Our hearts were happy and our bellies were full after our ‘cultural journey’ to Thailand via the gastronomic delights of the Boon Cafe.
Boon Cafe is a hip eatery at the Central station end of Pitt Street, Sydney. After our comfortable train ride in from Gordon station we braved the cold for the short walk up town to the cafe. As we strolled through Belmore Park my significant other quietly introduced me to the stories of the various personalities that were sleeping rough in tents and on bench seats along the pathway. As a community worker with Mission Australia he has come to know many of them quite well and it felt like he was stepping me through his own neighbourhood.
There was Michael from North Queensland who had fled the cyclone season and ended up stranded here. His need to be outdoors to enable his smoking habit kept him in the park. And then there were Paul and Chris whose origins were unknown but had co-inhabited the park since pre-covid. They acknowledged each other but maintained good separation, both physically and occupying, benches well away from each other. Distance means safety. As we passed another body under a blanket on a bench, he began another narrative, this one an older female. I had stopped listening. So many stories in the eight people we had passed in that short stroll, each with their own unique story which led them to where they are today. Even one story is overwhelming once you engage with the personality and their narrative.
Arriving at Boon Cafe we discovered a light filled eatery tucked inside a Thai grocery and fresh produce store, both with the aesthetics of an upscale deli and the clutter of many an Asian corner supermarket. The cafe offered fresh uncompromising authentic Thai food with perfectly blended flavours. Nothing was altered for Western palates and the aromas were pungent with Thai spices. The expansive menu offered a large selection of larbs and other warm salads, including spicy green papaya and mango salads to suit every palate, a myriad of stir fries with holy basil, rice and noodle dishes, sour and spicy soup curries, wok fried chicken, fish and duck and an array of grilled chicken or pork skewers with everything from chicken livers, pork intestines to crispy fried chicken wings or fermented pork and glutinous rice sausages. It was very hard to refine the decision to one or two dishes and is definitely the type of eatery that necessitates many return visits. I will have no trouble going back again and again.
On this occasion we opted for two dishes, the first Dtom Leng a Boat noodle soup, aka thin rice noodles with beef and Chinese kale in a thick spicy broth topped with crispy pork skin, and the second, Suki Seafood with water spinach, glass noodle and spicy fermented tofu broth. We rounded out our meal with a Singha draft beer and a Dtom Collins sloe gin cocktail with salted plum, soda water and lime.
Boat noodle soup
After browsing through the grocery section and the refrigerated store room with specialty fresh Thai ingredients like holy basil, chive flowers, galangal and apple eggplants all grown on the family’s organic farm in Northern New South Wales we vowed to return again, next time to sample one of the unique sourdough sandwiches stuffed with fried minced chicken, squid, holy basil and chilli with a fried egg. Definitely an interesting fusion of cultures like we’d never experienced before.