Cheap, quick Thai

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Thai Deli, 195 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne. Phone: 9696 6895

We spotted Thai Deli while ambling along Clarendon Street destined for Shakahari.

We liked the look of it – small, busy, cheap and with an abundance of that lived-in look that Consider The Sauce finds so alluring.

In the weeks following, Bennie spoke of the place a couple of times – I like it that such a business registered in his mind.

He even compared it with a much-missed Carlton institution. There’s big differences between the two, but I get where he’s coming from.

So soon we are back to take Thai Deli for a run.

Myself, Bennie, Che meet up with Thai expert Andy from Krapow and get busy.

Perhaps I’ve been a little naive in hoping that a cheap Thai joint in the guts of South Melbourne would offer at least a couple of stand-out or unusual dishes.

It doesn’t.

But what we have is certainly enjoyable, very affordable and – I estimate – at least a little better than your average suburban Thai offerings.

 

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Chicken pad siu ($10.90) is perhaps the best of our four dishes. It’s oily, yes, but has some wok hei and is tasty and popular at our table.

 

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Chilli basil chicken ($10.90 with rice) is a single-person serve and just OK.

 

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Lamb salad ($11.50) has heaps of good, fresh greens and other veg bits. Thankfully, the sweet chilli sauce is abetted by something with a little more tangy – tamarind maybe?

 

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Beef panang curry $11.90) is good but very mild. Like the chilli basil chicken, I like the chunky (unprocessed) vegetables, including potato.

Andy reckons there’s bottled or canned sauce used to make this and other dishes the place does. Just about all Thai restaurants do so, he maintains.

I don’t mind that.

And if I lived or worked around here, I would no doubt be at least a semi-regular at Thai Deli.

But the truth is that within a couple of blocks there are three other places that do stuff that is lustier and more hardcore – see here, here and here.

 

Thai Deli on Urbanspoon

 

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A welcome return

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Yim Yam Thai Laos, 40 Ballarat St, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 8585

So scarifying was our last visit to Yim Yam in Yarraville that it has taken more than five years to return.

On that occasion, on a busy Friday night, the place was uncomfortably cramped and the staff seemed harried to distraction.

At that time, a much younger Bennie was very much unused to spicy food, so we made a point of choosing one dish by adhering to the restaurant’s chilli grading system.

But our “one chilli” choice was so unbearably hot that even I could eat only a few mouthfuls.

When I tried to raise this matter with the staff member who seemed to be in charge, I was blown off with a dismissive wave of the hand.

It was a long time ago – and certainly before the arrival of Consider The Sauce.

But, yes, it has remained in memory a vivid experience for both of us.

Returning for a mid-week dinner, we find much – perhaps even everything – has changed.

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The place has expanded, with a lovely dining room now adjoining the original, smaller eating and kitchen space.

The staff are happy, obliging and on the ball.

With this sense of expansiveness, what might have previously been viewed as an imposition – being seated at the window bench right next to the door – is just fine by us.

We navigate a dauntingly long menu of dishes mostly unfamiliar to use with aplomb, ending up with just the sort of meal we desired, even if our picks are a little on the unadventurous side.

Even better, by going without our usual soft drinks and appetisers of the snacky variety, the bill clocks in at just a tick over $40, which we hold to be excellent value considering the quality of the food.

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Vegetarian pad thai ($12.90) is a fine foundation for our dinner.

It’s quite wet and mildly spiced, yet has a good lemony tang and a profusion of lovely vegetables, sprouts and tofu.

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Vientiane salad ($12.90) is Bennie’s choice and it’s a good one.

This one, too, has a bold lemon quotient, but we pretty much inhale the “white noodles with shredded green papaya, tomato, peanuts and herbs with a lemon flavoured dressing”.

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Our protein hit comes courtesy of guy yang gup jaow mark kham – “marinated grilled chicken with chilli tamarind dip” ($15.90).

It’s good but doesn’t transport us to delight as our previous, vegetable-based choices did.

That’s down to the chicken being a little on the bland side and also being very like the Vietnamese grilled chook we’ve eaten so often.

The sticky tamarind chilli sauce is terrific, though.

