Yum Pla Duk Foo $13.50
Catfish spicy salad
EDIT 10 Sep 2009: I-San City, Sydney has now closed.
EDIT 28 January 2010: Check out the new tenants Thanon Khao San.
It's the spicy soup that does it.
Up until then, I'd been managing just fine, hoeing into a banquet of Thai dishes with gusto, secretly pleased I was coping with the fire of chillis scattered generously through every meal.
The tom sap kra dook moo spicy pork ribs soup is a different story. A deep bowl of clear broth--filled with pork, red onion and green tendrils of coriander--has a carpet of chilli seeds across its surface.
The meat tastes okay. I scoff that without much problem, although the cartilage-laden piece of pork belly takes some effort to crunch down into little pieces. Enboldened, I take a few generous gulps of the richly fragrant soup, and that's when that bewildering state of tongue-on-fire panic takes hold of my senses.
Tom Sap Kra Dook Moo $8.00
Spare ribs spicy soup
Apart from this isolated incident, the rest of our dishes at I-San City are a delight, resplendent in a typical Thai harmony of sweet, sour, salty and hot. This unassuming eatery on the south end of Pitt Street is where we're dining tonight. I'd eaten here once before, choosing a couple of dishes from the laden but far-from-grand bain-marie out the front. Tonight we're dining a la carte.
The yum pla duk foo catfish spicy salad [top photo] is a particular crowd favourite. A jumble of raw crunchy vegetables--carrot, green mango, red onion and green shallots--is muddled with a fiery fish sauce dressing, tossed with tomato wedges and roasted peanuts, then topped with a golden brown fluff that is deep-fried catfish. The catfish gives a salty fried crunch that contrasts with the potent salad and the raw cabbage leaves served on the side.
Som Tom $8.00
Fresh green papaya salad in Laos style
Som tom green papaya salad is served Laos style which means a darker fishier dressing that is more spicy and sour than the usual Thai style. Isan refers to the north east region of Thailand, and its borders with Laos and Cambodia have spilled over to influences in food and language.
I'm intrigued, too, to see that tiny black crabs accompany our som tom. These baby crabs are cleaved into small pieces, their saltiness adding to the gutsy flavours of this dish. I try nibbling on one of the little crabs. It's incredibly salty. I learn later that these salt-preserved crabs are usually served with Laos som tom; the Thai version will use dried shrimps instead and is usually milder and sweeter overall.
Sai Oaw $8.00
Thai spicy sausage
Our Thai spicy sausages are chopped into thick hearty diagonal slices. These are packed with fresh lemongrass and lashings of white pepper, creating a lemony spicy mouthful that is crisp on the outside, soft and juicy within. It's not a chilli hot as I would've expected, but there are extra chillis on the plate, and I love the scattering of roasted peanuts, slivers of red onion and usual side accompaniment of raw white cabbage.
Pad Thai Goong $13.50
Fried noodle Thai style with prawns
Pad thai goong is another crowd favourite. The chewy white rice noodles are sticky with a coating of sweet sauce and dressed generously with crushed peanuts and chopped green shallots. A handful of raw bean sprouts on the side provide some palate cleansing crunch.
Iced coffee with milk $2.20
The best thing for tastebuds on fire is milk. My iced coffee with milk goes down a treat.
We conclude with a serve of traditional Thai custard, made with duck eggs, palm sugar and coconut milk. The rectangle of highlighter yellow is firmer than I expect, and to my surprise the golden shards strewn over the coconut milk topping are deep-fried red onion shallots. The idea of eating fried onions with dessert rattles my tastebuds somewhat but it all gets eaten anyway.
It's a rich dessert, despite its appearances. A bit like I-San, I think. There's a lot more here than you'd first expect.
I-San City Thai Restaurant (CLOSED)
Replaced with Thanon Khao San
(in-between Goulburn and Campbell Streets)
Tel: +61 (02) 9211 4150
Open 7 days 11.00am-10.30am
Related GrabYourFork posts:
Thai--Spice I Am
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7/07/2007 11:56:00 pm