As part of my ongoing odyssey to eat at 80 different takeaways around Scotland, I've decided to head to deepest darkest Melrose via Thailand to review a place called Rak Thai.
It opened in February this year, and I've heard good things on the Borders grapevine. In the kitchen are two chefs, Yu and Noot, who pride themselves on authentic cooking to order, so what better excuse than to hit the road to tick off another venue.
I've enlisted the help of my family, primarily because there is safety in numbers and I can use them as a valid excuse to over order.
By my calculations we will hit the food culinary jackpot at least once on our first visit. When you order a takeaway from an unknown restaurant, it is a bit like playing Russian roulette, but I'm up for taking a risk.
Casually flipping between two separate menu pages online with different options leaves me perplexed. After a few minutes of bewilderment the solution is apparent-a mixture of random selections, using mainly intuition and guesswork.
We opt for lottery entries of 9,3,10,24, 43, 25,22. Then because it is dark and miserable we choose two desserts,numbers 47 and 48.
I phone in our order for collection the following night, luckily for me the numbers next to the dish names will suffice, sadly my Thai pronunciation is not quite up to scratch.
I'm not a complete stranger to traditional Thai cuisine, I know that it loosely falls into four categories: tom (boiled dishes), yam (spiced salads), tam (grounded foods), and gaeng (curry), I'm no expert.
The first hurdle to overcome is the fact that I'm still going to be working when the collection time arrives. So I enlist the help of the young driver of the family to collect the grub, to ensure she doesn't go missing in action, the youngest member of the household goes along for the ride.
From bitter experience I know this will go one of two ways, I'm crossing my fingers for quality bonding sister time.
Melrose we know is a bit far for the food to travel in pristine condition, but with regular humorous updates from the youngest about the emotional state of the collecting party we are delighted to see the returning heroes arriving in one piece.
You'd have thought I'd dispatched them to Outer Mongolia not outer melrose with the way they carried on.
The next issue was identifying which dish was which, I stared blankly at a scribbled list of Thai dishes, they seemed to have more letters than an entire episode of Countdown. I'm sure Rachel Riley could have solved the anagrams quicker than I could, eventually I worked out what everyone had ordered.
The first starter out of the cardboard box was number nine - or Tao Hoo Tod, thinly sliced fried triangles of tofu served with a tiny pot of chilli sauce and salad, it's unique charms weren't universally loved but we weren't willing to declare it a dud.
Numero three, Chicken satay, was one dish we could easily identify and it gained a thumbs up.
(Boris’s) den or Number ten, Tom Ka Gai came sloshing around in a gigantic tub,a veritable lagoon of coconut soup, which cascaded into the bowl, with vegetables and tofu, flavoured with kaffir lime leaves, and a soupcon of salty fish sauce, slice rounds of galangan root, quartered mushrooms topped with coriander leaves and cherry tomatoes all appeared to be happily doing laps across the bowl.
A bruised stalk of lemongrass which was tied in a knot to release it flavours a bit like the Thai equivalent of a bouquet garni, certainly turned the flavour up to the max. 10 out of ten, would slurp again.
Noodle dish number twenty four, was sweet and sour veg explosion called Pad thai -with a mess of fried eggs, bean sprouts with a hint of tamarind sauce, chilli and lime notes to enhance the dish.
Number 25, or Pad See Eww which junior made vanish pretty pronto, featured chunky noodles, vegetables, jumbo prawns, flavoured with dark soy sauce, chilli for heat and lemon and coriander to balance it all out
Two little ducks (22) was a stand out belter, Gaeng Massaman- an aromatic sweet thai red curry flavoured with star anise, which smothered tofu, potato and onions, I'd happily return for this dish, which I paired with coconut rice the ideal way to soak up the excess sauce.
The fella didn't even wait for the banana fritter to be reheated, he shovelled them straight into his gob, proclaiming them to be bloody marvellous, and the real deal. Designated driver said the mango and sticky rice was out of this world and well worth the arduous journey.
The only bum note for us was Som Tam/Gai Moo selection, which was an everything including the kitchen sink dish.
For us way too many ingredients and overpowering fish sauce with some clashing textures for us newbies, but I guess you can't win them all.
If I lived closer I'd be back revisiting Rak Thai to discover more dishes from Thailand.
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