So you think you can eat chilli? You haven’t met the Do Dee Super Nova. It’s the hottest tom yum soup on the menu at Do Dee Paidang, the third branch of this buzzing Thai eatery to open in Sydney. The new Haymarket branch joins outlets in Bondi Junction and Cabramatta, reassuringly packed with hungry Thai students – always a reliable indicator of food that is cheap and tastes like home. Don’t be surprised to find a queue down the block during lunch and dinner service, an impressive sight given that Do Dee Paidang opened less than a month ago.
Hat parade at Do Dee Paidang
There’s a happy room of diners inside each time we visit. The former café has been converted into a patriotic celebration of Thailand with national flags and eight-foot-high portraits of royals adorning the walls. The waitstaff are easy to spot too, with miniature race hats in a rainbow of colours worn at a jaunty angle on their head.
De Dee Devil tom yum spicy noodle level 2 $5.50 small
Do Dee Paidang is most famous for its noodle soup, and I can confidently assert after four visits, that they really are the highlight here. There's a whole range of noodle soups on offer, but the Do Dee section is fertile ground for chilli fiends. It starts with the Do Dee Monster at level one, a huddle of chewy vermicelli noodles with a mix of fish balls, soft pork slices, shallots and crispy fried wonton shreds. It's described as a tom yum noodle, but it's not the hot and sour soup you're thinking of - this soup is rich and spicy, salty and sweet, and more reminiscent of a liquid version of larb to my palate.
The Do Dee tom yum noodles increases in heat from level one to level seven. This might sound like child's play, but we're talking Thai levels of sadism here. Each level involves half a tablespoon of chilli powder. The pain scale progresses from the level one monster to level two devil, level three lava, level five volcano and the level seven super nova. Levels four and six have been deliberately left off as the numbers are bad luck in Thai and Chinese dialects.
The level two devil whacks a punch, even for the G-man, a Thai ex-pat who takes a sip then sits back and laughs in shock at how spicy it is.
De Dee Lava tom yum spicy noodle level 3 $10 jumbo
When I order the level three lava on my next visit, our waitress stops writing, pauses and looks at me with serious wide-open eyes. "It's very spicy... Are you sure?" It's an intimidating warning, but that only makes me want it more.
You can smell the chilli as soon as it hits the table. The soup ain't dotted with chilli powder, it's stained so deeply red it's opaque. And the taste? Believe me when I tell you this stuff is stupidly hot. There's a tingle on the tongue and the back of the throat burns like crazy, but the soup is so darn tasty you really can't stop going back for more. It's not until halfway through the bowl that I realise my forehead is sweating and my glasses are fogging up. No joke. That's never happened to me before.
Thai ice milk tea, Thai ice volcano Ovaltine and Thai ice milky cordial $3.90
Soup stock in the kitchen
There are more than two dozen types of soup noodles to choose from, with variations that include giant pork balls, king prawns and even a paleo-friendly version that skips the noodles and piles on a combination of meat instead.
Do Dee secret $12 jumbo
There's a Do Dee secret noodle soup if you're feeling adventurous, the ingredients hidden by a giant broccoli leaf on the pictorial menu with the description simply given as "is secret". I've taken the liberty of giving you a peek, but okay, the secret's out. It's awesome.
Do Dee nursery tom yum noodle without chilli $10 jumbo
And if you can't handle any chilli, that's cool too. There's one free of fire, humorously named the Do Dee nursery, not that they're calling you a baby or anything. Maybe not.
Apart from the Do Dee chilli series, most of the noodle soups have a mild to medium kick to them. They also offer small portions that start at $5.50 each, the size you'd probably get if you ate this in Thailand. The large size is labelled "jumbo" but would feed most elephant-sized Westerners quite happily.
Soft boil rice with prawns $14 jumbo
The soft boil rice is a soupy mix of cooked rice with a clear and spicy stock. It's comforting without being overly heavy, and the soup has a garlicky sweetness. It comes in thirteen different variations, ranging from tender pork to fish and prawns.
Soft boil rice with prawns
Rolling up pork and peanuts inside freshly steamed rice flour dumplings
The open kitchen gives you a sneak peek of all the action too. You can watch them pouring thin circles of rice flour batter onto a tight layer of cloth stretched across a steamer. When the rice flour sheet is cooked, it's rolled up with minced pork, palm sugar and peanuts into a sweet and savoury dumpling called kao keab pak mao moo.
Kao keab pak mao moo $7
Vegetarian fresh spring roll $7.90
You can keep things light with vegetarian fresh spring rolls - packed with bean sprouts, tofu, carrot and cucumber - although they do a deep-fried version too.
