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Monday, January 27, 2014

Rim Tanon, Haymarket Chinatown Sydney

Yao-wa-rat noodle salad at Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown

Rim Tanon means street food in Thai, but don't expect just skewers or snacks at this newly opened restaurant in Sydney's Thai Town. What you will find are hefty portions at budget prices, and a slew of intriguing dishes not often found in Thai restaurants around Sydney.

Dining room inside Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown
Rim Tanon dining room

Rim Tanon takes up residence at the site of the former Chilli Cha Cha, right down the far end of Thai Town on the corner of Campbell and Castlereagh streets. On a Friday lunchtime, the place is heaving with office workers and Thai ex-pats.

Tum sua at Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown
Tum sua $12

Our waiter, Ben, is endearingly helpful, and happy to tell us all the dishes he considers unique or special to Rim Tanon. This leads us to ordering the tum sua, a variation of the popular som tum salad that Ben describes as "a bit of dog's breakfast really".

Som tum usually involves shredded papaya, green beans and tomatoes pounded together with dried shrimp, chilli, garlic, lime juice and fish sauce. This dish originated near the Laos and Cambodian borders and includes additions of kanom jeen fermented rice noodles, Thai eggplant, pickled river crabs, fermented fish paste, pork luncheon meat (much like what you find inside a banh mi Vietnamese pork roll) and pork crackling.

It's a wild mix of tastes and textures, with the traditional crunch of this salad softened by the slices of luncheon meat and the slurp of noodles. The Thai eggplant adds a slight bitterness and the crackling, doused in the sauce, are highly prized nuggets of gold.

Sa-tar pad goong petai stink beans curry at Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown
Sa-tor pad goong $14

Sa-tor beans are known as petai beans in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. They're are also called stink beans or bitter beans around the rest of the world. Here the beans are stir-fried with long beans, prawns and a strong and fiery curry paste. On their own, the beans are horrifyingly bitter, tasting like an unripe fruit that lingers persistently on the palate. I've eaten petai beans several times in Malaysia but these ones are off the charts in comparative bitterness.

Their extreme bitterness is why petai beans are usually paired with strong flavours like shrimp paste or curry. The bitterness is much less discernible when eaten together with the curry, beans and prawns, and I find myself disturbingly drawn back to this dish again and again in fascination.

Yao-wa-rat noodle salad at Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown
Yao-wa-rat noodle salad $8

Ben tells us that Rim Tanon offer two Hakka dishes which he's convinced no other Thai restaurant is doing in Sydney. Hakka are Han Chinese people, many of whom emigrated to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Thailand.

The first one is a Kae noodle soup with fish balls and stuffed tofu but we skip this for the yao-wa-rat noodle salad. It's a huddle of slippery rice noodles topped with pork mince, tofu and dried shrimps in a sweet soy sauce. Do watch out for the slices of chilli scattered generously throughout - these are firecrackers that will leave your lips tingling. Push them aside and this dish goes from forehead-sweating-hot to a bearable medium.

Yaowarat Road is where you'll find Bangkok's Chinatown, and it's here where you'll find Hakka dishes like this one.

Sticky rice with mango at Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown
Sticky rice with mango $8

We finish up with sticky rice with mango for dessert, plump grains of glutinous rice drizzed with coconut cream and a cheek of fresh mango on the side. Throughout our meal, our waiter Ben has been pleasantly chatty and attentive, even telling us he has a food blog before I've surreptitiously brought out my camera!

IMG_0867-1401
Say cheese! Our waiter Ben wanted in on the photo action too

As I'm taking photos of the restaurant exterior after our meal, Ben suddenly runs outside and asks if he can be in the photo. Of course he can!

Rad na rim tanon flat rice noodle with pork, Chinese broccoli and fried egg at Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown
Rad na rim tanon $10

I feel like we've barely scratched the surface of their 66-dish menu, which is how I end up returning that same day for dinner, less than six hours later. Ben's gone home for the day, but another waiter is keen we order the rad na rim tanon, a house specialty which he assures us is tasty.

The dish doesn't look like much on the plate: rice noodles, a pork fillet cooked with garlic, stalks of Chinese broccoli and a fried egg, but mixed up together with the oyster sauce gravy and a runny egg yolk, it's a deeply comforting dish. It's the kind of homestyle meal your Mum might make when you're not feeling well, and you'll feel the better for it.

Yao-wa-rat noodle salad at Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown
Yao-wa-rat noodle salad $8

I've brought along the G-Man, a Thai expat, for his expert opinion, and he's keen to try the yao-wa-rat noodle salad after hearing the waiter rave on about it too. He gives it a resolute thumbs up, declaring it deeply reminiscent of home. There's a great complexity to this dish, and by now I've learnt to flick the chilli slices aside, instead of eating them and feeling my brain implode from the heat.

Pad thai hor kai with prawn at Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown
Pad thai hor kai with prawns $14

So every Thai restaurant has pad thai on their menu but pad thai hor kai kicks things up a notch by enveloping this dish inside a thin omelette. The omelette is supremely thin, almost crepe like, adding an abundance of fried egg ribbons to your pad thai feast.

Chilli basil crispy chicken at Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown
Chilli basil crispy chicken $14

We were tempted by the whole fried fish ($32), deep-fried so the head and tail curl upwards towards each other, but end up ordering the chilli basil crispy chicken. It's a mountain of tender fillets coated in a crunchy batter and then doused in a sweet chilli sauce littered with fresh basil. It's perhaps a little on the sweet side, but still dangerously addictive.

Sai oua pork sausage at Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown
Sai oua Northern Thai sausage $10

The G-Man is impressed by the sai oua, too. It's a Northern Thai pork sausage that's punchy with kaffir lime, lemongrass, galangal and tumeric. Sweet, salty, spicy and sour, it's a party in the mouth - just the way I like it.

Rim Tanon Haymarket Chinatown


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Rim Tanon
40-50 Campbell Street, Haymarket, Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9211 2025

Opening hours:

Open 7 days 10.30am-12.30am


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