Living in Australia definitely has it’s advantages, including the food. By that I mean the quality, as well as the different types of cuisines available, thanks to our multiculturalism. Yes, you still have your shitty ‘Chinese’ food, which despite all jokes, could actually be any form of unknown meat for all you know. Though if you know exactly where to go you are going to find some really good, authentic, pretty-damn-close-to-being-in-that-country food. Usually this means that it is a small restaurant which a migrant family set up in the mid ’80’s and looks as if in that entire time they hasn’t changed a single cheap, metal backed chair, or a tacky photo of Bollywood dancers or the owners home town in Sicily, which are so faded you can hardly make out the original colours, but there is a reason for this – because they don’t need to change. People don’t keep going back there, week after week, year after year because it’s trendy, or a cool place to eat, or to try a new fusion food (pasta and vegetable stir fry – revolutionary, really.) No, they keep coming back for everything from birthday and celebratory meals to their weekly dinner out because the food is incredible, cheap and they know they will be treated with the same service they have received for years. I will also mention that my local Thai restaurant, a mere few hundred metres from my Australian home, has a six fingered lady working there (no, I couldn’t even make this up). So there is two reasons to go there – amazing food and the chance of seeing a lady with six fingers!
Although back home finding good, authentic food is expected – all you need to do is look – London apparently hasn’t quite got that memo. Chinatown seems to be filled with so much MSG, and according to a reliable Indian friend the ‘Indian’ food is, well…nothing like in India. So yes, after years of being able to eat good food whenever I wanted it, and while traveling, eating proper local food in markets which I have seen cooked in front of me, I’ve been a little deprived of a good range of meas since settling in London. Unless I’m cooking for myself it’s usually a choice of fish and chips, burgers, some strange recreation of a curry, or over cooked meat (god, I would even kill for a proper meat pie right about now). So when my friend (who I actually met in Thailand) suggested we try a Thai and Lao pop up restaurant he had found it sounded promising. Laotian food not being something that is particularly common or sold by westerners. And honestly, it didn’t disappoint.
Situated in Shore Ditch’s pop up mall on High Street, the make shift restaurant named, ‘Thai and Lao Food’, is run out of a shipping container (just like all the other restaurants and shops in the ‘mall’). Like any other take away style Thai restaurant, the options of meat, sauce and rice or noodles and on display, written on pieces of cardboard and sticky taped to the wall. The opposite wall is lined with two person tables and square box seats, and behind a Thai/Laotian inspired mural, including Lao’s famous Beerlao. Yes, that is the name of their beer. One word.
Feeling like a challenge I ordered the Jungle Curry, with duck and rice. With the word (HOT) in brackets underneath, I was expecting a lot more then the heat I got, which yes was there, but for me was somewhat subtle, not really living up to the apparent warning. I understand though that catering to the English people present, not really known for their adventurous personalities, food wise especially (I know a Liverpool guy who, at 22 had never tried chicken soup…), to them this was probably just as it was represented; HOT. Although I did become quite teary eyed on one occasion when I coughed and ended up inhaling what was obviously some form of chilli. Presented just like any other typical Asian meal, rice to the side stir fried meat and veges piled over the rest of the plate, swimming in sauce – nothing particularly fancy, it being more about the food and taste then making it look ‘cool’.
Despite the fact that I really didn’t see any real Laotian food (I would have loved some pork larb and sticky rice!), it all appeared to be Thai style, it was good. Honestly, no, it wasn’t anything which blew my mind – in saying this I have eaten a lot of Thai food, in Thailand. To expect this is London apparently is a bit to optimistic. However it was still worth the overground train trip there. It was cheapish (7 quid), it was fresh and cooked in front of you, it had flavour and it was the best Thai food I’ve had since leaving Oz. Yeah, I’ll go back. Hopefully they have some Beerlao available next time!