Some of Melbourne’s most exciting southern Thai food is being served at Nora Thai, a casual 20-seat restaurant on a leafy street in South Yarra.

It’s run by friends Thunyaluk “Palmmy” Aninpukkanuntin and Duangdao “Kana” Bannakorn (Yakimono), who both grew up in Surat Thani province on the Gulf of Thailand. They opened Nora Thai to showcase the dishes they missed from home but struggled to find upon moving to Melbourne.

Aninpukkanuntin focuses on the business side of things, while chef Bannakorn leads the kitchen. The menu features spicy petai beans – sometimes called “stink beans” because of their gassy aroma – with prawn-and-pork mince, and a fiery dry red curry called kua kling, which blends turmeric, lemongrass and makrut lime leaves with pork mince. More highlights include the bai liang pad kai, a stir-fry of egg, malindjo greens and a sweet-savoury sauce with a heavy hit of garlic, and the sour fish curry, which uses shrimp paste to add deep umami flavours.

Staying true to its southern Thai roots, most dishes are spicy, but many can be made milder on request. Ensure a Thai milk tea is on hand when the burning sensation hits, or try the pink milk – an iced drink of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and cow’s milk. It gets its rosy hue from sala syrup, which is made from salak, or snake fruit. You can also cool off with a taro-pearl dessert: taro bua loy, or Thai rice balls, cooked in coconut milk and sugar, and served with coconut ice-cream.

Aninpukkanuntin and Bannakorn have made the most of the small space. Wooden furniture spills onto the footpath while a curtain divides the dining room from the kitchen. The restaurant is named after Nora, a traditional form of dance theatre with roots in Thai folk tales and Buddhist teachings. It’s known for sharp, expressive moves and towering golden headdresses, which have become a well-known image of south Thailand.

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Updated: August 29th, 2023

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