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Thaikhun Reviewed

Deanna Thomas ponders street food in permanent restaurants but thinks this place comes up trumps

Written by . Published on August 4th 2014.


Thaikhun Reviewed
 

TEN years ago, British Street food came mostly from burger vans parked under a fug of stale fried onions which had built up over a decade.

Thaikhun might look like a cafe in a Thai theme park, but underneath all the showy gimmickry lie some serious flavours. 

Nowadays we are spoilt for choice with snacks inspired from even the remotest parts of the world. In a feat of culinary one-upmanship, vendors are surpassing themselves to see who can come up with the most obscure offerings. As globally embracing as it is to see ‘Deep fried Madagascan grasshopper larvae in a Tibetan balep roll’ at your average music festival, if we were all to get together and collect a list of annoyingly over-used phrases, you can bet that both ‘authentic’ and ‘street food’ will be on it. 

Thaikhun outside

 

Thaikhun outside

Inevitably, as happens with art, music and other pure forms of basic cultural pleasure, street food is now being popularised, sanitised, capitalised and offered to the masses in restaurants.

 A Thai ‘streetfood’ restaurant has opened in Spinningfields, the engine room for Manchester’s corporate folk, which offers a locally based opportunity to be reminded of their gap year.

Manchester’s Thaikhun might be the first of its kind, but plans are in motion to open more. Owner Kim Kaewkraikhot is already the driving force behind one successful Thai restaurant empire. Her Chaophraya group spans cities and shopping malls from Birmingham to Edinburgh. Whilst these provide more of an upmarket Thai experience, Thaikhun restaurants will represent the kind of popular street food Kim used to cook as a chef in her native country.

Thaikhun inside

Thaikhun inside

Thaikhun Manchester is big, probably the length of an average Thai street. With typical attention to detail Kim has masterminded the fit out herself filling every square inch with Thai tat until surely there can be no more knick-knackery left in Bangkok; Maps, books, number plates, photographs and postcards cover walls, bicycles hang from the ceiling alongside birdcages, sacks of rice and giant framed images of Thai royalty. It’s contrived and tacky like a ‘Thai-G-I Fridays’ but I loved it.

Like the restaurant, the menu is packed to the rafters with a dizzying whirl of dishes including ‘street bites’, soup, salads, curry, stir fry, noodles & rice, ‘grill & steam’, sharing dishes, side orders and simpler versions of popular dishes on the ‘kids menu’. Layers of incredible cooking smells added to the sensory overload, until I was so over stimulated, I made an unprecedented move getting my husband to choose.

Soup at Thaikhun

Soup at Thaikhun

Tod Man Pla (deep fried fishcakes) £5.95 were a completely different species to the watered down pretenders found on virtually every mid level pub menu. These tiny balls were packed with red curry flavours, designed to be chased around with a toothpick until they got covered in the sweet, hot and sticky vinegar based sauce at the bottom of the dish.

Tom Yum Gai (creamy soup with chicken) £5.50 was a generous portion for one. Every dip of the ladle surfaced a different ingredient illustrating that no short cuts had been taken in its preparation; a slither of galangal, a shard of lemongrass, a decapitated red chilli. It looked like dirty dishwater but tasted like Buddha’s tears of joy and cleared out the pipes better than Mr Muscle on steroids.

Som Tum (£8.95) a salad of shredded raw green papaya, tomato, green beans and dried shrimp was given an added dimension with lots of fresh chilli, lime and giant peanuts. This went well alongside Goong Pao (good sized grilled king prawns) which at £15.95 was the most expensive dish on the menu.

Papaya

Papaya

Khao Ka Moo (superstitiously priced at £7.77) is ‘a street hawker’s pride’ of stewed pork on rice with kale, pickled mustard and boiled egg. This threatened to expose me as a gastronomic wimp as I flung the flabbier bits of goose bumped skin and unidentified tubular bits of pig onto my husband’s plate. The porkier parts I kept hold of were delicious and soft having spent some considerable happy time in a warm bath full of soy sauce and five spice.

Pig_Bits_And_Rice[1]

Pig bits and rice

Thaikhun has an interesting cocktail menu so I opted for their signature concoction (£7.95) which involved ginger, lemongrass, chilli and mint, Chivas regal, apple juice and coconut gomme. It also contained something called ‘velvet falernum’ which I’m sure I’ve only ever seen listed in an antenatal handbook.

