Sunday, 26 August 2012

Krua Thai 2

he says:

Are you mad for Thai noodle soup? No??? Well move along please nothing to see here.

If you're still here I can safely assume that you are like me and love Thai noodle soups or at least are interested in learning more about these amazing creations. Lovers of Thai noodle soup need look no further than Krua Thai 2. I was directed to Krua Thai 2 by Khun Top of Tidlom Thai Antique who credits Krua Thai 2 (and his mother) with teaching him all he knows about Thai food, and that's a lot. As with most times when I talk about food to Thai chefs we invariably end up talking about Thai noodle soups and in particular where the best examples can be found in Melbourne. Most (well pretty much all) Thai restaurants that offer more than the standard Tom Yam Goong use a packet powder or bottle paste base to construct their soups which although often delicious leaves the final product a far cry from what you will taste when in Thailand.

Only on Saturday and Sunday at Krua Thai 2 you can get a great array of traditional Thai noodle soups, all of which are made from scratch. Even better, you can get small size servings for only $6 a bowl which means you can comfortably try out a number of the options available (if not all). We managed 5 bowls and will certainly be back to have them all again and try the rest, including the dry variations. As far as I'm concerned, the list above is pretty much the greatest hits of Thai noodle soups.

First up was the Kuay Tiao Rua Nua (Beef Boat Noodles) with Sen Mee (Rice Vermicelli) noodles. I've read that anyone who knows what they're doing would never order Boat Noodles with anything but Sen Mee so as I like to pretend that I know my stuff that's what I ordered. This dish was just sublime and easily the best version of Boat Noodles I have tried outside of Thailand. I could have ordered a second bowl straight up but wanted to save room for as many of the greatest hits as possible.

Next was the Guay Jub which I have also had previously but again this version was far superior. It's an interesting dish as the noodles are little flattened discs that are rolled into tubes and cooked until beautiful and tender. Unfortunately my photo doesn't quite show them up so you'll just have to get over to Krua Thai 2 to try them for yourself. This dish contained a number of different proteins, some of them gorgeously tender and some not so easily discernible but all of them superb. Once again the broth was sublime, which was actually the case with all the soup noodles we ate at Krua Thai 2.

Being a Boat Noodle tragic I had to try both the pork and the beef variations, I couldn't say which I preferred as they were both just amazing. I'm in the process of refining my own Boat Noodle recipe for our soon to be launched Thai Street Food Cart so while our visit to Krua Thai 2 was about enjoying their amazing noodle soups it was also about research. I have to say I was actually a bit intimidated by the quality of the broths in particular but I'm hoping with a bit more work I can produce something that is at least comparable. It is certainly the level that I aspire to reach.

Standard condiments are provided on all the tables, fish sauce, white sugar, crushed dried chillies and two variations of chillies in vinegar. The Krua Thai 2 broths were all wonderful without any seasoning but the addition of a touch of this and a splash of that can take them to another level. I definitely encourage you to have a bit of an experiment but be careful with the dry chilli as it really packs a punch.

My main reason for visiting Krua Thai 2 was to try their Boat Noodles and while they were excellent I found myself raving most about the Tom Yam. I only recently discovered that the red coloured Tom Yam Goong that we see on so many Thai menus is actually a completely different dish to Tom Yam which uses a clear broth. I don't know where to start when it comes to describing how good this soup was. Let me just say that it made me feel like I was back in Thailand. If you visit only one of the restaurants and try only one of the dishes that I write about then this is the one. Yep, it was that good. Probably the most authentic Thai dish I've eaten in Melbourne, and I've eaten a few...

I don't mind Yen Ta Four and have tried it a few times, it's such a confronting bright pink colour which I believe is produced from some kind of fermented soy bean although more commonly a colouring sauce is used. I couldn't say which approach Krua Thai 2 use but judging by the authenticity of the other dishes we tried I suspect it is probably the former. Another unusual aspect of this dish is that it contains seafood with fish cakes and squid but also pork and blood cubes, not a combination you see very often. Yen Ta Four has an interesting and not particularly confronting taste though so don't be intimidated to give it a go.

As I mentioned above I am currently working on putting the finishing touches on my Boat Noodle Soup recipe and subject to permit applications and other red tape I am very hopeful that we'll be launching our Thai Street Food Cart at the North Melbourne Spring Fling on 21 October. In addition to Boat Noodles, Tina will be making Thai style Dorayaki and judging by the ones she has made so far I reckon they're going to be a hit.  Hope you can make it!

