323 Castlereagh St
Haymarket, NSW 2000
My sister doesn’t realise how lucky she is, being able to travel around overseas on my parents’ dime. When I was her age, we didn’t go on a whole lot of overseas trips, as my sister was only 5 or so, and that naturally made the logistics rather complicated. But now that I’ve moved out and my sister is 15, the fam-bam is all of a sudden free to globe-trot. In the last 2 years, they’ve been to Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and most recently, Thailand.
Although I’m also envious of the amazing sights that they’ve seen, let’s be honest – my greedy guts are most jealous of all the amazing food that they’ve gotten to eat. And because she’s had the authentic Thai experience, I wanted to bring my sister to try a Thai restaurant in Australia – in this case, Yok Yor – to see how it measured up to the real deal. As it turned out however, they didn’t actually end up having much traditional Thai food when they were on holiday, but that just made me want to take my sister out for proper Thai food all the more.
Because authentic Thai food is thin on the ground in Melbourne, I’m still a novice when it comes to the subtleties of the cuisine. From what I’ve heard however, Yok Yor is known for being super legit. Founded in Bangkok in 1982, the Sydney branch of Yok Yor was opened in 2007, and has been a stalwart authentic Thai cuisine ever since. We’re talking everything from mackerel yellow curry to chicken feet soup, as well as a whole 9 different types of papaya salad, the most hardcore of which containing fermented fish paste and salted black crabs.
Thai Milk Tea ($4.2) is a must for me whenever I have Thai food, and this one, with its balance of bitter tannins and sweet condensed milk, is as good as any I’ve had.
We ordered the Hoi Joh ($9.2, 4pcs) as a bit of filler – we didn’t want to get 2 full sized mains as we were saving room for dessert – but these turned out to be a good idea after all. The wrapping of tofu, parchment-thin and fried until a blistered gold, bore a delicate filling of finely minced pork and crab, and the distinctive crunch of water chestnut. Though relatively mild for Thai food, the combination of textures and well-balanced flavour made this a surprisingly addictive snack.
I’ve been obsessed with Kuay Teaw Rua ($6.5, small), aka boat noodles, ever since I first heard of them. To me, it is the quintessential national dish – a common meal but with a complexity belying its ubiquity, and one that everyone has their own opinion on exactly how it should be made and seasoned.
Before Yok Yor, the head chef had been serving his boat noodles from a street-side stall in Bangkok, so you know it’s the real deal. And indeed, you’ll see a bowl of this dark, fragrant noodle soup on every other table. I chose the pork option, which came with sliced pork, pork balls, and addictive little nubbins of fried pork fat. If anyone asks, a simple way to describe this dish would be pho on steroids. The murky, aromatic soup had been enriched with a heady combination of pork blood, cinnamon, paprika, and fish sauce. The resulting broth is an intoxicating blend of tangy, umami, and savoury, with just a hint of sweetness. Although that may all sound very intimidating on paper, the resulting bowl of noodles is actually addictive and easy to love – if you like pho and tom yum, you’ll love this.
In related news, Chris has been fired as Official Sweet and Sour Fork Noodle Lifter, and replaced by my sister, who as you can see from the above image, does a much better job.
If you’re still intimidated however, you can always fall back on the Pad Prik Khing with Pork Belly ($16). Cubes of pork belly, layered with melt-in-the-mouth fat and golden crackling, are stir-fried in a thick, gingery red curry paste. This may not be diet food, but it’s certainly worth breaking your diet for.
The Mixed Sweet Meat with Shaved Ice ($7.9) is what we had been saving room for. This is every child’s sugar and artificial colour fuelled dream, and every parent’s bedtime nightmare. A huge mound of shaved ice is saturated with red syrup and condensed milk, with goodies at its feet ranging from pineapple to red bean to sweet potato, though my favourite would have to be the translucent jelly pieces. And just to make sure you get every bit of sugar out of this gargantuan dessert, the bottom of the bowl is lined with fluffy pieces of bread to soak up the luridly coloured syrup. This is definitely one to share, as it tends to get a bit too sweet at about the halfway point.
I feel like a bit of a broken record when it comes to Thai food; when I was in Melbourne, the refrain was a constant complaint about the lack of good Thai. Now that I’m in Sydney however, it feels like every Thai meal I’ve had has been perfectly delicious, leaving me with little to say, and even less to complain about. I will say this however – the boat noodles here are excellent, and the menu more extensive than any I’ve seen, so if you want something a little more exotic, Yok Yor would be a good choice.
Rating: 14/20 – it’ll yok yor socks off.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.