Chefs wearing hard hats in the kitchen? It's hard not to be bemused by a team of chefs wearing bright yellow helmets and overalls at Yok Yor Thai Food Factory.
It was Suze who spotted the opening of this new restaurant on Campbell Street first, opposite Chilli Cha Cha near the corner of Castlereagh Street. Initially she'd mistaken the staff for construction workers until she realised it was actually their uniform. All day in the lead-up to dinner, we were singing Bob The Builder in our heads in anticipation.
Thai milk tea, Thai milk coffee and pandan juice $3 each
We arrive to find a restaurant that is long and narrow, an open kitchen running the length of the dining room. There are only about 28 seats in total, but the large table behind us has been taken over as an extended preparation area, with kitchen staff busily shredding papaya.
The menu is comprehensive with 58 options that are broken up into seven sections: entrees, grills, wok-fried, curries and soups, seafood, salads, and rice and noodles. There are a couple of interesting dishes, including the Kanom Beaung Yourn duck and coconut crepe, Tub Warn spicy pork liver salad and Tom Super, described as "a favourite drinker's soup" with chicken feet, lime juice, wolfberry and extra chilli.
Caution: Meal construction site ahead
We happily nurse our drinks as we watch the action in the kitchen. The Thai milk tea and the Thai milk coffee are both extraordinarily sweet, but the milk relief of my tea does come in handy later on to soothe a tongue tingling with chilli. Suze's pandan juice has quite an odd taste at first, especially without pandan's usual accompaniment, coconut milk. It tastes like a mixture of vanilla and wheatgrass but it's ultimately refreshing and isn't half as sickly sweet as our milk drinks.
Gai Tod Hard Yai $11.50
The Southern Thai fried seasoned chicken is just what we'd hoped for: an elaborate tower of wings deep-fried until golden and scattered with smithereens of fried shallots. The crisp skin is perfect for dunking in the saucer of sweet chilli sauce, not the sugary kind you find in the supermarket, but a fiery dressing of fish sauce, shallots and fresh chilli slices that revives the palate with hot, salty and sour flavours.
There are six types of Som Tum green papaya salads on the menu, including ones with salted black crab, fresh blue swimmer crab and an intriguing variation with sweet corn. We choose the salted egg version, not quite knowing what to expect.
It arrives as a spicy nest of crunchy green papaya shreds, pounded lightly with dried shrimp, cherry tomatoes, green beans, garlic, chilli and roasted peanuts. The salted duck egg has been cut into large quarters and scattered throughout, the white albumen extremely salty and crumbly. It's the salted egg yolk we're most interested in - rich, salty and buttery.
Pak Prik Khing $14.50
The Pak Prik Khing is our final dish, the crispy pork belly building steadily in heat to a mouth-numbing fire. We pick at the rubble of pork belly pieces with green beans, dry fried with a sweet red curry paste aromatic with garlic, galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Everyone is on the hunt for the pieces of pork with crackling, providing a welcome layer of crunch.
The intensity of flavours in this dish is addictive, an explosion of chili tempered by sugar and lifted by kaffir lime. A serve of sticky rice ($3.50) is an essential palate cleanser.
I'm guessing the guy in the pink hat is the foreman
There's no room for dessert even though the offerings look tempting. Sticky rice comes with sweet black bean or sweet custard ($5.90) and a Thai baked custard ($4.90) is served with a traditional savoury contrast of deep-fried shallots. I have my eye on the Thai tea ice cream with sweet potato ($5.90). In the meantime we clock-off from the Food Factory. Our demolition job is complete.
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7/13/2011 01:46:00 a.m.