Krua Thai 2 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


he says:

Buubbub is a Burmese and Thai restaurant located on the northern end of Smith Street Collingwood. I used to get over this way all the time but these days I rarely dine on either Brunswick or Smith Street so I was happy for the opportunity to get back over this way again. OK so first things first, what's the deal with the name? It certainly doesn't sounds Thai and although I have no idea about the Burmese language I'm guessing it doesn't sound very Burmese either. So the deal is that Buubbub is a construct of Thai numerology which has then been converted into letters (letterology?) and you get Buubuub. And I'm told it means 'people will love our restaurant and keep coming back' or something along those lines. Owner Khun Mai tells me that she has been happy with the level of business since opening and is comfortable that the numerology based restaurant name is working as it should. The Thai can be quite superstitious (Khun Mai is Thai) and I have read they often pay large sums of money for specific 'lucky' mobile phone numbers. I also understand that the selection of lottery numbers is treated with a great deal of superstition, often specialist fortune tellers are consulted to assist in picking the winning numbers.

Buubbub specialises in Burmese and Thai cuisine but as I pretty much always eat Thai and have never tried Burmese I was keen to see what the Burmese food was all about. Most people will know of the recent political issues in Burma, or at least they may have heard of Aung San Suu Ky. Burma is formally referred to as Myanmar, I'm not sure that Myanmarese food rolls of the tongue quite as easily as Burmese food.

The restaurant has some of the usual traditional Thai decorations but is also prettied up with an almost vintage feel which I thought fit quite well with what most diners would expect from a Smith Street establishment.

We started with a pretty standard array of entrees, curry puffs, chicken satays and spring rolls. I didn't ask but I got the feeling that these were all made in house as the fillings didn't seem like the usual pre-made kind. The chicken spring rolls were full of delicious minced chicken and not just a smattering of mince filled out with cabbage as is often the case. Same goes for the vegetable curry puffs and spring rolls, all were chock full of vegetables including peas, corn and even potato and no cabbage in sight. I don't mind a bit of cabbage in my deep fried entrees but something different makes a nice change. It's also worth mentioning that they were all cooked quite well with no trace of excess oiliness that is the telltale sign of poorly executed deep frying.

The chicken satays were excellent, a great dipping sauce that was a lovely and peanutty and the chicken was beautifully tender. None of these entrees are things that I get too excited about as they are pretty standard but I definitely enjoyed them all. I don't often order spring rolls and satays these days but I do think these kinds of simple menu items are often a good test of a restaurant. You can tell a lot about how these simple items are prepared. Buubbub easily passed my entree test. Now onto the mains.

The first dish to arrive was the Burmese Tamarind Chicken Curry. This style of curry is different from most Thai curries in that it isn't thickened with coconut milk or cream and therefore has a much thinner ligher consistency  It actually reminded me of the Thai 'Gaeng Som' sour curry. The use of water or stock as a base for curry usually indicates an inland origin where coconuts are not available. The flavour is also markedly different to the coconut curries with the sourness of the tamarind the predominant flavour. This isn't to everyones taste but is certainly worth trying if you get the chance. Unlike Gaeng Som this curry wasn't particularly spicy although I'm not sure whether this is traditional or an adjustment to cater for Buubbub's mostly western clientele. Another differentiating factor was the use of a lot of fresh vegetables including tender eggplant and crunchy green beans.

Any lack of coconut creaminess in the previous dish was certainly more than compensated for by the Fish Cake Curry. This dish was very creamy with coconut milk and quite heavy and thick in consistency. Khun Mai informed me that they use Kara coconut milk which is also my choice when cooking at home however while it's far superior to any canned option it is quite thick and in my opinion is often best thinned out with some water. Still, the thickness of the curry didn't detract from the flavour which again wasn't overly spicy or sweet. A nice change from a lot of the Thai curries served up in Melbourne. Interestingly this curry uses fish cakes as the protein, something I hadn't seen before and quite liked. Although the large fish cakes make serving a bit awkward they add a lovely springy texture to the dish.

