An authentic experience
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.