Thanon Khao San

Ten years ago, I used to wonder if Thai people in Sydney ate out much. Maybe they did but I never saw any Thai people eating in Thai restaurants. Did they just eat at home? Or was it just too inauthentic and/or expensive to bother?

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This is no longer true and the so-called Thainatown section of Haymarket in Sydney is teeming with establishments that are patronised by the Thai community. Accordingly, there are quite a few Thai grocery stores in this area now. It’s a great location for an affordable meal and I often see students chowing down in the restaurants that range from cheap and cheerful ($5 for a boat noodle soup, anyone?) to slick and highly designed.

I caught up with my friend Panda on Wednesday night. I suggested three different options for dinner and he chose Thanon Khao San for Thai.
I had such a good time with great conversation and a shared bottle of wine. He’s a sharp dresser, that one. Panda and I used to work at the same company and before I got to know him, I used to admire his style from afar. I really try to keep in contact with people after I’ve left a workplace. It’s nice to think that you’ll stay friends but people do drift apart and I don’t have much patience for shallow and fleeting interactions. Often the relationships you have reflect the effort you put in.

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Thanon Khao San has a casual street food feel. There’s the sign outside which seems (though probably isn’t) ripped from a real street in Thailand and deliberately rustic decor. When it first opened, a tuktuk was located out front which seems to have since disappeared and there’s a permanent stall selling Thai sweet snacks just inside Thanon Khao San’s doorway. The backpacker hostel located next door only amplifies the tourist beat feel. Not in a really bad way; it doesn’t feel like we’re in Sydney.

Khao San is a Bangkok street that was described in Alex Garland’s novel The Beach as being ‘the centre of the backpacking universe’ so suddenly the vibe all makes sense. Has anyone seen the film? I’m always wary of seeing films based on books I’ve read for fear of being disappointed.

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Panda and I were so deep in conversation that I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the food that came out quickly. It was pretty dark too and I only had my iPhone with me so please forgive the substandard snaps.

The cocktail list is extensive but seems very touristy. At $9.50 for most cocktails, I though they’d most likely be watered down too. Much better to bring your own wine instead so Panda quickly scooted off to the local bottle shop after we’d ordered.

We had seafood salad that had plenty of prawns, mussels and squid, but was lacking in heat and flavour. The squid in particular was tough. But our crispy pork belly with chilli and basil was delicious, as was our barbeque chicken with tamarind dipping sauce. Our rice didn’t seem fresh though and had a stodginess that comes from being scraped from the bottom of the rice cooker.

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For dessert, Panda suggested sharing a selection of Thai sweets from the front. I chose a brown sugar sticky rice which was packed with complex flavours. I think it was probably made with palm sugar and was utterly delicious. We also sampled the coconut pancake, taro and coconut pudding and coconut and sago pudding.

The sweet selection is fun and although you can buy similar sweets at the nearby grocery stores, Thanon Khao San is open until late and you can do a pick-and-mix style selection which is always fun.

Thanon Khao San is a solid choice for some Thai street style food, particularly if you get late night munchies on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights when they’re open until 3am. I really wish Sydney had better late night supper options in general.

Drop by Thanon Khao San for a late night holiday.

Thanon Khao San
413 Pitt St, Haymarket NSW 2000
Open 7 days, Sun to Wed – 11am to 11:00pm, Thurs to Sat – 11am to 3am
Phone: (02) 9211 1194

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