Isaan Street Food at Chachawan
Not all of us can brave and take the level of spice found in Thai cuisine—and if you think you can, think again. Originating from Thailand’s northeast Isaan region, Chachawan blends sweet, sour, salty, and heat—and a whole lot of spice. Situated on the buzzing Hollywood Road, the restaurant remains a popular destination for street food lovers and tom yum enthusiasts alike, although Chachawan welcomes all Thai cuisine diners with open arms. We stopped by the trendy eatery for a taste of authentic northeastern Thai fare.
All images courtesy of Adam Thompson | CSP Times.
Upbeat Street Food
If you’ve been to Thailand before—and seen real Thailand, as in, the quirky backstreets and street food alleys—then you have heard the loud music and chatter found in plenty of eateries. Reminiscent of sleepless nights out, Chachawan boasts a trendy atmosphere for drinks and food depending on what you’re going for. The menu focuses on the Isaan region of Thailand in the northeast. Here, food is raw, down-to-earth, and has a distinct smokey flavour in comparison to Central Thailand, specialising in grilled meats and fish prepared from charcoal pits.
We were welcomed by very friendly, chipper staff who seated us at a bar stool in a bustling setting—Thai style. The menu is expansive, so we left it to the experts who happily suggested what we should order. My spice tolerance isn’t as high as it should be, but I put it to the test.
First, we ordered the Larp Bet ($138HKD), which consisted of mixed salad leaves served with chopped duck meat, shallots, spring onions, mint, dried pork rinds, and a sweet and spicy dressing. I order this dish whenever it’s available—the refreshingly crisp and slightly cold lettuce contrasts the warm juicy duck mince for a best-of-both-worlds kind of experience.
A must-order when in a Thai restaurant, a deliciously light salad. The Yum Sum O ($148HKD) was probably my favourite dish of the lot, made from pomelo salad with prawn, deep-fried shallots, cashew nuts, garlic, dry coconut, and sweet and sour tamarind dressing. The prawns and papaya were delectably soft whilst the cashew nuts and shallots gave a devouring crunch. A blend of sweet and sour dressing brought all the flavours to light.
There aren’t really “mains” as such in Thai cuisine, as most dishes are served to share. One of the bigger plates was the Khao Pad ($158HKD) a wok-fried rice of crab meat, egg and spring onions. This was a go-to for a cool-down bite when another dish was too spicy.
Deemed as one of the stars of the show, the Tom Yum Gai Ban ($148HKD) is a restaurant signature. The spicy and sour soup is filled with chicken, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, shallots, Thai basil leaf, mushroom, and fresh and dried chilies. It’s rather spicy, but if you can handle it, make the most of this savoury delight.
If you’re a fan of fish, be sure to order the Pla Phao Glua ($298HKD) salt-crusted whole seabass—they only serve a selected amount each night. The same goes for the Gai Yung ($158HKD) a juicy and succulent chicken dish—barbecue-style—using chicken breast marinated for 24 hours in garlic, pepper, coriander and grilled until it’s just the right amount of crispy—without compromising the tenderness beneath. The enticing jhim jeaw chilli sauce complements it perfectly.
We were fortunate enough to sit right up front of the bartender of the night, meaning we could watch the specialist mixology at our own leisure. The hip vibe here draws you to try one of the Thai beers, however, I was in the mood for something a little fancier. I tried the ChaCha Smash ($100HKD) a signature gin-based cocktail with a hint of ginger ale. I also tried the Thai Lime Mojito ($100HKD) which was an alcoholic version of the much-loved fresh lime soda, using Thai basil and charred sugarcane.
The cool atmosphere at Chachawan draws the attention of many, still frequently full at peak hours even despite the current business declines Hong Kong has been facing. There’s a mixed crowd here, from young suits to family groups—welcoming all lovers of Thai cuisine. There are a couple of dishes recommended to order when you first sit down, including the Mango Sticky Rice (pictured above, $95HKD) the sea bass, and the chicken.
206 Hollywood Rd, Tai Ping Shan, Hong Kong, +852 2549 0020, chachawan.hk/