There are now branches of successful Thai street food restaurant Thaikhun across the country from Aberdeen to Southampton, offering menus inspired by street food hawkers in Bangkok. But the brand started in Manchester.
In 2014, the restaurant brought a splash of colour to Spinningfields with its vibrant decor dotted with hand-picked bric-a brac and trinkets straight from a Bangkok bazaar. It reminded us that there is more to Thai food than the dishes we’re all familiar with.
From the start, Thaikhun’s mission has been to authentically represent the food the founder grew up with, from wok to plate. The recipes come from real Thai street markets, they say, without adulteration.
The founder, Kim Kaewkraitkhot, was born in Kirimart Village, Sukhothai Province of Thailand. In 1993, she set up her first small phad thai cart. Through her dedication and hard work, Kim expanded to run several street food stalls, and won an award for her phad thai recipe.
When she moved to the UK, she brought her passion for cooking and award-winning recipes with her.
The phad thai at Thaikhun, which features Thai rice noodles stir-fried with egg, spring onions, sweet turnip, bean sprouts, tofu, peanuts and vegetables in a tamarind sauce, is prepared to Kim’s same award-winning recipe.
But there is much more to the menu than phad thai. Thaikhun’s dishes show the best of Thai street food from further afield including the north, north east and southern regions.
We went to try out the new menus for autumn and winter to see what’s in store – and there’s plenty to get excited about.
New dishes on the winter menu include clay pot-style steamed noodles with sea water prawns, mussels, squid, garlic, ginger and spring onion cooked in creamy Thai
sauce (£11.50), and a new take on the classic red curry with pork belly (£13) or organic tofu (£9.50).
Hearty dishes to warm up with when the weather turns cooler include sukhothai noodle soup (£11), which sounds like a hug in a bowl.
It’s a top Thai street food dish with influences from southern China that includes mung bean noodles in a pork and pepper broth, filled to the brim with roast pork, pork belly, minced chicken, crispy garlic, tofu, spring onion and a boiled egg.
There’s also Thaikhun’s take on a steak and chips (£15) – think tender rump marinated in coriander root, sea salt, black pepper and oyster sauce served with skin-on fries and Thai style fried egg.
There also a new specials menu, with some new dishes well worth checking out.
We tried a beautifully tender 7-hour slow-cooked pork leg (£14), served with a spicy cucumber salad and a rich jaew sauce made with onion, chilli, tamarind, fish sauce and coriander. This is Thai comfort food at its very best.
A new seafood sharing dish for two, the intriguingly named Broken Basket (£20), is carried out on a plate by a chef before being emptied theatrically from a steam-filled bag into a bamboo basket at your table.
The result is a spicy yet delicate mixture of mussels, squid and prawn with fiery roast chilli, mung bean noodles, tender corn and vegetables.
Thai chicken katsu (£10) offers a twist on the popular Japanese dish, the crisp crumbed chicken breast served with fragrant jasmine rice and a mild, aromatic massaman curry sauce.
Fried rice gets an upgrade with king prawns and turmeric, dotted with cashew nuts, peppers, onion, sweet pineapple, crispy shallots and fresh coriander (£11).
And there’s even a burger. The Bangkok Bad Boy (£10) is a crispy chicken burger, spicy and sweet with tomatoes, cucumber and crispy salad, served with skin-on fries and punchy sriracha mayo. There’s a tofu version, too (£9).
If you can’t decide what to go for, try a pinto box (£15 per person, minimum two people) – three dishes and rice, including curry, stir-fry, and noodles, served in a traditional pinto used by workers for their packed lunches in Thailand.
The drinks menu offers Thai beer as well as fruity ciders, healthy smoothies and Thai iced teas and green teas made with sweetened condensed milk.
If you fancy cocktails, try a Muay Thai Kick which includes Disaronno and Mekhong Thai whisky shaken with lime, triple sec and pineapple juice, or a Phi Phi Bellini with mango vodka, passion fruit and prosecco, along with a range of alcohol-free mocktails.