Friday, 16/06/2017 11:27

Rediscovering tasty Thai food in the capital city

Old acquaintance: Quan Thai 84, a popular eatery near the Ha Noi railway sation in the nineties, has moved to Dao Tan Street in the capital city. — VNS Photo My Ha
Viet Nam News

I associate Thai food with great movies.

The Lion King, Forrest Gump and Schindler’s List, are just three that come to mind off the top of my head.

In the 1990s, immediately next to the only cinema that screened such classics with subtitles instead of voiceovers, was Quan Thai 84, on Ly Thuong Kiet Street, near the old Ha Noi railway station.

Back then, having the Thai food served by Quan Thai 84 felt like an adventure, a journey into a new world of gastronomy that made our lunch breaks exciting.

The owner, a Vietnamese citizen, had spent a long time in Thailand and brought back a repertoire of great Thai recipes in her luggage.

Pad Thai was a popular choice — stir fried noodles with chicken, eggs and peanuts — as were the green and red chicken curries, and stir-fried morning glory.

At some point over the years, the restaurant slipped out of sight and out of mind. Like many establishments of those days, it had disappeared, unobtrusively.

A few days ago, completely by chance, we rediscovered Quan Thai 84, now located a little further from downtown Ha Noi.

The new location is on the bustling Dao Tan boulevard.

While the name remains unchanged, the restaurant’s interior is clean and modern, leaning towards the up-market end of the capital’s dining scene, nothing like the eatery we used to frequent at its old address on Ly Thuong Kiet Street.

Since it brought back good memories of great food and great movies, we decided to give the restaurant another shot.

We visited the new Quan Thai 84 in a big group, giving ourselves the chance to really explore the menu. We ordered popular Thai dishes like the shrimp salad (VND105,000), fried shrimp cakes (VND30,000/a piece), sour pork or Lap Thai (VND105,000),which should be had with steamed coconut sticky rice. (VND25,000).

Versatile: Tom yam kung, one of Thailand’s most popular dishes, can be an appetiser soup, or a main course curry. — VNS Photo My Ha

The Lap Thai was mixed with crushed sesame, and when wrapped in a cabbage leaf and mint, the result was fresh and uplifting. These are staple appetisers in  Thai restaurants.

Then came main dish: roast chicken, Thai style (VND265,000). It was good, but the flavour was average and the dish not particularly impressive.

One person in our group was on a diet, so she ordered the vegetable Pad Thai (VND85,000) which was made with glass noodles, fried pieces of tofu and mung bean sprouts. It was so good that even the meat-eaters were tempted to order the same.

Apart from the exquisite Thai hotpot, we were particularly fond of two dishes: tom yum kung and the sweet broth desserts.

I’d learned how to make tom yum kung from a Thai man at our former editor’s home. “This is the key to a good tom yum kung,” I remember him saying. “Take out the black vein from the back of the shrimp. If you don’t, it can ruin the soup and the dish.”

Good tom yum also needs good fish sauce, which Viet Nam has aplenty, and for a long time, fish-sauce made in Thailand bore the name of Viet Nam’s most famous fish sauce source: Phu Quoc.

The flavours also come from fresh lemongrass, galangal slices and kaffir lime leaves.

Tom yum kung is a soup that is supposed to be consumed with rice, unlike western-style soups that begin a meal and prepare the palate. A sour, spicy and a smooth taste are the things one looks out for in this popular shrimp dish.

After the spicy soup, we were all eager to try out the restaurant’s signature sweet dessert: sweet drinks containing watermelon cubes coated in flour, julienned jackfruit pieces and thick coconut milk. It’s a refreshing mouthful that cools the heat from the spicy dish.

I now know what to make for my family this weekend: Tom yum kung followed by a sweet dessert, and a movie we can all enjoy together. — VNS

Quan Thai 84

Address: 88 Dao Tan

Tel: 04 3942 1682

Comment: Good Thai food in a clean setting, vegetarian options available

Price: VND100,000-200,000


Roast Chicken: This dish is best when it carries a distinctive flavour. — VNS Photo My Ha
Fusion: Steamed vegetables dipped in thick fish sauce with meat bites and shrimps; originally from the Mekong Delta. — VNS Photo My Ha
Chewy: Shrimp cakes have maintained their good reputation over the years at Quan Thai 84. — VNS Photo My Ha


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