Here’s the thing about me only a few people know: my cooking repertoire is limited. If I’m making dinner, it’s either pasta or soup. It’s not something I’m proud of – I wouldn’t be telling you at all if it weren’t relevant to this story. It’s relevant because now I can say I make curry, too.
When Thai favourite Soi 38 shuttered in late March due to Covid-19 restrictions, it shifted operations over to the newly-minted Chefs on Wheels service. Last week, the East End restaurant opened its doors again to introduce recipe boxes for some of its most popular dishes. There’s green curry with Thai eggplant and chicken (if so inclined you can sub in jackfruit and tofu); beef massaman curry; pad Thai; and khao soi, a curry noodle soup with fried wontons and your choice of protein.
More recipes will be added this week, including a confit-duck red curry (with the actual confit-ing already done for you) and a yellow curry that’s usually served in-house with crab, but will instead come in-box with southern Thai-style prawn meatballs. Sides include crisp, flaky roti and the restaurant’s crowd-favourite chive cakes – both of which come ready for pan-frying. And, soon, spring rolls.
“People love Thai food, but lots of people say, ‘the reason I go out for Thai food is because I’d never cook it myself’,” says Daisy Miller, who co-owns the restaurant with chef and husband Terry Intarakhamhaeng.
“[The Recipe boxes] mean some of the mystery is taken away – you’re not making your own curry paste, but you’re also not opening a tin you bought at the supermarket. It’s that element of freshness – that ‘just-out-of-the-wok’ joy that comes with Thai cooking.”
The produce is the same Intarakhamhaeng uses in the restaurant (save for a few modifications to reduce cooking time). The chicken and beef come from Nomad Farms, and the eggs (for the noodles) from Falkai Farm. And all the hard work has been taken out of the process – you don’t even need get out the cleaver to chop the chicken, which comes portioned in a vacuum-sealed bag. The broth is ready to go, as is the freshly-made curry paste. You simply throw the ingredients in a pot and, baby, you’ve got a curry going. You can also customise your heat level (mild, medium or spicy).
My first attempt is the green chicken curry – the easiest dish to make, Miller kindly flags, so a good place to start. I feel encouraged by a video of Miller and Intarakhamhaeng’s seven-year-old daughter Adelaide adeptly making massaman on her own while narrating the method with the confidence of a young Nigella.
It’s worth noting that for best results, you should use a wok, and you should read through the instructions before diving in – no, I didn’t do that, and I missed a step. But the result is a success anyway. The broth is rich, creamy and aromatic with a heady kick of spice. I garnish with a few leaves of Thai basil and bright red, seeded chilli pods (this pop of colour is crucial) and I feel a real sense of accomplishment.
“We want people to feel proud of themselves,” says Miller. “We want to demystify Thai cuisine, making it simple but [imparting] an appreciation of the steps involved.”
Speaking of steps, recipe box number two is a steep incline after the green curry. I’ve chosen khao soi, a Chiang Mai-style noodle soup. Its many elements earn it a difficulty rating of “confident cook”. It’s so labour intensive, in fact, that it rarely appears on the Soi 38 menu. But it’s also one of Miller’s favourite dishes. “It’s the unicorn of our menu,” she says. “If you see it, you have to order it.”
I get to work, searing the chicken legs and simmering the broth. I meticulously fold the wontons, even improvising on the suggested triangle shape to create an ingot (I’m getting cocky at this point). I fry them and set them aside. I boil the noodles and pan-fry some others to ensure a chewy-crispy texture bomb. Then, I plate-up. First, the foundation of noodles and bean sprouts; then the broth and chicken; then the pickled mustard greens, crispy noods, wontons and a garnish of chilli and coriander. It’s piled so high that I’m wishing I had invested in some proper soup bowls. But it looks a treat.
Best of all, it’s not pasta.
Although there are noodles. And broth. Have I just made soup and spaghetti after all?
Pick-up from the restaurant is available on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Delivery is available Thursday, Friday and Saturday for those within a 10-kilometre radius. Next-day delivery and pick-up is available for orders made before 4pm the day prior.
Daisy and Terry will also introduce ready-to-eat takeaway options next month.