If anything, the best part of this dish is scooping up the mess of carrots, coriander, spring onion and peanuts imbued with the chicken/marinade cooking juices.

Tonight’s Yarraville adventure has come about because I’d had quite enough of driving for the day, so somewhere, anywhere in our immediate backyard has been the go.

Walking around Anderson and Ballarat streets leads us to acknowledge just how many Yarraville village eateries we have yet to visit and/or write about, even if quite a few of them fall into the “special occasion” category for us.

Still, it’s been a happy outing in that we’ll be more than glad to return to Yim Yam where previously we have stayed away.

Yim Yam Thai Laos on Urbanspoon

Soi 38’s Popup Tour of Thai Noodles – get on board!

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Soi 38 Thai Noodle Tour, opening night, Sketch & Tulip Cafe, 364 Victoria Street, North Melbourne. Phone: 9329 9665

We love Andy.

We love his website, the Thai-centric website Krapow.

And we particularly love the way he and his Soi 38 colleagues are allowing Melbourne to sample superbly delicious “under-represented” Thai dishes.

Especially when they are presented in the imaginative and alluring manner represented by Soi 38’s latest adventure – “A Tour Of Thai Noodles” spread over a succession of Friday nights at a very cool North Melbourne bar/cafe.

The first night of the “tour” sees various friends and pals of Andy and Soi 38 front up to Sketch & Tulip for complementary bowls of noodles as a promotional effort for the upcoming Friday nights.

Tonight’s fare is boat noodles – that doesn’t slow us down any, even if we have written about them before. See here and here.

And who should we clap our peepers on immediately on arrival?

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Two of our favourite people, food-wise or otherwise – Ms Baklover of Footscray Food Blog and street food obsessive Nat Stockley!

OK, we’re obviously at the right place!

If anything, the boat noodles are even more yummy than before – with a deep, dark and rich broth of just the right amount of chilliness and two kinds of beef.

One is stewed and the other, I’m told, is marinated for a couple of days in soda water and then simply poached.

The latter is pale and pinkish and pulls off one of my favourite food tricks – it’s both tender and marvellously chewy.

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We admire the way the Soi 38 crew are pricing their noodles.

Sure, tonight we’re supping “on the house”.

But even at the regular price of $5, you can go one, two, three or more bowls and still be getting an outright bargain on food you’ll not find anywhere else in Melbourne.

Or probably Australia for that matter.

Here’s the Thai Noodle Tour itinerary:

Week 1: Kuay Teow reua Nua Nahm (Beef boat noodles)

Week 2: Kuay Teow Sukhothai Muu Haeng (Dry sukothai pork noodles)

Week 3: Kuay Teow Tom Yum Muu Nahm (Hot and sour pork noodles)

Week 4: Kuay Teow Bamee Bpuu (Dry crab egg noodles)

Week 5: Kuay Teow Bamee Bped Nahm (Braised duck egg noodles)

Week 6: Kuay Terow Tom Yum Muu Haeng (Dry hot and sour pork noodles)

We plan on making as many of these occasions as we can.

You should, too.

For further details, check out the Soi 38 website and/or Facebook page.

Sketch & Tulip Cafe on Urbanspoon

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A motherhood statement

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Mum Mum Asian Street Food, 67 Flemington Road, North Melbourne. Phone: 9329 7106

Mum Mum is a lovely eatery on Flemington Road that’s been open about four weeks.

Given its location opposite great swathes dedicated to the medical industry – where the food options are probably not so hot – and the many offices around here, I reckon this place will go well, especially at lunch time.

But anyone who feels their pulse quickening at the attractive thought of dining at an establishment with the words “Asian Street Food” incorporated into its name had best take a chill pill.

We end up reckoning there is good and maybe even very good food to be had here, even though our lunch is mixed bag.

It’s more that anyone seeking the funky pungency and aromas and spiciness of real-deal street food may be a little disappointed.

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From what the staff tell me, the usage of the street food term is a bid to create a point of difference between Mum Mum and the family-connected straight-up Thai place right next door.

