208 Somerville Rd, Kingsville. Phone: 9314 5556
How mindlessly presumptuous – and how profoundly wrong.
In all the years we’ve lived in Yarraville or thereabouts, we’ve driven past She’s Thai countless times, but never deigned to enter.
In my mind, I’d painted a picture of this eatery as a low-rent Thai place unworthy of our attention.
This was based on the unfounded inkling that it was just another cheap eat Thai place that mostly likely purveyed food that wasn’t anything special or worse – and at prices a good dollar or two higher than charged for similar and better at our many local Viet and Indian favourites.
But finally, mid-week, curiosity wins out and through the doors of She’s Thai I amble.
From the moment I cross the threshold it’s clear my presumptions are without any basis.
This is a lovely neighbourhood restaurant.
The open kitchen bustles, with adjacent casual area for customers awaiting takeaway orders and the neighbouring more formal dining room adorned with Thai woodwork and decorations. Thai music tinkles in the background and there’s even a table laid out with recent newspapers for those waiting or dining solo.
To cap it all, cackles of glee escape the kitchen as I start taking photos – always a good sign!
I question the gent of Western persuasion – as the nearby sign reads, “She’s Thai But I’m Not!” – about the Thai provenance of the chive dumplings ($5). The gist of his reply seems to be they are to be found in some areas of Thailand while having obviously having a transnational heritage.
I order them anyway. A mistake – but the only one of my visit. These Thai chive dumpling may be paragons, but for me they are too plain and lacking flavour. The two flat dumplings remind me of nothing so much as the spring onion pancakes you find in some Chinese establishments.
My gang massaman (brown beef curry) is much, much better.
I’ve had this dish many times elsewhere, usually enjoying the mild but deep mix of peanut and coconut vibes with chunky meat and – always! – the potato pieces that sing with flavour, so tender they almost become part of the gravy.
The She’s Thai massaman curry ($12.50) is quite different – in fact, more like a goulash, so sticky and gooey is the gravy. The beef is chunky and tender. The coconut flavour is more restrained than I am expecting, though the peanut quotient is high thanks to the pleasing crunch of the many skinless half nuts on offer. They join the expected spuds, crinkle-cut carrots, heaps of pineapple and basil leaves in completing a rich and delicious dish.
A few nights later, I phone in a takeaway order for chicken pad thai ($11.50), which provides a lovely at-home meal of egg noodles, egg, bean sprouts and juicy chicken pieces.
She’s Thai doesn’t do home deliveries, but no matter for us – the place is so close that barely five minutes need pass between leaving and arriving home with the goodies.
And we’ll surely be returning to take in more of the menu on a dine-in basis – for sure something with a bit more colour and zing and spice from the stir fry and salad listings.
I’ll be excited to do so, as She’s Thai is a gem of a place.
Meanwhile, I’ve also had an insider’s thumbs up on At 43, the new Thai place in Yarraville that is Cafe Urbano by day!
I too love mussaman curry. When I lived in Thailand in the 1990s, it was very difficult to buy potatoes. The western-style supermarkets in central Bangkok would have some poor, spongy little specimens grown in the hills of Chiang Mai, up north. Carrots were equally poor and hard to get and would never have been used in traditional mussaman curry (or any other Thai curry that I know of). When I first returned from Thailand, I couldn’t eat at any Thai restaurants here, as I didn’t think they were authentic enough. I’ve since mellowed and learnt that food doesn’t have to be traditional, that the produce of an adopted country can be incorporated to modify dishes, sometimes with great results. Mussaman curry is a case in point, adapted by the Thais:
According to David Thompson, mussaman (which simply means muslim, I think) curry came to Siam with the first Persian envoy to Ayutthaya in the 16th century. Descendants still have their handed-down recipes. The original recipe required only dried spices with onions and ginger. The Thais adapted it and there are now many variations, including one with duck and pineapple. You can use sweet potato or white radish for the starch, instead of potato (though that’s my favourite bit). Massaman curry must never be made with pork, for obvious reasons.
Yes – there’s authenticity that’s worthy, and authenticity not worth pursuing. The very nature of our world means constant state of flux.
Yes, you’re absolutely right. Also, a variation I have eaten in Bangkok very often is to use cashews instead of peanuts. Lovely! We have a great Thai restaurant within walking distance of our house. I could eat Thai food pretty much every day.
You’re much more up on this than me, so I have a question: Why is Thai food, from what I observe, significantly more expensive than, say, Vietnamese? In the early days of Thai food here – 20 years ago? – I suspect it was more exotic, so it became a matter of what the market would bear. These days, though, even the cheap eat Thia places are pricier – often, it seems, for no good reason. T’would be different if all the pastes and so on were handmade.
I was just wondering that myself, this morning. I don’t know. The only thing I can think of is that it’s fashionable and thus seen to be more “upmarket” than Indian or Vietnamese. That’s weird, I know. It’s not like the Thai restaurants in Melbourne go all out to get exotic produce not readily available here, such as fresh pea-aubergines for green curry (which I HAVE found, actually, at Springvale, so they have no excuse). Here’s another mystery I want to know the answer to and absolutely nothing to do with Thai food: why is a bloody mary priced like an exotic cocktail, when it is more like a mixed drink (tomato juice plus vodka and a dash of lime and worcestershire or chilli sauce)? The ingredients are all relatively cheap – there’s no reason.
I’m with you re the Thai curries – bought paste (usually, even in Thailand), a small amount of meat and one or two vegetables, some fish sauce, tinned coconut milk etc.
Limes can be outrageously expensive, though, and are used a lot in Thai food. If I were doing a dinner party for six people, I’d probably need eight limes. You can’t substitute lemons.
Ah, the Great Imponderables of Free Enterprise. Suck on THAT, baby! 🙂
I’ve also been past and thought, one day. Will have to check it out, like a good massaman curry and am still trying to find a decent pad thai in our neck of the woods too!
Try Yim Yam Thai Laos- 40 Ballarat St. Yarraville for the BEST Pad Thai!
I have to agree, yin yam has amazing pad Thai, I dOnt think I have tried anthing on their menu that isn’t delish