Hong Kong's Thai Town

Price: $238 HKD (four people)
Rating: 6/10 

Hong Kong's thai expat community certainly doesn't get much of a mention very often. Usually when someone mentions a thai person in Hong Kong, they're more often than not thinking of a domestic helper. But there is a relatively small Chinese-Thai community in Hong Kong, though it doesn't really reflect the huge Hong Kong community in Bangkok. All the thai's are clustered around Kowloon City, the former site of the eponymous Kowloon Walled City. Rumor has it all the thais moved to Kowloon City after mostly being evicted from their former community on Hong Kong island as the skyscrapers were erected in the hundreds during the 1980's. 

But enough about history, lets talk about food. Surely if anywhere, Hong Kong's best thai food has got to be found in the so called bangkoktown. Top on the list on Openrice is Cheong Fat, a small hole in the wall eatery with a narrow staircase that leads to a slightly more spacious (I said slightly) upstairs. Interestingly the place also featured in my friends Lonely Planet Book, though I rarely give the LP recommendations any credence (see why below). The staff redefine Hong Kong surlyness though. Instead of the usual 'fuck you' attitude of the sassy cha chaan teng ladies, the thai birds at cheong fat working the floor just plain ignore you. Ask for a table: ignored. Ask if there is room upstairs: ignored. By our own exploration (and motivation from hungry stomachs), we found our own table and just sat down. 

First dish we ordered was something that my friends lonely planet book recommended, Cheong Fat's Traditional Chiang Mai Noodle Soup ($30HKD). If by traditional you mean packed with dark and bloody slices of liver, chicken feet and various other intestinal bits, then it was as traditional as angkor wat. Chicken feet I have no problem with, but liver is really not up my alley. Nor was it up anyone elses either. Whilst everyone conceded that the actual noodle soup was nice itself, it was spicy and rich, the whole experience of picking around the bits of cartilage and fat means that we quickly put this dish to one side.   

Next up a truly redeeming Spicy Papaya Salad ($22HKD). This dish made up for the trauma of the noodle soup, it was fantastic. The papaya was fresh, it was spicy, well proportioned. And one thing I love about Papaya salad is the crunchiness and texture of it. For the briefest of moments it transported me back to memories of sitting on a beach in Krabi, and it was lovely. 

The Green Chicken Curry ($36) was well received by everyone, but I thought the portion was a bit small compared to the other dishes. At this price I shouldn't be complaining. 

By far my favorite dish were the thai fish cakes ($38 HKD), which I demanded we ordered. These rather innocent looking fish cakes caused a bit of a rift amongst the dining table, with esteemed dining colleague L agreeing that they were delicious, and with K and E disagreeing. E was quite rude about the fish cakes, stating...

"its like... eating a tire..."

Clearly wrong. These were great, crunchy from being lightly fried on the outside, with a bouncy inside laced with coriander, mint and other spices. My only gripe about this dish is that they came served with a sweet chilli sauce, instead of a Nam Phrik Pla sauce which is what i'd usually expect with this dish. 

Finally the Pad Thai ($42 HKD), the quintessential thai dish, and the standard all thai restaurants should be based upon. The trick is with pad thai, it should be kept simple. It's the kind of dish that a grandma with a wheeled hotplate on the streets of Bangkok can whip up in 30 seconds. And yeah, it was okay, served with a generous portion of crushed peanut and a slice of lime, and lots of prawns. It was certainly authentic, being quite dry and having a strong taste of ketcap manis and fish sauce, which is a far cry from the bastardised pad thais you often get in other thai restaurants. But it didn't blow me away, or anyone else for that matter. 

A nice meal but I don't think any of us will be rushing back. The price is certainly right, but the surliness of the staff and the freezing dining room certainly didn't want to make us linger around any longer after the last fish cake had been consumed. There are so many other Thai places in Kowloon City to be explored, so the aim is next time to do better.