There’s a reason why the best Thai food in the world outside of Thailand can be found in Sydney, Australia. The country’s Thai population has more than tripled in the last two decades, and the restaurants there show it. In the heart of Sydney’s Thai Town, there’s almost too much to choose from: Do I want the crisp pork belly stir-fried with gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and garlic at Chilli Cha Cha (40-50 Campbell Street; 61/2/9211-2025)? Kanom jeen rice noodles dressed with fish curry sauce and pickled mustard greens at Spice I Am (90 Wentworth Avenue; 61/2/9280-0928)? The yellow curry of chicken and potatoes served with lacy roti around the corner at Thanon Khao San (413 Pitt Street; 61/2/9211-1194)?
And then there are the grocers like Lucky Thai (40 Campbell Street; 61/2/9211-3163) that offer boxed lunches to go, including curried fish balls with basil (pictured, at right, top) and other fiery, fiercely authentic dishes. Sydney’s bountiful seafood and easy access to tropical produce grown in northern Australia give Thai food here its vivid, fresh punch. At Chat Thai (188 Pitt Street; 61/2/9221-0600), a tamarind-sour orange prawn curry comes studded with pieces of omelet filled with locally grown acacia fronds. Or, I might end up at House (202 Elizabeth Street; 61/2/9280-0364), which specializes in the cooking of northeastern Thailand, eating a scorching duck larb, a type of salad, with handfuls of fresh local herbs. Squint, and I could be in Bangkok._ — __Pat Nourse_