The last dish was easily my favourite. The Eggplant Salad was quite interesting as once again it was quite unlike anything I'd tried previously. I am so used to seeing Thai salads like this presented beautifully with lots of lovely textural elements and on sampling my first mouthful was quite surprised by the flavour. I was prepared to be hit with that wonderful combination of spice, sourness and sweetnees and was definitely not expecting the flavour of smoky grilled eggplant that I experienced. It's certainly not something that I associate with south east asia but I liked it! I had to keep tasting it just to be sure how I felt about it, it's strange how your expectations on seeing a dish can preposition your taste expectations. As with all the meals I ate at Buubbub I really can't comment on the authenticity of this dish but that's probably irrelevant anyway. It really should be all about taste and on that measure Buubbub passed with flying colours.

This review was conducted in my capacity as restaurant reviewer for ‘Thailiciouz’. I dined as a guest of the restaurant who knew in advance that I would be dining there, and selected the dishes they wanted to showcase. This review is reproduced on Please visit the ‘Thailiciouz’ website for information on how you can receive hot deals from various Thai eateries, massage parlours and other contemporary Thai businesses.

BuuBBub Burmese and Thai Food Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 9 August 2012


he says:

As usual I am way behind with my posts and have been very slack lately but I am determined to get though them all. Mostly I am determined that I must finish all the posts from our recent trip to Bangkok. Obviously that plan was that these posts would be written while I was relaxing on the balcony with a can of Singha in hand but it didn't work out that way. Well, writing the posts didn't, I can't say the same for the can of Singha!

I have a lot of good things to say about the Thai food in Melbourne which just seems to be getting better and better by the day. Lately I am finding (or being recommended) new places very regularly, so many that I am having trouble keeping up! If I have to choose one dish that still has a way to go until it gets close to that quality you get in Bangkok it would have to be Thai soup noodles. Most places either don't offer it or take the easy option of constructing their broths with a base of pre-made powders or pastes. This is fine for cooking at home (hey, I use them too) but personally I think a restaurant should avoid these short cuts.

It's for this reason that I really try and seek out as many noodle soups as possible when I'm in Bangkok. The depth and sublime quality of the broths is just amazing. I love most Thai noodle soups but my favourite by far has to be Kuay Tiau Bamee Ped (Duck with Egg Noodles). We had this a number of times from a vendor at Soi 38 on our previous trip and sadly our attempts to find something similar on our return to Melbourne yielded nothing of any note. Aside from the divine broth, what set the Thai version apart was the tender fall apart braised duck. I've never tried anything like it outside of Thailand.

Roongroj is right next to the wonderful Nang Leung Market. If you are staying in or around Banglapmhu, Nang Leung is about a 5 to 10 minute tuk tuk ride and probably a 20 minute walk from our hotel on Phra Artit.  The market is just fantastic, akin to some kind of open air food court and wet market all rolled into one. At the busy times this place just hums and with so many vendors occupying their little booths you can get most of the your favourite Thai meals in the one place. As it's where the local eat you can be comfortable that the flavours are not westernised in any way. I found Roongroj in the back pages of my Top 50 Street Food book with the simple description 'Duck Noodles' and that was enough for me. We hailed down a tuk tuk who knew of Roongroj (always a good sign), although he pronounced it more like 'Loonlot' and we arrived around 8:30, just before closing time. I get the feeling that duck noodles are more of a lunch dish as the place was totally empty and although this would usually deter me I trusted in Chow (Top 50 author) as she has never steered me wrong.

This was easily the best bowl of duck noodles I have ever tasted, yes big call I know everything about it was just perfect. Amazingly tender melt on the mouth delicious braised duck, gorgeous springy egg noodles and a sumptuously rich but somehow still light broth, just heavenly! To me noodle soups are an enigma as they are pretty much impossible to deconstruct and identify individual ingredients, its the balance and combination of the aromatics used that truly make them some kind of secret magical potion.

We ordered these fried wontons with chicken in gravy for Charlie and of course snuck a taste for ourselves. Duck noodle soup is the Roongroj specialty but judging by the chicken in gravy I'm pretty confident that they everything they serve must taste amazing. That's the thing about Thailand, they're so passionate about there food that if you're serving Thai food to Thai people it better be good or you won't last long. There's just no place for mediocrity, even the places that the Thai say are just OK are good and the ones that they say are good are amazing.

