Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chat Thai, Haymarket

Move over Mamak, Chat Thai is now my favourite place for late night supper. Why? Five words: Freshly made deep fried dough. With coconut custard. Interested? Read on, more about that later.

A teaser shot...
I've wanted to try Chat Thai for a really long time now. I've only ever heard great things about them, now with a chain of four stores around Sydney. All of a sudden my brother was raving constantly about the late night supper at Chat Thai, which only starts after 9.30pm and goes until 2am in the morning. I demanded he take me with him the next time they planned to go. Nevermind that I had work the next morning, I was determined to find out what all the fuss was about, so we arrived at the door of their Haymarket restaurant at 9.30pm.

Chat Thai's grilled skewers

There was a line (apparently there's almost always a line), which meant a 15 minute wait, but it wasn't too bad since it gave me an opportunity to oggle at the open kitchen at the front of the store. Similar to Mamak's glassed display of roti men, Chat Thai have people grilling meat and skewers, deep frying delicious things in a huuuuge wok of hot oil and preparing desserts. It makes my mouth water in anticipation.

The restaurant is slick and (this is the only word that comes to mind) incredibly cool. There's a mid-level balcony full of tables and we get seated up there. It's a bit freaky being able to look almost straight down and see someone sitting below you. Supper is meant to start at 9pm, but we are given dinner menus and have to ask for the supper ones instead. I look at my brother curiously and he tell me, "They only have the deep fried dough in the supper menu". Ahh.

I get incredibly excited and completely overwhelmed as I flick through the menu. It is just It's a gorgeous and amazingly well put-together menu, with stunning photos and wayyy too many dishes to choose from. I can't take it all in at once and just nod and let my brother do the ordering. I notice they have even put the recipe for their famous fried dough sticks, also known as par tuhng go, at the back of their menu. Just in case you weren't 100% sure that they make it on the premises!

Chat Thai's par tuhng go recipe

I I game to try the recipe myself at home? I'm scared of deep frying!

L-R: Kaffe yen - Iced coffee with caramelised milk, cha dum yen - sweet iced tea, cha nohm - sweet iced tea with caramelised milk (all $3.50)

First up is the drinks. The thing I love about Malaysian/Thai/Vietnamese places are the fantastic drinks that they offer. We order the Thai coffee and red tea. Both come with or without sweetened condensed milk, my favourite, and they are all so wonderful to sip at. The coffee is very milk without the smallest hint of bitterness. The tea is a beautiful deep red colour, which turns a bright neon orange when condensed milk is added to it. It's strong, fragrant and I could finish the whole glass in one gulp. I actually prefer the tea without the milk, as it gets a little too sweet with the milk.

Fresh spring rolls ($10.00) - Smoked fish sausages, shredded poached chicken, cucumbers and shallots wrapped in fresh rice paper. Dressed with a sweet tamarind sauce.
You might notice the above photo was taken during the day, because I got the chance to return for a lunch here with Karen & Lisa after we had a failed attempt to have lunch at Mamak (they close at 2.30pm, WHY???). So if I seem to skip between lunch and supper references, I hope it's not too confusing, but all the dishes I tried were definitely available on the supper menu. Anyway, back to the spring rolls. It's a wonderfully fresh and light dish, it reminds me of Malaysian popiah with the shredded meat and vegetables, but instead of a crispy fried wrapping, it has a super thin rice paper roll around it. The sauce is thick and sweet and the perfect complement.

Khanom Jeeb ($5 for 4 pcs)- Steamed wanton dumplings, filling of chicken and prawns.
The girls also wanted to try the steamed dumplings, which I was more than happy to do since I didn't get to try it the first time I went. They were plump and juicy and the dipping sauce was similar to the spring roll sauce. Tasty, though I usually save my dumpling consumption for Shanghainese places. I do like how it shows that Chat Thai's menu accomodates everyone's tastes.

