Do you ever recall your mother saying to you “often the best things in life are worth waiting for”? What is it about something so satisfying that it seems to command forgiveness for making you wait an abnormal amount of time – even without an apology being offered? That, perhaps, sums up my recent experience at Thai Corner – Malak, my go-to place for Thai take away.
No. make that any Thai meal. I have done my share of travelling; not as much as many others – and God-willing there will be more – but Thai Corner (I’ll drop the ‘Malak’ bit from here) is still on the top of my list of Thai food kitchens.
I stumbled across this little gem in August 2015. This little corner shop is situated next door to a petrol station, yet not associated with it. It is fairly plain and unassuming – a drinks fridge by the entry door, the cooking area umbrella-ed by a huge extractor hood and set behind the ordering counter, and a food prep area unseen behind swing doors. A high glass cabinet separates patrons from the serving counter and bain-marie, and the unadorned small seating area (save for a couple of culturally appropriate pictures) usually makes do as the waiting area. You get the picture – a typical ’70s/’80s corner takeaway. It has been a number of things over the 30 years or so that I have been in and out of the neighbourhood. Fish and chip shop, burger joint, vandalised, mostly vacant.
There was a hankering for Thai recently and I called in mid-evening; evidently during a rush on dinners. The wait began as I approached the order counter and the phone rang. As phones always take prominence over customers who made an effort to go in person, I was asked to wait. Twelve minutes and four people later, usually with three hudled around the mobile phone at any one time, communicating and interpreting the phone call, menu, and point of sale screen to, and for, one another, it was decided that the phone order would be best taken on a note pad. Leaving the remaining staff member to take my order.
The order was simple. Red curry, with tofu and vegetables, and steamed rice. Well, I thought so.
Had I used the correct word for steamed rice, my ordering time would have been a minute shorter. We still had language barrier trouble with the red curry, with tofu and vegetables, pointing to it all the time on the menu, and in the end just agreed to what was recited to me. Now with four other groups lined up behind me and three staff still handling the phone call, I was asked to wait 15 minutes – and hoped for the best. And once again, the order was up there with the best I ever had.
I find that, depending on the chef for the night, the intensity of spice varies a little at Thai Corner. I am not a fan of terribly hot curries, however the red curry this time was just right for my mouth. There was the usual lip tingling and warm feelings once the curry hit my gut. The vegetables still had a nice bite to them, the bamboo shoots tender, the coconut milk coming through cleanly followed by the aromatics on the aftertaste. The colours from each meal component were as rich and vibrant as ever. And let’s not forget about the pricing: for the quality of the meal that you walk out with, the prices are a steal. I paid more for similar in Bali and wasn’t impressed. Once again, an excellent meal that reminded me why I love returning to Thai Corner.
Half an hour in a takeaway ordering and waiting for a meal is a long time. However there was an obvious reason why that night, and I’m pleased to say that that is not the norm. The simple red curry – no. 26 on the menu – yet complex in flavours, more than made up for the wait. Judging by the praise Thai Corner has garnered for itself on the internet, it seems like I’m not alone.
Mother was right.