An au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Graeme Phillips

Iseem to be go­ing on a bit lately about au­then­tic­ity – or the lack of it – in our eth­nic restaurants. The ques­tion came up again dur­ing an af­ter­dinner chat with Savayos Malayanond, the chef at All Thai in North Ho­bart. “Syd­ney is full of Thai restaurants,” he said. “But most of them I wouldn’t eat at. Too many cook some­thing truly Thai for their fam­ily and staff and then serve some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent in the restau­rant.

“Here, I try to make and serve the sort of food I grew up with in Bangkok. My fa­ther is a chef from the south of Thai­land and I of­ten ring him for recipes and then try to get the flavours right as I re­mem­ber them from my child­hood.

“But Thai cul­ture and food is chang­ing. There’s much more Chi­nese, Cam­bo­dian and Burmese in­flu­ences in our food than there used to be. And then, of course, there are the re­gional dif­fer­ences in tra­di­tions and styles of food within Thai­land it­self.

“Here, we’re al­ways try­ing new dishes and I try to make no com­pro­mises or take any short­cuts.”

Al­though both restaurants are owned by his wife Arada Pora, he says his menu is quite dif­fer­ent and changes more of­ten than that of All Thai in Sandy Bay.

Our din­ner started with a se­lec­tion of street­food dumplings, kanom jeeb – “jeeb” de­scrib­ing the ac­tion of bring­ing your fin­ger and thumb tips to­gether “like a closed lo­tus flower” to form the dumpling.

With house- made pastry filled var­i­ously with chicken and gin­ger, pumpkin and shi­take and prawn and crab, each was served in a ce­ramic spoon con­tain­ing a drop of vine­gar.

For both my wife and I they were the best, most de­li­ciously flavour­some dumplings we’ve had in Ho­bart, so good I could have made an en­tire meal of them.

Then fol­lowed good chilli- salt crusted chicken wings with a mild sweet/ sour dip­ping sauce and an ex­cel­lent, spicy and smoky beef, tomato and chilli salad ac­com­pa­nied by slices of chilled raw cu­cum­ber to help douse the fire.

Next came two other street- food dishes. The first was the felic­i­tously named “son- in- law” egg – a shelled soft- boiled egg coated with toasted rice and spices, deep fried and served with a sweet­ish tamarind sauce.

The sec­ond was moo ping, skew­ered cubes of char­grilled and beau­ti­fully spiced pork ac­com­pa­nied by an in­trigu­ing nam jim jaew sauce in­tri­cately com­posed of sour tamarind, su­gar, fish sauce and lemon, the liq­uid then re­duced and given its dis­tinc­tive caramelised nut­ti­ness by a thick­en­ing of pounded sticky rice which had been toasted be­yond golden un­til just short of burnt. Both were de­li­cious.

The moo ping was a vari­a­tion on Malay­onod’s 14- hour aniseed- flavoured pork belly or, the best of all he says, a whole hind leg of pork sim­i­larly spiced that he cooks for two days.

To fin­ish, we shared a plate- sized snap­per, gen­er­ously topped with chopped gar­lic, gin­ger, co­rian­der, Thai basil and chilli, steamed and served in its light and pleas­ingly spiced cook­ing liq­uid.

The menu also fea­tures 11 dif­fer­ently sauced veg­e­tar­ian and curry dishes with the op­tion, for those who wish, of adding chicken, beef, pork, duck, prawns or other seafood.

And, of course, there are what Savayos calls “drink­ing nib­bles”, in this case all home­made – veg­e­tar­ian spring rolls, curry puffs, tod man pla, salt and pep­per squid, and other Thai usu­als plus, to fin­ish, crème brulee with taro ice- cream, grilled banana roti and co­conut mousse and sticky palm su­gar with ice- cream.

Moo ping $ 2.50 each; chilli salt chicken wings $ 9.90; prawn and crab kanom jeeb ( four pieces) $ 10.90; chicken green curry $ 16.90; beef salad $ 21.00; desserts $ 8.90.

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