The flavours of Isaan (in northeastern Thailand) are, in a nutshell, fishy, sour and spicy. There’s an absence of coconut milk, and the hot, dry, inland location of Isaan province means a reliance on fermented, pickled and preserved ingredients, like fermented fish and pickled bamboo. The fermented fish part may not sound too enticing (after tasting prahok – fermented fish paste – in Cambodia, I wasn’t too sure about it), but when balanced with sour and spicy ingredients it enhances each dish with a richness and depth of flavour.
Need further convincing?! Head to House, a contemporary ode to the flavours of Isaan, with tasty larbs, soups, papaya salads, grilled meats and more served up in clean, modern surrounds. Tucked behind Triple Ace Hotel, you can head through an adjoining door to the pub to purchase drinks to bring back to your table. There’s a buzzing open kitchen, and really polite and helpful Thai staff (aaaaah, Thai customer service!). As for the all important food factor, the dishes are cheap (for Sydney) at around $8-14 each, come to your table ridiculously quickly, and are packed full of flavour.
Nua Daed Deaw ($8) – Sun dried beef strips with Jim Jaew dipping sauce
Spicy Bamboo Salad ($12) – Steamed long bamboo with yanang leaf extract water, eschallots, Vietnamese coriander and ground roasted rice
Mok Gai Hua Plee ($12) – Steamed curry chicken with banana flower, eschallots, lemongrass, galangal and chilli
The beef is like a perfect drinking snack – savoury and moreish, the steamed chicken curry comforting and warming, kind of like a chicken version of Cambodia’s fish amok, and the bamboo salad a flavour explosion and my overall favourite dish. House offers a refreshing change from Sydney’s stock standard pad thai and green curry joints with its foray into regional cuisine, and I can’t wait to go back.
House, 202 Elizabeth St, Surry Hills, tel: 02 9280 0364