As a half-Thai person, I am reeeally picky about my Thai food. As a half-Thai person with an excellent cook for a mother, it’s even worse. I have yet to find someplace that comes close to the real deal in Thailand, but since I don’t live there, I really have to take what I can get (but please do share if you have any other wisdom here for me).
The best I have found in Vancouver to date is at Salathai Thai Restaurant on Burrard, especially when it comes to their lunch specials menu. (I have other favourites as well that I will share for other particular dishes, but this is the one I have been frequenting the most lately).
Now here are a few of my favourite things from the lunch menu (I think I hear the Sound of Music soundtrack in the background):
Spicy Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao) – This is my longest standing favourite. This is a newer dish (meaning it’s not an old traditional menu item for Thai food), and ‘kee mao’ basically means that you’re drunk so you just throw whatever is leftover into a pan and cook it all up. This has basil, red peppers and jalapenos, white and green onions, and your choice between chicken, beef or pork. Mmmmmm…I can’t seem to find anywhere else that makes this dish come even close to how good it is at Salathai.
Kwia-Thew Num Ped (what I call Duck Soup) – When it’s a cold, rainy day outside and I need something to warm me up, I often turn to this soup. There is a lot of duck meat, and it’s not overly fatty like a lot of duck can be, along with thin rice noodles, and bean sprouts. The broth itself is already great as is, and the only thing I usually add when I eat it is a few chillies to spice it up a bit more.
Yen-Tao-Fo – This is another soup that I really enjoy. It has more of a tomato based broth, but includes thin rice noodles, spinach, and a mixture of tofu, seafood and pork. For this one, ask for the ‘condiments’ and add a little bit of dried chillies, fish sauce with chillies (prig nam pla), and the vinegar and jalapeno sauce. Please make sure to do this when you order the yen-tao-fo – it really makes a difference to the overall taste, and very much makes up a part of the flavour experience.
Salathai Rice Special – This is a stir-fried rice dish that includes a pan fried egg on top, and has the delicious flavour of Thai basil, green and white onion, and red and green peppers. This one can also be served with the meat of your choice. It also comes with a small appetizer sized soup (although I’m not a huge fan of this, as the veggies in it don’t really give you the right Tom Yum soup taste).
Khow Tang Na Tang – Here is an appy that you can’t find on the online menu for Salathai, but is on their current lunch menu. Basically, it’s rice ‘chips’ that are crispy and served as almost crackers on which you put a pork and shrimp dip. It’s very flavourful and delicious and even though I usually am too full to eat both, I’ll order this first before my lunch. I definitely recommend giving this one a try.
And other key dishes I have enjoyed and would recommend:
Tod Man Pla – These are essentially fish cakes that are deep-fried and come with a cucumber salad. A great appy choice.
Larb – This is basically some sort of ground meat – beef, pork or chicken at Salathai – and this comes in a delicious sauce that includes lime, fish sauce, and mint, along with some ground up roasted rice and onions (or you could always make my version of larb at home, which is still my favourite).
Plus, there are a wide variety of curries, noodle dishes – you name it. When thinking back to all of the meals that I’ve had at this place, I can’t recall anything that I didn’t end up liking so far. Here are a couple of others I’ve had recently:
One thing to keep in mind though if you’re going there for lunch – if you aren’t getting a noodle dish or the Salathai rice special, the rest of the dishes (mainly those served over jasmine rice, like the curries), are not all that large. However, you will definitely enjoy the food and come back again. The other great part – most of the staff there are all Thai, and have the charm of the people from the Land of Smiles.
I’ll continue to update and add pics to this post as I gather more – I frequent this place at least once a week, so it shoudn’t take too long. Just make sure you try the Thai Iced Tea while you’re there. You won’t regret it.
Salathai Thai Restaurant
102-888 Burrard St.