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May 23, 2012 02:03 AM

Petch Sayam - Leytonstone - London

This is more of a heads up to others who may want to experiment with this place. Though it looks as "bog standard high street Thai" as you can get, the place is entirely Thai run and the food was shockingly good. Not on par with The Heron, but worlds better than some of the highly lauded Thai places I tried a few years ago before I knew about 101 Thai (and now The Heron.) I took advantage of the fact that I realized the whole staff was Thai and just asked for everything we ordered to be done as Thai as possible. Spice wise and flavor wise.

The result was excellent chicken laarb with spice rivaling The Heron. Extremely tasty as well. All in all one of the better portions of laarb I've had in London. Green curry was also surprisingly good. They clearly make their own curry pastes and put some effort into the cooking here. Finally, a portion of drunken noodles was similarly perfect with extremely crispy ground pork and a surprisingly large amount of spice.

I may have just gotten extremely lucky and somehow had three dishes prepared perfectly for me, but I suspect that this place could offer up some Thai gems for those of us who live in East London. The waitress was from Isaarn, but I'm not sure if this reflects the whole crew.

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  1. Fantastic! Another interesting Thai place which I'd like to try next time I'm in London.

    Frankly, I was hoping it'll *not* be another Isarn spot - since every other Thai eatery in London seemed to have an Isarn connection (with its larb & glutinous rice & sausages) - and Londoners are beginning to mistakenly regard North-eastern Thai dishes as representative of the cuisine of the whole of Thailand! But then, proliferation of Isarn eating spots is not surprising, as the arid Isarn region is the poorest in Thailand, and its people tend to migrate outwards to eke a living.

    In Bangkok itself, the Isarn people are regarded almost like the "Irish" of Thailand.

    In the UK, the Isarn people seemed to dominate the Thai restaurant industry, the same way the Sylhetis from Bangladesh predominate the Indian restaurant industry, and the Cantonese did likewise for Chinese restaurants.

    7 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      you think? 'dominating' seems to be stretching it a bit...... how many isarn places are there in london vs how many generic thai places?

      1. re: t_g

        Well, for a start, look at the most popular Thai spots in London:
        - Heron Pub is skewed towards Isarn (;
        - Thai 101 (ร้านร้อยเอ็ด ลอนดอน) is named after Roi Et, a town in Isarn;

        The result is that Thai restaurants (in London-speak) is pretty different from Thai restaurants we get in Singapore, which have a more Bangkok/Central Thailand influence. So, you get larb, khao niew & Isarn sausages quite easily in Thai restaurants in London, but not so easy to come by here in Singapore's Thai restaurants. But then, my maternal grandparents were both Bangkokians, so perhaps i have a biasness towards the cooking of Central Thailand.

        Conversely, in Malaysia, where I'm currently based, the Thai restaurants are influenced by Southern Thai cuisine, i.e. from Songkhla, Satun, Yala, Narathiwat & Pattani. So, Muslim/Southern Thai dishes I commonly find in KL (e.g. "khao yam" rice salad - my personal fave) are very difficult to find in London.

        1. re: klyeoh

          Photos of some delicious Southern Thai dishes which I'd come to really like here in KL's Thai restaurants:
          - "Khao yam" rice salad, served with various finely-chopped herbs, toaated dessicated coconut, salted duck's egg (the grilled chicken in the photo was an "extra", atypical of the dish);
          - Southern Thai "num chin" rice noodles with coconut milk-galangal-fish-flavored gravy, served with Thai basil, pineapple, torch ginger, cucumber.
          - Unpolished rice steamed with fenugreek seeds, shallots & coconut milk, served with fish curry

          You find these dishes in KL quite easily, where I haven't found any Isarn-style cuisine in all my searching for the last 12 months here! Conversely, none of the dishes here can be found in *any* Thai restaurant in London.

          I just wanted to highlight that Thai cuisine is very rich & varied, with regional variations, not just larb, tom yum & grilled meats/sausages with glutinous rice.

          1. re: klyeoh

            Adding to regional Thai places listed:

            Kaosarn's (Brixton Village) centre of gravity is central Thailand where the owners are from, although they have a few of the more popular Isarn dishes such as larb gai and som tom.

            And don't forget that one of the best dishes we had at 101 was a southern thai dish, although I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't made it back to explore that section of the menu more.

            Esarn Kheow is another popular Thai place, and as the name suggests, specialises in Isarn cooking.

            I'm sure other Thai-seeking hounds will have even more to add.

            More here on this older Thai thread --

            1. re: limster

              Thanks for the reminder, limster. Yes, Thai 101 indeed has a selection of Southern dishes to supplement its Isarn menu.

              I'd sure like to try Kaosarn, too, next time.

              One aspect of Thai cuisine that I can't find in London are street foods (besides pad Thai, of course) like those one finds in the streets of Bangkok, plusThai-style seafood restaurants:




              1. re: klyeoh

                Klyeoh - I think you will find the "renowned" Thai places in London are Isaan but the vast majority of suburban Thais and the more mainstream ones in Central London are more generic with dishes from across the country - Larbs, pad thai's, green, red and jungle curry, and rendangs make up the core of their menus.

                1. re: PhilD

                  You're right, PhilD.

                  I think I was hoping for a wave of "Southern Thai", or "Royal Thai" (with their "rhoom", "chor muang", etc) eateries making headway in London's Thai food scene, rather than every new one touting their "Isarn" credentials. It's like the African food scene in the US back in the 90s - every one seemed to be "Ethiopian", to the exclusion of all others.