Finally, I found an authentic Thai restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City serving the same caliber of cooking found in the best night markets and comfort food restaurants of Isaan and Bangkok. For down-home Thai comfort food, look no further – Thai Street in District 2 has all of the popular regional staples for any taste – you can even select some dishes like laap (minced meat with herbs) in various versions including the style enjoyed by the descendants of the ethnic Lao living in Thailand.
Thai Street offers a refreshing departure from the usual toned down foreigner-friendly fare which loses the essence of the cuisine. This is the real thing. And, don’t worry if you enjoy the milder side because the menu indicates which dishes are spicy. Fortunately, the kitchen can match your preference without sacrificing the feast of flavors by reducing or eliminating some of the heat. But, for those who can handle the heat, this is a rare restaurant that delivers on the real deal spices.
From fundamentals like Somtam (spicy papaya salad), Khao Niao (sticky rice), and Tom Yum (hot and sour soup), to mainstays like red and green curries, pad Thai, barbeque pork and satays, the flavors and aromas fill the senses. Even the morning glories are rich with flavor. Ms. Sana Sridamrong, from Udon Thani, located in the Isaan region of Thailand, which includes all of the eastern provinces adjacent to Laos, is the owner of the restaurant and head Chef. Lovers of Thai food who crave complex combinations of spicy, sour, and sweet using signature ingredients – chili peppers, basil, coriander, lime leaf, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and coconut – will be delighted by the balance and presentation. “I started out preparing meals for my family,” says Sridamrong, who is modest about her cooking. “I never thought it would be my career.”
That the restaurant is a favorite in the Thai expat community speaks volumes about its appeal. “When we get homesick we go to Thai Street,” said Mimi Noita, owner of Leelawadee Spa in the company of several other local Thai expats. Economic challenges in Isaan draw the most talented people away to Bangkok or to other ASEAN countries for opportunities. This migration from the countryside has swept these delectable dishes into our community. “I love living in Ho Chi Minh City,” said Sridamrong, who is fluent in both English and Vietnamese. “I really enjoy sharing my family recipes with everyone.” Isaan produces a disproportionate contribution to both the culinary and performing arts. The ‘Mor Lam’ country music style with improvisation using trance-like rhythms is its most recognized cultural export in the rest of southeast Asia, however, it is the local cuisine that has become the new standard for Thai provincial dining.
Portions are hearty and can be shared family style or as a stand-alone meal. Of course, there’s always the ubiquitous Singha or Chang beers to come with. The décor pays homage to Thai pop culture including parasols, tuk-tuks, and even the nightlife. Inside there is a kitschy air-conditioned dining room suitable for large groups. If you’d like to banter in her native Isaan dialect she is pleased to reminisce and share amusing personal narratives in her native tongue. As someone living now in Vietnam, this meal was like a homecoming, and I wasn’t disappointed. You won’t be either.
26 Thao Dien Road, Thao Dien, District 2
Ho Chi Minh City City
Tel 028 6654 9525
Website Thai Street