I spotted this article among the wall full of commendations and celebrity photos that tells about how Roongroj is featured in a Thai restaurant guide written by a senior politician listing his favourite eateries. It shows how seriously the Thai take their food, somehow I just can't see Julia authoring a treatise of her favourite restaurants...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Tidlom Thai Antique

he says:

One of the surprise side effect of writing this blog has been the wonderful supply of great restaurant recommendations for readers. I really appreciate it when people take the time to comment or email me with their suggestions. I got an email last night from prolific Urban Spooner Nat Stockley about Tidlom Thai Antique on Healeys Lane in the city. Nat knows his stuff and spoke highly of Tidlom so I wasted no time in getting there the very next day to check it out.

I reckon Healeys Lane is a great little location which has a bit of a street food feeling, well street food potential anyway. In the past I've often wandered down it lamenting the lack on any appetising looking establishments. Tidlom Thai certainly looks the goods and judging by my lunch today it tastes the business too. I had read on Half Eaten that the chef and owner Khun Top had previously had something to do with the now closed Appetizer Kub Klam. Well I'm not sure whether it has actually closed but the only time I tried to visit for lunch it wasn't open and I haven't been back to try again. It's a tough one for me because if I'm venturing that far afield for lunch I find it hard to go past Pad Thai in Midtown or Le Bangkok on Lonsdale Street.

I really like the TV themed menu, which isn't actually blue. (camera white balance issues...) The English font is a bit tricky to read but Khun Top informed me that it is being reprinted in an easy to read font. Personally I love seeing Thai script on a menu as it gives me comfort that the food is being cooked to suit more traditional Thai tastes which is something I'm pretty passionate about. While I was heading there I pretty much decided that I'd be trying the Yum Pla Duk Foo (Crispy Fried Catfish Salad) but on arriving the lunch menu didn't offer this specialty. It wasn't a problem though as the $9.90 lunch specials all sounded fantastic. Pad Thai of course and Pad See Eew (my latest obsession) but even better Pad Kee Mao (my new obsession). Some great sounding Fried Rice dishes (Khao Pad), including Khao Pad Poo (Crab Meat Fried Rice), Tom Yum and Green Curry Fried Rice to name just a few. Also very enticing is the Pad Krapow and the Pak Kanna Moo Krob (Chinese Broccoli with Crispy Pork). All these great dishes for less that $10 each. Thanks again Nat, I definitely owe you one!

The Cha Yen (Thai Iced Milk Tea) was fantastic. Tidlom also do a Thai Iced Coffee, another favourite of mine. Given the less than great quality of espresso coffee in Thailand this was my regular morning caffeine hit on my recent visit to Bangkok. When you visit Tidlom Thai make sure you skip the can of Coke and give either the Cha Yen of Cafe Yen a go. I reckon they're both a great accompaniment to spicy Thai food.

Speaking of spicy Thai food this is the Pad Krapow Gai (Chicken Krapow) that my dining companion ordered. It all looked pretty good but certainly not what I would call a traditional Thai Krapow. Now I'm not 100% sure about this but I pretty much expect minced protein in my Krapow (unless it's a seafood variation). I also found the sliced onion a bit excessive however I did like the use of snake beams and the flavour of the mouthful I tried was certainly very good. To be honest I'm more of a pork Krapow man myself.  Oh yeah, one more thing, "Where's the egg?" I just can't abide Krapow without a crispy runny yolk egg. (UPDATE: I returned to Tildom today and noticed that crispy egg is available as an extra for $2).

Ever since I returned from Bangkok I've been obsessed with Pad See Eew and have slowly been working my way back to all my old favourite places to try their versions out. I find it quite interesting to try the different interpretations. Personally I much prefer it over Pad Thai but that's just my opinion. Tidlom Thai have Pad See Eew which I will obviously be trying soon but they also have Pad Kee Mao which appears to be quite similar but it uses basil and also a lot of chilli! It was a very generous serve but I easily demolished the plate without coming up for air. There's something about that smoky wok flavoured slightly chewy wide rice noodles combined with the chilli and soy that is just fantastic. This spicy dish would go perfectly with a cold Singha. I'm not sure I will be ready for beer drinking until the weather starts to warm up but Khun Top's offer of $45 tabletop 3L mini kegs of original Singa (the yellow things in the background of the picture below) had me making plans for long Friday lunches on hopefully warm sunny late September afternoons.