Thaikhun_Cocktail[1]Thaikhun cocktail

Disappointingly, its main component was ice which I used to cool down after the soup. The guys on the next table were drinking something more interesting which (after a bit of nosey parkery) turned out to be Iced Thai Tea (£2.75) an acquired taste of cold black tea, condensed milk and squirty cream.

The pancake

The pancake

There are only 4 desserts so we chose Pancake Sankaya (£4.25) a pandan flavoured custard pancake. Pandan is a popular flavouring in Asia with base notes similar to vanilla. The flavour comes from a leaf which turns everything lurid green, which might be why Westerners haven’t really taken to it. Both the pancake and custard tasted a bit doughy and raw. As most diners are probably far too stuffed or running out of lunch break to consider pudding, I think I might have taken the kitchen by surprise in ordering it.

Thaikhun might look like a cafe in a Thai theme park, but underneath all the showy gimmickry lie some serious flavours. 

You can follow Deanna Thomas on Twitter @deannathomas 

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE.

Thaikhun, Unit 17, 3 Hardman Street,The Avenue, Spinningfields,M3 3HF. 0161 819 2065

Rating: 14.5/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below)

Food: 7.5/10 (Fish Cakes 8, Tom Yum 8.5, Papaya Salad 8.5, Stewed Pork 7.5, Grilled Prawns 7.5, Pancake 6)
Service: 3.5/5  
Ambience: 3.5/5 

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

rinkydinkAugust 4th 2014.

A little piece of Bangkok in the middle of Spinningfields. I'm hooked

PryonicAugust 4th 2014.

I went here last week and loved it - my only comment was nothing seemed spicy enough. Not sure if it's been toned down for the Spinningfields crowd but I'll be sure to ask for my dishes to be spiced up next time. Aside from that tiny criticism it was excellent!

AnonymousAugust 5th 2014.

Only thing that's not authentic about this place are the prices, being ten times those on the streets of Bangkok :) Oh and that the whole pay separately for rice thing. Ain't never done that on Soi 38...

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 5th 2014.

And do you think the rent of a cart on the "streets of Bangkok" costs the same as a large building on The Avenue in Spinningfields?

Uncle HoAugust 5th 2014.

It's the same with Viet Shack in the Arndale. A banh mi costs the equivalent of 30p on the streets of Saigon yet they have the audacity to charge £3.50. Cheeky little guerrillas.

AnonymousAugust 5th 2014.

My boyfriend and I went on the opening day and were really disappointed. We gave it the benefit of the doubt and have since returned...we had one of the sharing platters which was fantastic! Would definitely go back. The iced green tea though I have to say was an acquired taste, one sip and I was done.

FoodieGizmoAugust 5th 2014.

My husband and I went a couple of weeks ago and although the food was really good (Bangkok street food platter, Phad Kratiem Phrik Thai Goong (prawns in garlic and pepper sauce) Moo Prik Ging (Pork in red curry sauce) as were the cocktails (butterscotch one!) but the service was slow. I understand waiting for a table but when you're told 30 mins and an hour later you're still in the bar and you were planning a cinema trip, it's not great. I would go back as I love Thai food and the flavours were good.

Nicola ErringtonAugust 5th 2014.

I found this place was great for venue, design and fabulous food but found the service terrible from start to finish! A real shame

KissieAugust 5th 2014.

Vegetarians and people with religious dietary restrictions beware the unlabelled 50p snacks on the table. They came up on the bill as 'pork skin'.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Henry VAugust 5th 2014.

That'll learn ya

AnonymousAugust 12th 2014.

Be careful if you have a dietary requirement, I don't eat egg, both times I have been I asked for my dish without but both times I ended up with egg.

AnonymousOctober 20th 2014.

Went once with friends and was completely put off my the prices and portion sizes. It's certainly was not the Thai Streetfood that I know off.. Wont be going back there again any time soon....

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Mod God

Absolute nonsense again from Anonymous who I guess has never been out of Salford - no chilli,…

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Mod God

Correct, someone who understands!

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Mod God

Clearly a fake review, anonymous here and no other posts on TripAdvisor - jealous rival I guess…

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Anonymous

Thaikun is overpriced Farang food.

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