If you like Thai food that is properly spicy and tastes just like it comes from a stall in a sweaty Bangkok night food market, you MUST head over to West London to eat at 101 Thai Kitchen. The dishes here are so far removed from the tragically dumbed-down food you get in most Thai establishments in the UK; I have given up on my local restaurants because nothing comes close to what I have actually eaten in Thailand. The curries are too sugary and weak, and the Pad Thai dishes tend to be so bland and sweet that I feel like I have eaten a dish of greasy noodles covered in jam. Too many establishments skimp on the fresh herbs – you’re lucky if you can even taste any Holy Basil or fresh lemongrass in something you order, and they’re such important parts of Thai cuisine.
I want Thai flavours that kick you up the backside, that are salty, sweet, sour, crispy, fresh and tangy. For this, you need look no further than this down-to-earth restaurant that is entirely painted in shades of hot candy pink and plum on the inside! Even though the decor might be too kitsch for some (I love it), the food is truly memorable and really reasonably priced. The place is rammed by about 8pm, and it’s no surprise. Get this – they make 14 types of Som Tum green papaya salad alone! Even the prawn crackers are different to the usual – spiked with chilli and tasting strongly of prawn. They made my eyes water. The curries will blow your head off. Nothing is greasy – everything is popping with freshness. It’s a family-run joint, and everyone is super friendly and helpful if you don’t understand everything on the menu.
Starters (clockwise from left): Salt and pepper squid (crisp and light, with a tangy chilli dip), sweetcorn cakes (crisp and aromatic with lime leaf flavours and a delicious salty peanut dip), green papaya salad (Som Tum) with dried shrimp and small crabs (fresh, tangy, fiery and a great balance of sweet/sour/salty), plate of herbs, salad and pork crackling:
Fish curry – look at the vibrant colours! Needless to say this blew my friend K’s head off:
Chicken jungle curry – hot, light and fresh with a megadose of chilli, of course:
Delicious Massaman curry – rich and deep with warming spices that build quickly to fiery hot in your throat…
My chicken laab gai (spicy salad) was bursting with lime leaf, lemongrass and citrus – devilishly spicy!
We numbed our burning mouths with cool Chang beers and a lake of red wine. Hurrah.
101 Thai Kitchen
352 King Street
London W6 0RX