Mu Bhing ($2.00 each) - Skewered and char grilled lean pork marinated in galangal, lemongrass and garlic accompanied with nahm jim jeaw (a mild spicy relish of ground rice, roasted chillies, palm sugar, tamarind and a hint of tomatoes)
The pork skewers are so tasty, and you understand why they've placed the grill at the very front of the store, they can be proud of their grilled meat. The pork is moist and tender with that perfect kiss of charred flavour from the grill and a strong hint of lemongrass and garlic. The dipping sauce is fiery, definitely one to be had in small doses for those who aren't used to the heat. Being a chilli fiend, I was drowning my pork in this sauce.

Gai Satay ($2.00 each) - Skewered and char grilled chicken fillets marinated in garlic, turmeric and coriander roots. Accompanied with peanut sauce and salsa of pickled cucumber and red onions
I couldn't have the satay since it was drowned in peanut sauce, but everyone else at the table murmured in approval of these. This was no easy feat, we were all Malaysians who get rather snobby about our satay, but apparently this was a very decent one and the peanut sauce was full of chunky peanuts. My brother said it almost tasted as good as my Mum's famous homemade peanut sauce.

Loug Chin Ping ($2.00) - Grilled skewered pork balls served with nahm jim - a sweet chilli and sour plum sauce
I didn't get much of a taste of the pork balls but they looked nice enough. I don't usually get too excited about beef/pork/fish balls, though these had a great flavour from what I can remember, and a light, spicy sauce.

Pad Cha Pbla Gaia ($15.00) - Fish paste dumplings stir fried with spicy wild ginger, holy basil, long red chillies, apple eggplants and fresh green peppercorns
This was meant to be supper, but my brother insisted on getting this main-sized dish for me to try. This was the reason why Thai food is so excited. This dish was packed full of big, loud flavours, each of them easily distinguishable from each other, but somehow working together harmoniously to get you excited about every single mouthful. The soft pieces of fish paste were matched with all that chilli, basil and (my favourite) fresh green peppercorns. A peppercorn popping in your mouth was intense but so good when you had a bit of everything together.

Ohh yes, so much deep fried goodness...
Okay, I think I've made you wait long enough. This is what we were here for. Pillows of fluffy dough, deep fried in a huge wok of oil at the front of the restaurant for everyone to see. They arrive at our table, fresh out of the wok and so perfectly golden and crispy. They smelt SO GOOD. As you might have seen on Lorraine's post, this is the kind of thing that gets me excited. In. The. Pants.

Par Tuhng Go ($6.90)- Pillowy flash-fried dough sticks with sangkaya - a coconut milk custard made with jus extracted from fresh pandan leaves
What's so different about the dough that they serve here? Yes it's the same as the versions they sell at Chinese restaurants, known as yu tiaou or yau ja gwai, but those places usually buy these pre-fried and then re-fry them, which makes them super oily and a bit chewy and hard. These are made fresh and it makes ALL the difference. The exterior has a perfectly thin, crisp, golden brown layer which hides the airy, fluffy soft dough on the insides. Even better, at Chat Thai they serve it with sangkaya, a coconut milk custard tinted green with pandan juice. It's like Malaysian kaya, but possibly even better (*gasp*)

The almost savoury fried dough is the perfect partner for this sweet & creamy custard. It's orgasmically good. Sorry about the pornographic description but it really is that good! It's 10.30pm by this point (they don't start to fire up the wok for the dough until around 9.30ish), a bit late for pigging out, but I can't stop myself from scoffing down two of these pieces fried perfection. Our eyes were a little bigger than our stomachs, ordering two of the portions that you see in the picture above, and we are defeated about halfway into it as the dough slowly starts to expand in our stomachs and makes us feel ill. It is so worth it though. It's such a shame that they only serve it during their supper hours, I will have to force myself to eat out later just so I can come back for this!

Banana fritters ($6.00) - fried lady finger bananas coated in a glutinous rice, coconut milk and sesame seed batter

While enjoying lunch with the girls, we couldn't resist checking out the dessert menu. Unfortunately they only had a few of their dessert options on offer, so we picked the banana fritters. I misread the menu when reading it, thinking that the fritters would come with a side of sticky rice, but it was actually just the battered bananas on their own. They weren't bad, though they were very oily and a bit hard and the sesame seeds were a bit overpowering. Might have been better if it came with some ice cream maybe?

