The second floor of Malee Thai Restaurant in HCMC’s District 1
Malee Thai Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 is one of many restaurants claiming to provide the pure, true tastes of Thai cuisine.
“Malee” is a Thai word that means “jasmine,” and my interest was sparked for a visit for lunch on a hot Saigon afternoon last week.
An atmosphere full of Thai culture welcomed us in. The Vietnamese waiters and waitresses all wore Thai traditional clo
thes and also spoke some Thai.
It was a little dark inside and the interiors are quite old. Metal Buddha statues were placed all throughout the restaurant, in corners or hung on the walls on small shelves made of small tree branches and twigs.
Tables on the first floor were mostly for couples or small groups and were all filled when we came, a sign of good food and service, we thought.
An old stone staircase led us to the second floor, where longer tables for larger groups were set up and the light is even darker than the first floor.
The second floor was even older-looking than the first.
The tablecloths and pillow covers were printed with colorful flowers, which is typically Thai. Hung on the walls were older statues while the ceilings were decorated with flat bamboo baskets and dry coconuts and a type of electric fan the blades of which are made from flat bamboo rods stuck together.
Melodies of Thai songs, the kind I’ve seen Thai women dancing to sometimes, surrounded us.
The sticky rice with mango served at Malee Thai Restaurant
For food, Malee Thai Restaurant offers a wide range of Thai appetizers, main courses and desserts while its beverage list covers only two traditional Thai drinks - Thai tea with lemon or with milk - and the rest are popular fruit juices, smoothies and soft drinks.
For lunch, Malee Thai offers a la carte choices and set lunches.
As a group of four, we chose a la carte and ordered stir-fried cauliflower with green beans (VND98,000), hot and sour soup with shrimp, famously known as “Tom yam” (priced at VND148,000 for bowl for two), and deep fried seabass with chili sauce (VND218,000) for three people.
Our food was served along with one bowl rice (you can choose sticky rice if you want). We chose rice and paid VND10,000 for one more bowl.
A friend of mine ordered a set of vegetarian Thai food, priced at VND80,000 per set. He was served assorted fried vegetables with coconut milk and deep-fried tofu along with a special sauce. His set lunch included another bowl of rice.
The deep fried seabass with chili sauce looked mouth-watering with the crispy fried fish hiding under the shiny red, green, purple and white of the sweet and sour sauce made of chili, onion and tomato.
The fish was well fried and very crunchy, tasting perfect when combined with the sweet and sour of the thick sauce, of which the sweet taste dominated the other.
The “tom yam” was another “A+” at Malee. It was quite spicy and those who cannot stand spicy food should be warned.
It was cooked with shrimp, mushroom, shallot, lemongrass, galangal root (ginger’s estranged cousin) and coconut milk.
The soup is served hot and is best eaten when it is still hot because if we let it cool, the coconut milk will make it too greasy.
Although it’s called “sour soup”, the tom yam at Malee was quite sweet, just like the fish dish. Another tip is that you should eat it with rice.
The deep fried seabass with chili sauce
The stir-fried cauliflower with green beans was a bit disappointing because it was too oily and did not taste very spectacular compared to the other two dishes.
After finishing the main courses along with a glass of Thai tea for each person - we ordered two Thai teas with milk and two with lemon - we decided to have tako cake with coconut milk, sticky rice with mango and a bowl of sweet durian porridge for dessert.
All of the desserts, just like the Thai tea with milk, were simply too sweet for our tongues, especially the durian porridge.
But the tako cakes were beautiful. Our eight cakes of smooth pure white looked lovely covered in the green leaves. Better to look at than to eat, we all thought.
However, the sticky rice with sesame sprinkled on its surface was really good. It was soft and not dry, which was nice.
Spooning a little cooked coconut milk on the rice and having it with a piece of ripe mango will make anyone not regret coming to Malee. It was delicious!
We left with super-full stomachs, quite tired as the food was quite sweet, but completely satisfied for the good tastes of all the food, as well as the nice service and the Thai ambience.
Malee Thai Restaurant is located at 37 Dong Du Street, District 1, HCMC
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