By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
Living in Malaysia, we are all used to spicy foods, with each type of cuisine from Malay to Indian and occasionally Chinese (as in Szechuan) varying the degree of ‘hotness’ according to the regional preference. Malay and Indian dishes are often tempered with a mixture of herbs and spices which tone down the fiery factor considerably but Thai food when it’s hot, it’s really hot.
As a group of us discovered recently at Lanna Thai, the new restaurant in Ipoh Garden East (opened in June 2016). With tears streaming down her eyes, Mei Kuan bravely soldiered on, all the while gulping gallons of water.
I am a chilli eater and it wasn’t a problem for me. But even then the Thai bird’s eye chillies can occasionally make me hold my breath. Readers can relax though as you can request for the degree of intensity in the dishes when you order. I stipulated no sugar and no MSG which to my delight, the kitchen complied and I found myself in bliss land a’la Bangkok. The whole crew from the kitchen and serving staff are all Thai, a relative of the owner Pim who is married to an Ipohite. Hence the sweet touch in all their dishes which in Thailand is a common trend as the Thais love their sugar.
On to the dishes. The substantial menu is a thick rolodex with pictures. All my Thai favourites were there as I proceeded to order up a storm.
We began with the green papaya salad, Som Tum with salted egg. The normal papaya salad is usually just papaya with garlic, tomatoes, peanuts, and some long beans tossed in a wooden mortar and pestle with palm sugar, fish sauce, some dried prawns and lime juice. This is an ubiquitous specialty which you see on many a sidewalk in Bangkok and many a Thai ladies’ favourite diet food. The addition of salted egg lifted it to another level, lending another layer of taste and texture to the dish which was even more delectable – RM14.
The next dish is one of my favourites and something I always order when I’m in Bangkok and it is the Kor Mu Yang or grilled pork neck. I have seldom found a good one outside of Thailand but here at Lanna Thai, it’s done to perfection. The neck has a layer of fat around it which cocoons the meat in the middle and after grilling still stays succulent and tender. This is served with a tangy, spicy dip which can be tempered to your degree of spiciness. This is usually eaten with sticky rice but as we had a whole lot of further dishes to go, we skipped it – RM15.
More porkiness followed with another of my favourites, the Nam Tok which is grilled sliced pork tossed with fish sauce, chili flakes, lime juice, finely slivered kaffir lime leaves, sliced shallots and topped with ground roasted sticky rice, lending a grainy texture to the meat – RM15.
The prawn cakes arrived piping hot, served with a sweet dip which I avoided (only because I dislike sweets) and were bouncy and had a bite to it, a sure sign of a good chef. Not spicy – RM20.
The next few dishes were all salads as I love the Thai salads and can just make a meal on them. The seafood salad had chunks of squid and prawns, ocean fresh from the market and was seasoned perfectly with the usual fish sauce, lime juice, sliced shallots, chillies, garlic and a tad of sugar – RM18. This was followed by the Yum Woon Sen or Bean vermicelli salad with similar dressing but with the addition of garlic pips, julienned carrots, scallions, dried shrimp and a teeny bit of minced pork. They were very generous with the prawns and squid too – RM18. And it's a meal in itself. Good thing I had the Echo team to share.
The final salad to arrive was the four-angled bean salad tossed in a different sauce this time. The beans were cut into small pieces and combined with minced pork with thick coconut cream drizzled on top and served with boiled egg – RM15.
And just as we were getting satiated, along came the pièce de résistance which was the Hor Mok. Similar to our otak-otak, the Thai version is inimitable and the Hor Mok at Lanna Thai is without peer. Here was a coconut-ty spicy egg custard chockful and brimming with seafood, this Hor Mok instead of either being steamed in banana leaf, or as in Thailand, in specially designed clay vessels, this was steamed in a whole young coconut which gave us the added bonus of scooping spoonfuls of young coconut flesh out with the custard. And did I mention that the taste was yummilicious? RM25 (RM20 in aluminium foil).
Finally, how can we leave a Thai restaurant without eating their most famous dessert of Mango and Sticky Rice (RM12.50)? This we finished with alacrity and wished we had the stomach for more.
Even as I sit here writing this, I find myself drooling over the remembered tastes and textures and I cannot wait to go back for yet another taste treat. I can certainly recommend Lanna Thai to my readers. If you’re not into sugar, then make sure you tell them when you’re ordering. Same goes for MSG and how spicy you want your food. Pim the owner and manager will be too willing to oblige as will all their staff.Lanna Thai Restaurant6 Jalan Medan Ipoh 9, Taman Medan Ipoh.Pim’s tel: 019 462 8489Business hours: 11am-11pmMondays closed.