Saigon’s newest Thai restaurant, Tuk Tuk Thai Bistro has arrived. By Dana Filek-Gibson. Photos by Jonny Edbrooke.
When it comes to cuisine, Saigon has everything: Japanese, Italian, French, Korean, Indian, even Lebanese. You’ll be hard-pressed to come up with a dish that Saigon’s cosmopolitan residents can’t bring to the table. Unless, of course, that dish is Thai. Though some have made an attempt, few have managed to succeed in bringing the taste of Siam to Saigon. Enter Tuk Tuk, a chic new modern Thai bistro. With three floors of seating, an open-air roof area and an array of Thai dishes to excite your palate, it’s safe to say Saigon’s Thai eatery has arrived.
Grab a seat amid the restaurant’s slightly industrial furniture, a mix of scrubbed steel and wood. Bangkok-born chef Saran Jittiboonruan has compiled a menu just long enough to interest any diner without overreaching the bistro’s boundaries, featuring a smart collection of traditional Thai fare as well as several modified dishes. Though the soups, salads and mains on offer cater primarily to carnivorous diners, the chef can make adjustments to turn these dishes into vegetarian meals.
To start, the Yam Hoi Kraeng (VND 110,000) is a worthy entree that combines blood cockles with thin slices of mango, long-leaf coriander, lemongrass, onions and a bit of a spicy kick. To counteract the heat, wash down your salad with a glass of orange-hued Thai milk tea (VND 40,000) or an ice-cold Singha beer (VND 55,000), bottles of which line much of the shelf space above the ground-floor waitstaff area.
For the main event, Tuk Tuk’s Laab Pla Chon Thord (VND 265,000) can be shared among a couple. The tasty fried snakehead fish is served whole and sprinkled with Kaffir lime leaves, long-leaf coriander, lemongrass, spring onions, red chilis, sliced chrysanthemum and mint, as well as a dusting of toasted sticky rice. On its own, the fish is fried to perfection, but it’s the accompanying E-sarn sauce – a combination of tamarind, palm sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and the above-mentioned garnishes – that really brings the dish above and beyond. Order a helping of Khao Pad Tom Yam (VND 95,000), or Tom Yam fried rice, to round out the meal. Perhaps the most satisfying part of both dishes is their ability to bring out the heat for which Thai cuisine is famous without sacrificing each dish’s complex flavours.
Finally, trade spice for sweetness with the dessert menu, which includes a stellar rendition of mango sticky rice (VND 55,000) topped with homemade coconut ice cream as well as the colourful Bua Loy (VND 40,000), a sugary, che-like bowl of sticky rice dumplings.
17/11 Le Thanh Ton, D1
Tel: 08 35 21 85 13