Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chat Thai

With the cheap meal deals on offer and fast service, Thai food invariably draws in much of the student crowd around Sydney Uni. Seriously, I’ve never seen more Thai restos anywhere else. Back in Singapore, my knowledge of Thai food was limited to fluffy pineapple fried rice with generous servings of pork floss and the ubiquitous sour, tangy Tom Yum soup. Sydney (okay, and maybe Africa) must have been the last place where I thought I’ll get to know Thai food better.

However with the multitude of restos around serving up their own versions of Thai cuisine, it’s hard to figure out what’s the real deal sometimes. And who better to ask than another Thai?

Saturday late morning saw us at the Contemporary Art Museum for the 2008 Biennial Art Expo with our favourite Singa-Dutch couple. As expected, there was the small handful of intriguing art pieces and more than your fair share of mind-boggling ones, so I was really quite looking forward to lunch to perk me up. Since we were in the city, we decided to check out Chat Thai. A mutual Thai friend had brought them there before and they couldn’t stop raving about it and how authentic it supposedly was. ‘Nuff said. They had me at authentic.

The dreary wet weather must have kept the crowd away and we were lucky to get a seat rather quickly; I was told that it’s normally packed to the brim during mealtimes. Not that I minded waiting. The kitchen was out in front at the waiting area and we could get a sneak peak at the goodies on offer. At the sight of khanom craok, my heart must have skipped a beat. I’ve read about these little coconut snacks on Eating Asia and have since spent many a night thinking about them. And here they were, brazenly looking all golden and crispy right in front of me. In Sydney. Boy, life is good to me.

We were quickly ushered to our seats and the waitress laid out 4 beaten tin cups in front of us. After poring through the menu for a bit, our orders were placed. 10 minutes must have whizzed by when our first dish was served.

Khao Mok Gai

The Khao Mok Gai reminded me a lot of nasi biriyani. The chicken was extremely moist and tender and the rice deliciously spiced, but it was the sauce that blew me away – it was tangy and rich in coriander. The crunchy deep fried shallots rounded off the entire dish nicely.

Ki Mao

Next up was the Ki Mao, and I am more than happy to report that there were no traces of tomato sauce in sight. The flat rice noodles had a nice bite to it and there was just the right amount of seasoning (not drenched in sauce like some places serve it) with lots of fresh, half-cooked veggies, just the way I like it.

Crying Tiger

I was a little apprehensive about the name Crying Tiger, but all traces of doubt fell away as I sank my teeth into the soft, char-grilled pieces of beef. The meat held its own and I found the sweet chili sauce on the side almost unnecessary.

Tort Mun Pla

The Tort Mun Pla was a dish of deep fried, spiced fish mousse served with roasted basil leaves. Drizzled with a fragrant sauce, this was quite more-ish.

Khanom Craok

Dessert. Finally, the dish I’ve been anticipating. It was everything I dreamed of and more. The crispy exterior easily gave way to a sinfully rich, cococnut custard filling. My first bite had me contemplating buying a whole box to take home, but doing so will surely lead to overkill. Besides, I need another excuse to come back soon!

Kai Nok Gatah and friend banana fritters

The deep-fried desserts were a bit of a disappointment. I thought the Kai Nok Gatah (fried cassava dumplings) were rather bleah. I usually love my banana fritters (known as goring pisang back home), but these were dry and to an extent, made me think of cardboard.

Red Ruby

The Red Ruby was a special which wasn’t listed on the dessert menu. This was surprisingly good, very good in fact. The gelatinous layer on the chestnut pieces were rose-flavoured, something I’ve never had before. I could easily finish a bowl of this on my own.

I forgot to take a picture, but we ended the meal with Thai coffee with condensed milk, just the way we drink our kopi and teh back in Singapore. I never thought there’ll come a day when I would get excited over finding kopi in a resto. Although this is something I can make on my own, it’s somehow more satisfying when someone else makes it for you. Sighs. The things we take for granted!

Oh khanom craok, I’ll be back for you.

Chat Thai
20 Campbell Street


Y said...

Oh my goodness, those coconut custard thingies look diviiiiine! Must. get. some.

Love the new look, by the way!

Cynthia said...

yes you absolutely have to try those. they're the softest, richest things ever!

Thip said...

I just made Kao Mok Gai today. :)