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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Bua Khao: Travel Back in Thai
Up the steps and into the restaurant we go, where photocopied signs tacked to the wall alert us that WE DON'T USE MSG, or merely state menu items, such as SHRIMPS AND YELLOW CURRY LE 38.
What gives this restaurant a true edge is the fact that its ingredients are flown in from the motherland, and you can truly taste the authenticity.
Whether or not you are a fan of Thai food, the vegetable spring rolls (also available in chicken) are highly recommended; as the accompanying sweet plum sauce is to die for. Chicken satay is another favourite appetiser, served with peanut sauce.
Entrées are not consistent; the pad Thai sometimes has more bean curds than noodles, and the peanuts overpower the beef in the beef and peanut sauté, while most prawns are served whole; tails, scales and all.
Asian cuisine seems to be on the rise in Cairo, and luckily for us, we’re huge fans of anything from-the-wok.
One of the lesser known restaurants in Maadi is Yam Yen. Maadi is no stranger to Thai cuisine, with several options to choose from should you be in the mood to eat with chopsticks, but this particular restaurant has one thing most of the others don’t; a good venue.
With a nicely landscaped garden area featuring a fountain, wooden archways and bamboo decorations, Yam Yen is a break from the overly stereotypical decorations found across all Asian restaurants—including Indian.
The interior features dim yellow lighting contrasted against dark wooden furniture, and dining areas are divided using opaque glass panels with metalwork.
We were seated indoors by a pleasant waiter and handed our menus. Featuring all the regular appetizers as well as some interesting soup options, the main courses feature red and green curries, as well as building your own stir-fried shrimp, fish, chicken, beef or vegetables main course from the wok in a sauce of your choosing.
We opted for the Tom Kha Chicken Soup (34LE) alongside Shrimp with Sweet Basil and Chili sauce (59LE) and Beef with Oyster Sauce (54LE). For the sides, we opted for a Vegetable Pad Thai (39LE), Stir-Fried Egg Noodles (39LE) and an order of Vegetable Fried Rice (19LE).
The food took a little longer than average to serve, but the soup was definitely worth the wait. Wonderfully bursting with coconut milk flavour, the Tom Kha soup, featuring pieces of tender chicken, galangal, lemon, mushroom and coriander, was the highlight of the night.
We tried different combinations of rice, noodles and pad thai with the main courses, but we found the Stir-Fried Noodles to be the weakest and most lacking in the flavour department.
While the Beef in Oyster Sauce was tasty, the portion was relatively small. The Shrimp was even smaller, consisting of exactly four pieces of shrimp in a sea of carrots and bell peppers. Both their sauces were interesting, but there just wasn’t enough of either to enjoy it for very long.
The Pad Thai was probably the tastiest, aside from the soup, featuring bean sprouts and peanuts in good non-overpowering amounts. The Fried Rice, topped with eggs and vegetables, was also quite filling and better than the average side of steamed rice.
The problem with Yam Yen isn’t the quality of food, it’s how little of it you get for so much money. The venue is clean and the service decent, but with the sides costing almost the same as the main courses, expect to either leave it hungry, or pay a hefty amount.