Goong Pair $9.90
Deep-fried school prawns with Thai batter
And we all know deep-fried tastes better. The goong pair delivers a tower of battered and deep-fried school prawns, so crunchy you can eat them tails and all, after a good dip in the accompanying chilli sauce of course.
Golden Siam $9.90 (4 pieces)
Betel leaf coated with Thai batter and king prawns
The Golden Siam is also a winner. I'm still marvelling at how they managed to batter and deep fry whole betel leaves with a king prawn. The batter is a little thick and heavy in parts but that's easily overridden with the chilli sauce and generous carpet of crushed cashews.
Barbecue pork neck $11.90
So you can start to see why I kept coming back. There's so much to explore on the menu, I ate here four times over ten days with various groups of people. The barbecue pork neck is a great little starter or side dish of protein, the thin slices of pork char-grilled and then basted with a sweet and sticky glaze.
Tum tard seafood $35.90
Som tum tray with king prawns, squid, salmon, mussels, noodles and vegetables
On my first visit we splurged on the tum tard seafood, a tray of som tum surrounded by a feast of king prawns, squid, salmon, mussels, noodles and vegetables. You choose the kind of som tum variation you prefer (we went with som tum green papaya salad with pickled crab) and then you pick your way through the salad and everything else. The freshness of the seafood was particularly impressive. The mussels were just-cooked to a lovely tenderness, the king prawns were seriously huge, and the squid had been treated with such finesse it was still soft with every bite.
Som tum mango salad $10.90
If you order the som tum on its own, it'll cost you about $10.90. We had the som tum mango salad on another visit, sweet and zingy with a generous amount of green mango slices pounded with dried shrimps, fish sauce, palm sugar, chilli and roasted peanuts.
Pad see ew chicken $10.90
If you're looking for a meal on its own, they've got the whole gamut of flat rice noodles. The pad see ew had silky ribbons of rice noodles stir-fried with sweet soy, oyster sauce, omelette and Chinese broccoli. The deep fried wonton pad thai is next on my list: a noodle-less mash-up of golden fried wontons with tofu, egg and bean sprouts in a pad thai sauce.
Vegetarian red curry with rice $10.90
Curries include green, red, Penang and Massaman. The vegetarian red curry offers a hearty ensemble of snow peas, Chinese broccoli, beans, carrots, mushrooms and tofu in a spicy and sweet red curry paste.
Crispy pork belly with prik khing $13.90
Carnivores will appreciate the crispy pork belly with prik khing more. There's a mountain of pork, each piece deep-fried so there are noisy crunches of crackling with each bite. It's fatty stuff but who cares, especially when it's all liberally coated in a thick caramel sauce cut through with lime leaf and chilli.
The banana flower salad is one of my favourites too. There's a terrific balance to this dish, a turret of shredded banana flowers mixed with chicken, prawn, coriander and dried coconut in a sweet and spicy fish sauce dressing. It's sweet and salty, with fried shallots and roasted whole cashews adding a contrasting crunch.
Glass bowls with sweet beans, jellies and fruits at the dessert counter
And don't forget dessert. The goldfish bowls filled with cooked sweet beans, jellies and fruits beckon from the dessert counter in the kitchen.
Mixed jelly with coconut $5.50
You'll find most of them in the mixed jelly with coconut, a treasure hunt of grass jelly, coconut jelly, fruit jelly and red ruby water chestnuts buried beneath a pile of shaved ice doused with coconut milk and sugar syrup.
Deep fried banana fritters $6 (3 pieces)
They have deep fried options too. The banana fritters are stacked up high on a wire rack, each coated in a thick batter and dusted with sesame seeds.
Deep frying donuts
And then there's pah tong goh, the deep fried bread sticks that are more akin to Western donuts.
Deep-fried bread stick donuts with pandan custard $5.50 (4 pieces)
The bread sticks are soft and fluffy on the inside, best eaten with lashings of pandan custard.
Deep-fried bread stick donuts
And for the record, yes, one person has apparently ordered the Do Dee Super Nova level seven. He ate the entire bowl. Staff tell us he added more chilli.
Do Dee Paidang Thai Noodle Bar and Cafe
9/37 Ultimo Road, Haymarket
Tel: +61 (02) 8065 3827
Open 7 days 6am - 12 midnight
BYO $2 per person (beer and wine only)
Also open at
Bondi Junction - Shop 15 Tiffany Plaza, 95 Grafton St
Cabramatta - Shop B5, BKK Building, 5-9 Freedom Plaza
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8/20/2014 07:29:00 pm