“Dude! You’ve gotta go to Thanon and get the crispy pork belly. Zomg the crackling!” was the advice that I’d received from fellow food blogger Chocolatesuze when asking around for lunch options in the city one day, or at least that’s how I’d recall it were I ever to write a “based on a true story”, straight-to-TV-movie version of events. The establishment she was referring to was Thanon Khao San, a Thai restaurant situated near the Capitol Theatre. Suze knows good pork belly, so I had to go and check it out for myself right away.
Months later (don’t judge), I finally made my way out to the restaurant to try this glorious pork belly for myself. Before the main event graced the stage, a deep fried chicken wing, Pik Kai Tod ($2.50) was placed before me; the opener to a three act matinee for one. This overcooked, leather-fried disappointment had slits running along the wing; an attempt at black humour I’d imagine, as heat penetration was one of the few things this chewy chicken wing was not lacking.
Act 1 was loudly booed off stage, or perhaps quietly under ones breath as the plate was pushed to one side. booo… This did not bode well for the rest of the meal.
By contrast, Act 2 made its entrance as a rather large unexpected surprise, literally. A generous pitcher of Lychee Mint Blend ($3.90), a sweet and refreshing uptown slushie at downtown prices, was a meal onto itself.
It was a challenge more than a beverage. Though fraught with the perils of limited stomach capacity and brain freeze, it was one that was met and eventually overcome by the end of the meal.
The curtain rises for the final act – Khao Moo Krob ($8.90). It’s a name that will resonate in my head for as long as I can remember it (maybe a week). The description on the menu – crispy pork belly served with rice, soup and gravy plum sauce – really does not do this dish justice.
Slices of sweet, succulent pork belly, subtitled with a slate of crackling that gives with a little effort to a satisfying crunch. A small saucer of dark, sweet soy on the side serves as the perfect partner.
The supporting roles – steamed rice enrobed with a sweet plum sauce; a rich, flavourful pork soup with a subtle sweetness; and a garnish of fresh slices of cucumber and half a boiled egg – forms an ensemble that, along with the pork, isn’t just good value for money but is just good, regardless of cost. Each role has its part to play. The rice brings substance to the meal, the soup some body and warmth, whilst the garnishes serve to refresh the palate.
Looking back on this meal, while there were some highs and a seriously regrettable low, on balance were I to condense the essence of this theatre of food down to a single line, I’d imagine it’d be along the lines of:
“Dude! You’ve gotta go to Thanon and get the crispy pork belly. Zomg the crackling!”
Thanon Khao San (Haymarket)
413 Pitt Street, Haymarket
(02) 9211 1194