A year ago, when I was still living in California, I’d partially torn my Achilles heel. It was a royal pain. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t walk for too long since I was mostly dragging my right foot. Wearing one of those orthopaedic boots for over 8 weeks meant I also had to rely on my friends for over two months, to help me drive to the grocery store, run other errands, and bring me food. At other times, I had to rely on home delivery from the local joints.
There was a Thai place down the street from me. Little Home (a gem of a restaurant was one of the options : I’d gone there a few times with my coworkers, and somehow amidst my reluctant ordering of a curry (until that point, I rarely enjoyed curries and rice), one day I ended up ordering the mussamun curry. It was like being stuck inside a barrel full of fireworks that get accidently set off. The explosion of taste was spectacular.
As I mentioned, I’d never been much of a curry person. And I’ve never been a rice person at all. And yet, here I was, with a small brass dish of lamb mussamun curryand a cup of white jasmine rice, and I felt as though I needed to have seconds, thirds and then bring an order home. I spent over 3 months ordering nothing but this dish every time I had Thai. What that means is that I had Thai at least 3 times a week.
I didn’t stop at just enjoying it myself. Like any new convert, I had to get other recruits. My coworkers were all gently nudged into ordering this dish when we went as a group. My friend who was visiting me from Toronto for a couple of days was not so gently told that she HAD to try it. Luckily everyone loved it, so I felt vindicated. My friend vowed to find a a place in Toronto that served Mussamun curry for the next time I visit.
Eventually I started ordering other things – Khao Soi ( a noodle dish), red, green and yellow curries,Tom Kha Kai ( a gorgeous coconut based soup with lemongrass). I started getting shrimp versions of the dishes. I started enjoying their version of fried rice, cooked inside a hollowed out pineapple.
Since moving back to Toronto, my addiction to Thai food did not abate, and I do end up going to Thai restaurants at every opportunity. One of the first places I went to was Khao San Road. The same friend who’d visited me in Cali raved about this newly opened retaurant; she’d also found it served my original favourite, the mussamun curry. Her raving was justified. This IS an awesome restaurant. I loved it so much overall that I went back twice more within the first ten days. (As a note, I do not order their mussamun curry though – it just does not measure up to Little Home’s. Maybe I’ve just gotten too addicted to the Little Home version but I’ve yet to find a close enough substitute anywhere).
But Khao San Road is truly fabulous, with great service, fantastic food (their Khao Soi? DIVINE. Their chicken yellow curry? One of the smoothest blend of spices in a curry, ever!) Plus, the ambiance of the place – there’s something about going to a restaurant where the patrons look like they’re just dying to be there, where the chatter of the customers, the glass clinks of the bar and the clip clop of the fast moving servers is equally matched by the sounds of appreciation that emit from each table, the clipped, rhythmic jingle of silver cutlery striking against the plates.
My other favourite is the Friendly Thai, a chain but the one I’m talking about is located in the Junction (High Park and Dundas, to be exact). A bit of a departure from the hustle-bustle of Khao San Road, but with a sleekness in their decor and smoothness in their decorum, I have to say that this place has exceptional food. It’s more for take out in my opinion, unless you happen to go with friends who appreciate a quiet service more than the trendiness of dining at a restaurant of a name brand chef, but their dishes are executed well.
It’s straight up comforting Thai food. Nothing fancy or gourmet. Their coconut rice is unparalleled – I believe it had actual chunks of coconut in it! Their wings were perfectly spiced, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and delicious all around. It’s one of those places that I actually contemplate going to pretty often – my first instinct whenever I’m in the neighbourhood is to get something to go from here 🙂
I debated about whether or not to write about Suko Thai. Does it count if you get take out from a restaurant, and have no idea about the service or decor of the place? But when you hear about a place from at least 7 different sources, decide to order in from it when you’re having a girls night in, and get a chance to try at least 5 different dishes at once, and spend at least an hour discussing the food alone instead of jobs, boys, babies, travels and annoying relatives, I figure it warrants a mention. Ki bolo*, Naina?
Suko Thai is actually the less glamorous elder sibling to Khao San Road, and the original master of the gorgeous and gorge-worthy flavour combinations of the two restaurants’ amazing food. Like I said, we spent an inordinate amount of time just talking about the food – spicy, not spicy enough, rich, soothing, exciting, brilliant, perfect. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I think I like Suko Thai better, but that’s probably because I place a premium on the company I am with when I have my food, and when we had this, I had one of the most fun times with my friends.
Anyway, I guess it’s safe to call me a Thai food addict now, eh? It’s funny that I grew up Bengali, a culture that eats rice up to three times a day, and it took me over thirty years – and an addiction to coconut-based curries – to like it.
* Ki bolo literally translates to the colloquial “What say you?” Learn it, since it’s my new buzzword.
PS – Btw, notice how I covered three restaurants with one post? 😉