made this restaurant so resilient.
3 Sons Spicy Salad (ยำสามบ่าว)
The signature dish is a spicy salad or Yum (ยำ) made from 3 fruits that grow on the farm: Pomelo, Guava, and Luk Chok – a marble-sized palm fruit sometimes known as Candy Palm in English.
The dish is named for Den and his 2 brothers; Grandma’s 3 sons.
The salad has a tasty dressing of lime juice, chili and salt mixed with the sweetness and fragrance of the guava and the slightly crunchy, springy translucent texture of the Luk Chok, which basically absorbs whatever flavor it’s inundated with. I loved the combination of textures in this dish!
Luk Chok appears several times on the menu in different forms, and since it’s kind of special to Krabi we decided to explore.
Luk Chok Green Tea
There were a number of drinks on the menu featuring Luk Chok. Since by 11am it was already hot, and we’d just eaten a rather large amount of durian, we decided to order a “cooling” Luk Chok green tea.
It turned out to be a lightly sweet green tea over ice with some Luk Chok floating at the bottom.
I actually didn’t like this that much, as the Luk Chok clogs the straw as you sip and you have to eat them with a spoon. If the pieces had been cut smaller or the straw was bigger, I think it could have been a natural bubble tea!
Luk Chok Loi Gao ลูกชกลอยแก้ว
For our last renditon of Luk Chok, Siri surprised us with a bowl of the classic dessert Luk Chok Loi Gao. This is simply Luk Chok over shaved ice with palm syrup (probably from the same tree species) drizzled over the top.
It is probably the best way to eat Luk Chok, simple and very refreshing.
Stir-Fried Banana Stem; Yuak Pad Kehy (หยวกผัดเคย)
When I asked about the Yuak Pad Kuhy, or stir-fried banana stem, Den said “oh, I’ll have to go chop one down.” Now that’s farm-to-table!
Yuak is the soft inner core of the banana tree “trunk.” Since bananas are actually giant-sized grass blades, the trunks never turn woody and the very central core is basically layers of new leaves spiraled tightly around each other.
Normally this dish is stir-fried with เคย kehy or a shrimp “juice” special to Southern Thailand, but for us they made it into a delicious dry curry and served it with a sprig of Pak Khan Kong (ผักก้านก่อง), Cosmos caudatus, which I of course ate. This is one of my favorite sides in Malaysia and I was stoked to get a taste in Southern Thailand.
The whole dish was just delicious and I think anyone, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, would have just loved it!
Raw Veggie Plate
As a side, we were served a plate of beautiful organic vegetables from the garden. It is very normal in Thailand for your meal to be accompanied by a plate of raw, uncooked vegetables.
On our plate the cook piled young, tender leaves of a cashew tree (still bitter), several rounds of cucumber, raw sticks of long bean, and some baby eggplants that were shockingly sweet and just barely astringent. I mentioned to Siri I had never had baby eggplants so non-astringent, and she said “maybe because they are organic.”
Two years after opening the restaurant, Siri and Den opened a bed and breakfast farm stay so that guests can stay over and attend farm-to-table cooking classes.
They have a total of 7 simple cabins interspersed around the farm. Some line the road through the palm oil field, others rim the pond near the restaurant.
The accommodation part of this Krabi farmstay is closed for the pandemic, so no one has stayed in these rooms for over a year. But I had a peek through the windows to see what the rooms look like.
Each room was small and simple, with just enough space for a bed and night table.
It looks like each room is air conditioned and has a private bathroom, but you’ll probably like to spend your time on your house’s patio or in the restaurant cooking up a storm with Den’s mom.
How to get to Baan Khao Kram Krabi Farmstay & Organic Cafe
Baan Suan Khao Kram is located 4.3km off Highway 4, the road connecting Krabi to Phang Nga. From either Ao Nang or Krabi Town it’s about a 40 minute drive north.
The driveway to Baan Suan Khao Kram Krabi Farmstay runs parallel to the road, so you’ll actually reach the entrance to the parking lot around 200 meters before Google Maps realizes you’ve reached the destination.
We drove right past the driveway without noticing the small red arrow and photograph of King Rama IX and had to backtrack.
Baan Suan Khao Kram has tree-fallen durian every day during the season and cuts irregularly. If you want to try a cut durian variety (Kop Chai Nam or Ganyao) make sure to ask about cutting dates and plan your trip for 3-4 days after the durian is cut so it can be fully ripe when you arrive.
Book a lunch or some durian on their Facebook Page, and make sure to say “sawadee” to Siri for us!
If you like Durian and local food, make sure to check out Ploy’s Durian Cafe in Chanthaburi.