So while the lunch menu from which we order is basically a Thai document, there are items such as taro prawns, seafood gyoza, various dumplings and spring rolls in the “Little Something” section.

The ground floor dining room of the Victorian double-storey building is a very nice, with different kinds of wood in the chairs, tables, stools, floor, stairs to the upstairs and screen creating a warm feel.

I like the idea of a Thai-style curry “free of coconut milk” and I like the idea of a lighter lunch with lots of fresh vegetables – so I order the “jungle veg. curry w. rice” ($11.90).

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This turns out to be a miscalculation on my part, because without coconut milk – or some other thickening agent – what I get, of course, is not curry but soup.

The vegetables are fine and the broth is spicy and highly fragrant with kaffir lime and basil.

But somewhere along the way this misses the mark with me – it fills me up but leaves me feeling empty.

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Bennie does much better with his “fresh basil chick w. fried egg” ($11.90), which is much more sexy than his dad’s lunch.

Piled on top of rice is an oily, garlicky mix of chicken mince, lots of fried onions of the kind that Bennie really loves these days and other vegetables, with a fried egg as head gear.

This, too, is rather spicy but too much so for the boy.

Interestingly, our pal Nat had a rather different experience with this dish at Mum Mum – as you can see by reading his comments at Urbanspoon.

Whether this is because Bennie has been served a very different and much better meal, or whether we are utterly clueless about a food style on which Nat is an internationally renowned expert we know not.

As we depart, I spy another customer tucking into what looks like a marvellous plate of lamb mussaman curry – that’s for me next time!

Check out the Mum Mum website here.

Mum Mum Asian Street Food on Urbanspoon

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Ace Thai noodles

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Sukhothai noodles by Soi 38, Indonesian Street Festival, Victoria Market

The Indonesian Street Festival is a typically, happily intense Melbourne multicultural celebration.

There are heaps of stalls and heaps of people.

We see some unusual dishes and we see many on which we could for sure take a punt.

But we maintain our focus.

We are here, primarily, to try out the offerings of the second public appearance by the Soi 38 team of Andy from the Thai-centric blog Krapow.

We were delighted with the boat noodles we had in North Melbourne and are eager for a second helping.

This time out, Andy and his crew are cooking up sukothai noodles.

Andy’s description runs thusly: “A light pork and garlic flavoured broth, various proteins including fish balls, sliced pork, pork balls and dried shrimp served over sen lek rice noodles and topped with sliced snake beans, fried pork crackling and crushed peanuts.”

(For a more detailed description of this dish and its background, see the Krapow post here.)

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The Soi 38 team members are going flat out, as are those of every other stall.

But our noodles are not a bain marie job – they’re made to order for all customers.

So we’re happy to pay, take our numbers and scout out a couple of hard-to-find seats.

It’s all worth the wait and jostling – and then some.

We both go the soup option instead of the dry variety (both $8).

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The broth is tangy, yet at first, such are the quantities of the other ingredients, it seems to act more as a sauce than a soup.

But as we consume the contents of our bowls, the dish takes on a more soupy persona.

The flavours become more intense; so does the spiciness.

We are both very happy chappies.

We sincerely suggest you keep track of Soi 38 through Krapow or its Facebook page – they’re offering a delicious, very affordable, friendly and fun way to enjoy Thai recipes and dishes you are highly unlikely to see listed at your local or favourite Thai joint.

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Tasty-T

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Tasty-T, Shop 5/100 Furlong Rd, Cairnlea Town Center. Phone: 8361 8868

Four courses for $9.90, five for $11.90?

Sounds like the sort of cheapskate desperation lunch deal you’d score at an Asian eatery in a shopping centre, right?

Well, that’s just what this is – but with a few wrinkles.

For one, Tasty-T is of a shopping centre but not in one. Instead, it’s situated off to the side in a longish building also housing a gym and other non-retail businesses.

More to the point, Tasty-T is far from being a plastic-seated food court cheap eat.

In fact, it’s super swish by Consider The Sauce standards, featuring well-padded and comfortable seating and otherwise lavish but still quite tasteful furniture and fittings.