Sticky rice with a coconut custard
Finally, our supper finished with another amazing dessert. Unfortunately I forgot to check the name and price for this dish, but it was basically a coconut flavoured sticky rice with two pieces of baked coconut custard on top. It was sweet but not too sweet, and a fantastic mix of textures. We were so full but we couldn't stop grabbing extra spoonfuls of this.

Chat Thai is exciting and fun with an amazing menu. Though I haven't had a chance to try their dinner menu, most of their signature dishes are available throughout the day and are up on their website. But I would definitely recommend their supper menu if you are out late in the city, if only for the par tuhng go. It was so freakin good, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since and I'm so glad to find more and more late night spots in Sydney. The lines and the waiting is about the same as Mamak, it will be pretty long on the weekends. But if you have the patience, you will be rewarded.

Chat Thai (Haymarket)

20 Campbell St

Haymarket NSW 2000

(02) 9211 1808


Lunch: 10am-5pm

Dinner: 5pm-10pm

Supper: 9.30-2am

Chat Thai on Urbanspoon
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  1. ZOMG deep fried dough! oh baby oh baby!

  2. i am coming to sydney.....!! Man it is all my favourite...i think this is the next city i want to stay in...

  3. chat thai is awesome!!!
    the mango drink is insanely good too!!!

  4. I'm a little bit excited in the pants just seeing the photos of the fried dough. I loved our little late-lunch escapade. Can't wait to go back for supper now!

  5. those Par Tuhng Go look really interesting. i wonder if the coogee franchise has everything as well. perhaps not. i guess the haymarket store is the original one with everything. will have to visit one day :-)

  6. Oh yeah, this is the place to test out a separate dessert stomach. I too am excited in my pants, but also scared in my pants about maybe trying to do the deep frying at home.

  7. I am going there tomorrow!! Thanks for the review!

  8. Ahh such synchronicity - I just posted about my late night supper at Chat Thai too. Aren't those breadsticks divine?

  9. ohmygoodness deep fried dough! The lines do tend to be painfully long, but I think I'm just going to have to suck it up and deal because that green kaya is calling to me something fierce!

  10. How fabulous! I've never really thought to go here before having gone past it many times but the breadsticks have convinced me otherwise! And food porno descriptions are great! :D

  11. Haven't been to Chat Thai but now I am seriously considering gonig there this weekend. The deep fried dough is so..... mouth-watering!!

  12. hehe... The deep fried dough is all like this in Thailand... Lets have holiday in Thailand? :D

  13. Thumbs up for this review! Super yummy -Yuen Lai the cousin

  14. It was my favourite eatery during my Sydney tastebud travels. I can see why it was crazy busy.

    I loved the cha nohm I came back a few times just for this sweetened goodness.

    Check out my post on this:

  15. chocolatesuze - tell me about it! i could so do with some right now!

    Prisl - haha I love that this was enough to convince you to finally come live here :D

    VoN - Ooh I'll have to try the mango drink next time, thanks for the suggestion!

    Lisa - Yes let's go for supper soon. You'll have to tell me how dinner is there when you go back!

    Simon Food Favourites - I checked the menus for the other branches and it doesn't seem like it. I wish they had it in more places, it's so addictive!

    Conor - Same here!! it's so good that I would LOVe to try the recipe but a wok full of hot oil scares me a bit too much.

    Anh - No worries, hope you have a good meal there! :)

    Helen - Hahaha well that was just freaky! I could eat them every night, but I think i might die of a heart attack.

    shez - This is definitely one of the places that I'm willing to line up for, yep that sangkaya is to die for!

    Lorraine - Oh you must try it, I think you will love it! Haha yep I seem to be turning into the pornographic food blogger ;)

    Ellie - Ooh go go go! I could just eat the dough, but the other dishes are really fantastic too!

    Bean Sprout's Cafe - Weirdly I missed out on it when I went to Thailand, but yes I want to go back there for a holiday so bad!

    Yuen Lai - :) I'm glad you approve of this one haha!

    Adrian - Ahh yes the cha nohm is a fantastic drink. It's fast becoming one of my favourites too!


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