There’s a little piece of Bangkok tucked away in a Melbourne city car-park. The pale blue and pink noodles bowls, the condiment caddies, the vibrant red and blue metal tables plus the fact that it’s 37 degrees on the day of our visit, whisks us back to balmy evenings in the city of angels.
Soi 38 specialises in boat and tom yum noodles. The last bowl of tom yum noodles I consumed was 2 months ago at my favourite vendor on Bangkok’s famous but soon to disappear Soi 38. The spicy broth, fragrant crushed peanuts, thin slices of bbq pork and wontons wrapped in silky skins is, simply put, perfection. To say I’m thrilled that Melbourne’s Soi 38 now has a permanent home is an understatement.
Ordering is easy. Grab a ticket and design your lunch. Choose your soup- boat noodles with beef or pork and tom yum with pork and prawn are available. Then, choose your noodles- thin or thick rice noodles, vermicelli, glass or egg noodles are on offer. And finally, tick whether you want soup, half soup or dry noodles. Pay at the counter (cash only) and you’re away. There a few other bits on the menu that might tempt you like pork scratchings and khanom tuay those bite sized, addictive coconut puddings that round off a meal just right.
The tom yum noodles arrive in a shallow, oval bowl. Thick slices of tender pork are draped over a nest of egg noodles which wallows in the broth. Two wontons, a crispy wonton skin, a scattering of spring onion and a dash of chilli and crushed peanuts make up the bowl. The soup is thick with the flavour of lemongrass, chilli, galangal. A sprinkling of sugar is all it needs to suit my tastes and the slurping that ensues is over all too quickly. The noodles retain their bite, the wontons are soft and slippery and the pork is excellent.
The beef boat noodles are equally well received. The thick broth is fragrant with star anise and cinnamon, thin slices of beef, springy pork balls, pork scratchings and a thicker slab of braised beef make up the meat component and crunchy beansprouts and fresh coriander add liveliness to the bowl. This is legit stuff.
We wash it all down with ice cold Thai milk tea and finish the meal with two bites of pudding. These salty sweet coconut morsels get me every time.
If you’re looking for authentic food then do yourself a favour and eat here now.
Good to know:
Thai milk tea $3.50
Noodles $10 a bowl (up-size for $15)
Coconut puddings $3.50 for two
38 McIlwraith Place (under the Wilson car-park)
Monday to Saturday 11:30am to 4:00pm (unless sold out prior)
Photographs: Thomas Southam