The first time I visited Wat Suan Dok, I gave up trying to find the vegetarian restaurant said to be located there. As a foreigner I just didn't feel confident poking around in the grounds of this tranquil Buddhist temple. Happily, on my second visit, I found the restaurant at the rear of the compound, on the right and past the main temple buildings.
Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant at Wat Suan Dok is a spot which embraces the concept of "slow food". It's an approach common among plant-based restaurants in Chiang Mai. They tend to use primarily whole foods and will often prepare all the dishes from scratch. Expect fresh nutritious food - but you will have to wait for it.
Pun Pun means" A Thousand Varieties" and the restaurant was thus fittingly named after the independent organic farming community that runs the two restaurants currently in Chiang Mai - Pun Pun Lan Moh and Pun Pun Wat Suan Dok.
The decor is simple and airy, being partially open to the exterior. You can sit indoors or outdoors, and as the staff don't normally wait upon you, just find a table, peruse your menu and go up to the front counter when you are ready to order.
The menu is pretty extensive, with a wide range of both local Thai vegetarian dishes, Western vegetarian food and some fusion creations. As in most vegetarian restaurants here you can order fresh raw juices and smoothies as well.
The food at Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant caters to many different tastes, and so for many people some dishes are hit and miss, while others are spot on. I personally found their take on cooked vegetarian dishes less impressive than their raw dishes.
The green papaya salad was a definite highlight, though. I have tried a number of different vegetarian interpretations of this traditional Thai dish, but this one stood out as not only being up there with the best, but also including some added flairs that made it even more special, including crunchy raw round eggplants.
I did enjoy the tofu covered in peppery coconut sauce however, but it is really best for sharing, considering the richness of the coconut sauce and tofu combination. Still, it is a unique and pleasing dish with its light side salad and delicately flavoured dressing.
There are a few sweet dishes if you like dessert, but you can also get something to takeaway - I opted for the vegan brownie. Speaking of vegan, Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant happens to be one of those veggie eateries that is particularly vegan-friendly. Most of the dishes are egg and dairy-free, so vegans will find this a great option too.
This place is definitely worth a visit for its laid back approach - you could easily spend hours here just eating, chatting and not feel rushed. Consider combining a visit to Suan Dok temple with a relaxed lunch of fresh local food at Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant.