Why Thai Meals stands out among Cyrildene's many Asian eateries
This Joburg Thai restaurant boasts an extensive menu of hot and spicy dishes you'll never tire of, writes Andrew Unsworth
How do you know if a restaurant's foreign cuisine is authentic if you have never been to that country yourself? One way is to take someone who has been, or lives there.
I once took a friend who lives in Bangkok to the now-defunct Thai restaurant Cranks in Rosebank, and he was less than complimentary. I did point out that any country has many different ways of cooking and he may not know all the variations of Thai food.
I recently took him to Thai Meals, one of just a few Thai restaurants among the many Chinese ones in Joburg's Chinatown in Cyrildene. This time he approved, and said that in fact it was very good.
Well, I knew that, having eaten there every weekend with friends and family for over a month. I'd never had a bad meal, and never eaten the same thing twice. I still have a long way to go to work through the menu, but the place has become my local diner.
Owner Jeffrey Govindasamy is from Durban, and his partner Rujira Kanhaj, who runs the kitchen, is from Phon Phisai in Northeast Thailand near the Laos border. Saksit Singhasiri, also from Thailand, helps with the cooking on weekends.
The food they produce is "the taste of Nong Khai", the menu claims, that being a city in the Isaan region. Its food is strong on sticky rice and chillies, but there is vastly more on offer: eight versions of green papaya salad, seafood dishes, rice dishes and Thai curries, stir-fry dishes and stir-fry noodles, noodles with soup, and soups.
That's 64 dishes, many of which can be ordered made with beef, pork, chicken, seafood or vegetables. They can also all be ordered mild, medium or hot. Govindasamy tends to talk diners out of hot unless they are adamant: Thai hot is very hot.
The spicy Laos sausages (R40 as a starter) are an example: they pack a chilli kick but, eaten with a piece of crunchy raw white cabbage and a slice of fresh ginger, they are a taste and texture sensation.
The Yum Talay, a spicy seafood salad (R80), is a favourite: cooked prawns and calamari with onion, coriander, lime, chillies, noodles and Asian sauces.
The Thai red and green curries (R70-R80) have that balance of sweet, savoury and hot, with, when in season, pea-sized Asian brinjals that explode in your mouth.
The Thai regular of Pad Thai (R50-R70), stir-fried noodles, is another favourite I never tire of, and it makes a great takeaway as well.
That's an extra portion to take away: there are seldom leftovers.
• Thai Meals, 22 Derrick Avenue, Cyrildene, Inner City, Johannesburg.