Fire is central to Thai cuisine. Not just the often photographed image of a street vendor cooking over a wok with leaping flames beneath, but also the figurative fire of heat from a bird’s eye chilli, or the lights and vibrancy of a night market. Because Thai street food lends itself so well to a quick lunch, a place like Fire x Soi 38 – the bricks and mortar iteration of Soi 38’s festival stall – seems a long time coming for Adelaide.
“We always try to offer something different. My background was as a tour guide, so [I think] people should experience more than just the same old-school, white-people Thai,” says co-owner and executive chef Terry Intarakhamhaeng. “We try to be brave, and people have responded quite well.”
The arrival of Fire follows the opening of a new Soi 38 restaurant on Pirie Street, which has a menu that delves deeper into the regional foods of southern and western Thailand, and the country’s ethnic minority groups. Fire, on the other hand, is unabashed fusion. The team is embracing festival favourites: dumplings in green curry sauce, sticky wings with sriracha mayonnaise, and popcorn cauliflower. It’s also serving its very popular brisket infused with lemongrass and fish sauce, pork ribs that have been twice-cooked in master stock, and Thai fishcake burgers.
Another highlight is the spicy Chiang Mai-inspired chicken hotdog. “In northern Thailand, there are the massive, curled, spiced sausages (sai ua), which are made with lemongrass, kaffir lime, ginger and curry paste, and they’re served as a whole curl of the sausages by the kilo; they don’t sell it by the piece,” says Intarakhamhaeng. “So we adapted this by working with the producer (Nomad Farms) to create sausages that were the size we want, which are usually about 150 to 200 grams, then we put them in a hot dog bun with pickled slaw.”
Because Intarakhamhaeng can’t be in two places at once, he’s enlisted Baily Spada as the new head chef for Fire. The two met at The Sailing Club in Port Elliot a few years back, which led to Spada working at the original Soi 38 for a while, before becoming involved with Fire. “It’s exciting,” says Spada. “We’ve added a few different things to the menu, just to give everybody an option. We have three vegan options as well.”
Although the focus is on bringing their festival menu to the permanent Pulteney Street site, classic Soi 38 dishes haven’t disappeared completely – you can still order green or massaman curries. The restaurant’s interior isn’t dramatically different from what it was when it was Soi 38, either, with designer Dave Lawson (from Design People) choosing to retain its pastel colour palette. New to the space are stickers playing on the fire theme, and matchbox-style lightboxes inspired by street signage in Thailand.
“It’s probably aimed at a slightly younger market, in a way,” says Lawson, who is also a co-owner of the restaurant. “So we’ve tried to encapsulate that in the brand … a bit more quirky, a bit more fun, a bit more eclectic.”
Fire x Soi 38
54 Pulteney Street, Adelaide
Tue to Sun 11am–late