(Unfortunately, I become so thoroughly enmeshed in enjoying my lunch and the company that goes with it that I forget to take photographs of the premises – bad blogger!)

I’ve been hipped to Tasty-T by Eve from Conversation With Jenny – read her review here – and it’s she and colleague Linda who join me for this mid-week lunch.

All three of us go the $9.95 route – soup, two entree snacks, main and drink, doing without Thai sweets in the interests of a short lunch break for my companions.

Tom yum goong is a suitably small lunchtime serve. It’s very sweet but with quality contents.

The good, unoily spring roll seems to be mainly stuffed with spud and/or pumpkin.

The fishcakes are a highlight of our lunch – only mildly spiced, they have really nice texture and flavour, and little of the rubbery aspect often found with these, especially at less expensive places.

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My massaman curry with rice is possibly the most mildly spiced curry dish I have ever eaten. Having said that, it’s not overly sweet, the spuds are perfect and the meat is tender and only a little bit fatty.

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Based on the hefty gobful of her noodles I consume, Eve is the big winner with her pad Thai gai. The noodles are vermicelli rather than the usual flat variety, the dish is surprisingly unoily and the whole thing sings with crunchy textures from the vegetable quotient.

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Linda seems quite content with her gai pad med mamuang (chicken stir fry with mixed vegetables and cashews).

In a neat bit of synchronicity, as I was preparing to write this story, I was engaged in email correspondence regarding another matter with Consider The Sauce fan Jacqui.

Turns out Jacqui is a Cairnlea local, lives just a black or so from Tasty-T and is well familiar with the place!

These are her comments:

“We go during lunch on the weekdays and weekends and have also ordered take out for dinner a few times! I like the thai fish cake entrees – so tasty! We also like the yum ped yang (roast duck salad). The pad Thai and massaman curry are also OK. There’s also a dish I had at lunch once with fried chicken, rice and salad so I thought that was quite good value! It’s so good because it’s spacious and the staff are really helpful when I bring my little bubba with me!”

With the proviso that the seasoning levels here are way, way below what I suspect almost all Consider The Sauce followers expect or desire from Asian food in general and Thai food in particular, Tasty-T is an attractive proposition in a variety of ways.

Tasty-T on Urbanspoon

Penn Thai

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Penn Thai, 208 Somerville Rd, Kingsville. Phone: 9314 5556

Penn Thai occupies the same space formerly occupied by She’s Thai.

The new management has spruced the place up a bit, we find the service and welcome a real positive and,  judging by the number of takeaway orders going out the door, they’ve already won many friends.

For my part, expectations are modest – along the lines of a good feed of wholesome, tasty suburban-style Thai food without the edginess or adventure that some of our more funky Thai-loving buddies habitually pursue.

But there’s a wrinkle here – one that shows the food doesn’t have to be explosively great for it to be part of a most excellent eating out experience.

You see, Bennie has mentioned his ever growing interest in Thai food several times in the past few weeks – so I am only to happy to encourage him.

And he really, really loves our mid-week dinner.

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In our attempts to have a broadly based meal, we do something that would no doubt make true Thai food cultists grimace – we order soup with tofu.

But our tom kha ($6.90) is fine, if a little on the mild side. Bennie loves the tangy broth, the chewy tofu actually adds a certain meatiness to proceedings and there’s stacks of other lovely vegetables.

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Satay chicken skewers ($5.90) are ordered solely with Bennie in mind.

Perhaps the glee with which he greets the rest of our meal indicates it’s time to start giving these a miss on future outings.

They’re OK, but I find them a little dry and tasteless.

But then, I always do.

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Massaman beef curry ($14.90) is the big hit of the night.

It’s runny, sweet and delicious.

The meat is superbly, fall-apart tender and minus fat or gristle. The spuds are equally good, while the peanuts and a few strands of carrot and red capsicum add texture.

“This is fantastic,” Bennie mumbles around serial spoonfuls.

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“Steam mix greens with oyster and sesame sauce” ($4.90) are good but as plain as can be. Lacking personality of their own, they quickly become just another element of the curry.

Penn Thai is open seven days a week and does home delivery.

Penn Thai Cafe & Take Away on Urbanspoon

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