Convenience can tip the scales in your favour with me at lunch time. I was actually at Ponsonby Central to check out Maldito Mendez. However the menu wasn’t very clear to me and there were a lot of people already waiting (15 minutes after opening) at empty tables. Wang Thong, on the other hand, was completely empty. The sight of two sweet looking middle aged Thai women nattering away in the kitchen sealed the deal.
Now, there will be a few people who will remark on prices (and I paid the takeaway price). I ordered Gari Puff (minced chicken with onion and kumara in puff pastry) and Poh Pia Puk (vegetarian spring rolls) at $8 each, and a Larb Gai at $17.90 (a serving of rice came complimentary). The servings were pretty generous though, and lasted me for two meals.
I’ve been seriously fiending for some decent curry puffs since I saw this recipe. We’re still not there yet, I think the quality of the photos in that post are partly to blame. These weren’t bad, but I’m getting picky now. For one I couldn’t pick out any chicken in the filling, which had been mushed into a paste that rendered the flavours pretty indistinguishable from each other.
The spring rolls were better with the usual vermicelli, carrot, and a little mushroom. It was the old gang back together for one more go around, pleasing and familiar with their best material, but nothing you haven’t heard before.
So onto the Larb Gai, which hits all my sweet spots. A little chuckle was enjoyed when the lady stared at me wide eyed after I proclaimed that I wanted my salad spicy, then looked at her off camera kitchen partner with an incredulous this-crazy-kiwi-with-the-number-zero-hair-cut-just-asked-for-spicy look on her face as she relayed my order. As fresh as you could want it, with the hot and sour elements having an intense tête-à-tête on your palate leading to a chilli joint statement that mediates all potential flavour clashes to a place of harmony. I would definitely have that again, especially when I’m in a mood for something a little lighter, but still flavoursome.
That said, there is a Thai joint at the food court just five minutes walk up the road. I don’t know if they do Larb Gai, but for some people the price differential will make the choice a tough proposition. I hope the emptiness of the place on that particular day wasn’t a sign that the choice is going in the opposite direction, because this place is almost worth it just for the sweet ladies behind the counter.