I probably wouldn't have noticed unless I had read it on Half Eaten but there do seem to be an excessive number of light bulbs hanging from the ceiling... Still I really like the simple Thai touches at Tidlom Thai, one wall is covered in old Thai movie posters and the other has a montage of Thai number plates. It isn't overdone but that's what I like about it. Tidlom has a casual feel to it and it appears to be focused on not just Thai food but perhaps a slightly debaucherous version of 'Sanuk' involving eating great Thai food and drinking lots of alcohol with friends. According to Food in Melbourne Tidlom translates to 'continuously flying high or remaining in the same position continuously, cosily'. It's not hard to see the consumption of food and lots of alcohol in the subtext there...

The best part of the fitout at Tidlom has to be the original Thai food cart that doubles as the counter. Hopefully come summer Khun Top will find a way to set this up in the laneway and use it for its intended purpose of cooking up delicious Thai street food. The thought of sitting in a Melbourne laneway enjoying a few Singas with friends on a balmy Summer evening with the sublime smells from a Thai wok wafting though the air brings a big smile to my face.

Tidlom Thai Antique Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Na Siam

he says:

Writing these posts used to be such a simple exercise but somehow it seems to have gotten harder lately. I think it's because you start to take it a lot more seriously with each post requiring detailed research, artistic high resolution photos and of course a few witty analogies to wrap it all together. All these factors combine to result in procrastination and inaction. I started writing this blog to share my enjoyment of Melbourne's lesser known South East Asian eateries yet these days I find I'm posting about these simple experiences much less often. After I bit of thought I've decided that I need to start taking it all a loss let seriously and get back to basics. In that vein I bring you a simple write up about a new (for me anyway) Thai eatery on King Street called Na Siam.

I noticed Na Siam the other night as I drove along King Street and as it is close to where I work I made a note to myself to get there for lunch the next day. Na Siam is a very simple establishment, one of those places with an open kitchen, a bain marie (that only holds fresh vegetables), a drinks fridge and a few tables and chairs. There a couple of these kinds of Thai eatery, Melbourne Thai Cafe on Victoria Street North Melbourne is another favourite of mine. I like to think of them as the Melbourne version of Thai Street Food, well it's about as close as we get anyway.

The Na Siam menu is quite simple with about 10 offerings, of course the usual traffic light curries are offered and Pad Thai, Tom Yum plus a few other favourites like Green Curry Fried Rice. They obviously cater for a more western market but that isn't a bad thing. What is a good thing is the pricing with all meals around the $9 mark. I have often wondered why Thai food is more commonly priced at the $12 bracket just breaking through the supercheap eat barrier of $10. The Vietnamese restaurants seem to be able to keep most dishes under this threshold and many of the Indonesian student haunts are even lower with a decent meal available for as little as $7. It's not a big difference but sometimes it's a bit of a psychological barrier, especially when you're like me and often like to indulge in multiple dishes...

Anyway back to Na Siam, I was about to order the Green Curry Fried Rice as I never get this and it seems like a pretty good combination when you think about it. I then noticed Tom Yum Noodle Soup and started having thoughts of one of my holy grails of Bangkok Street Food, Gobu Rot Sing's Egg Noodles in Tom Yum Soup. I have drooled over this picture many many times in my Bangkok's Top 50 Street Food Stalls but for whatever reason I have neven managed to get there. I knew it was a bit of a long shot that Na Siam was going to produce something that compared to Gobu's specialty but it was worth a shot. The chef kindly obliged my request to add a soft poached egg to the broth and I asked for a spoonful of Nam Prik Pao Thai Chilli Jam to spice up the broth a bit. I also had to settle for rice noodles instead of bamee egg noodles but overall the dish was wonderfully soothing and warming on a cold winter day with all the usual notes of chilli, lemongrass and galangal.

When I was enjoying my Tom Yum I noticed that most of the patrons were ordering Pad Thai and I have to say it looked excellent and certainly very generous for the bargain price of $9. I cheekily asked to snap this photo of someone else's meal and the very friendly staff kindly obliged. While I wasn't overwhelmed by my Tom Yum Noodle Soup, it was certainly very nice and I will definitely be returning to Na Siam give a few of their other meals a try, including the delicious looking Pad Thai.

Na Siam on Urbanspoon