Join the queue.
It's part of the ritual of eating at Chat Thai - joining the constant huddle of hungry people spilling out the doorway and onto the footpath, a torn strip of paper clutched tightly in one hand.
Watching the chefs work in the front kitchen is like a pre-dinner theatre show - a ladle of coconut soup here, a sizzle of skewers there, and the dull thud of a pestle on mortar as a som tum salad is pounded together.
Tort mun pla redfish mousse $8
Thankfully we don't have to queue long for lunch - a fifteen minute wait is just enough to whet the appetite, and sufficient time to work out what we want to order.
We kick off proceedings with tort mun pla, Thai fish cakes made with redfish mousse, served with a tumble of pickled cucumber, red onions, coriander, basil leaves and roasted peanuts. The fish cakes are light and springy, fragrant with red curry paste and kaffir lime leaves, and mixed with slivers of green beans, although the chilli dressing doused throughout is a little on the sweet side.
Watermelon fruit shake
Fresh spring rolls $10
Fresh spring rolls or pa pia sot, are the Thai version of Fujian popiah, although here the spring roll skins are filled with fish paste, shredded chicken, cucumber and shallots.
Nham dtok pork $8.90
We dive into the nham dtok pork, tender slices of pork char-grilled and sauced up with lime juice. Mint leaves, shallots and coriander add freshness and there's a pleasing textural contrast and nuttiness from the sprinkle of roasted rice powder on top.
Gai yang char grilled chicken $8.90
Gai yang is a perfect mix of smokiness and succulence - fillets of chicken thigh char-grilled with the skin still on. Marinated in turmeric, galangal, lemongrass and garlic, we dunk the chicken pieces into the accompanying nahm jim jeaw dressing, lively with fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind paste, shallots, sugar and chilli.
Sticky rice $3
And no Thai meal is complete without sticky rice, packed into little bamboo baskets. The malleable rice clumps together into chewy and sweet mouthfuls that complement the sweet dressings in Thai food.
Khanom craok sweet and salty coconut cream puddings $6
The dessert offerings at Chat Thai are half the fun of dining here. Khanom craok are only served at lunch time, cooked in a cast iron griddle and sandwiched together into a UFO shape.
Khanom craok are layered with two different coconut milk batters. The shell is crisp and sweet, yielding to a soft set middle that is a salty coconut pudding. The combination is odd at first, but strangely addictive.
Tup tim grob tapioca coated water chestnuts $5
Tup tim grob or red rubies are one of my all-time favourite desserts. Chunks of tinted water chestnut are dusted with tapioca flour and then boiled, creating a deliciously starchy layer around the crunchy water chestnut inside. The red rubies are served in coconut milk with coconut fibres, made cool with clinking ice cubes.
If only even lunchtime ritual could end so sweetly.
A Chat Thai outlet focussing on desserts is set to open at the new Westfield Sydney in the second quarter of 2011.
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20 Campbell Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9211 1808
Open seven days
Shop 5 Food Court, Galeries Victoria Food Court, Sydney
Tel +61 (02) 9264 7109
222a Carrington Road, Randwick, Sydney
Tel +61 (02) 9399 5610
Shop 10, Manly Wharf East Esplanade, Manly, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9976 2939
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Chat Thai, Haymarket (Sep 09) and (Nov07)
Chat Thai has been included on Grab Your Fork's Top 10 Sydney Eats for Tourists. Read the entire list here.
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11/17/2010 03:06:00 am