Then there’s the famous colour curries: the yellow is a milder, aromatic delight, using vibrant ingredients such as turmeric, that can be sampled as gang garee gai on Headingley’s Thai Sabai early bird; the green is so called because of the colour of the chillies used, though remains deep and mellow at spots like May’s Cafe by adding coconut milk and basil to its gaeng kiew wan; and the red similarly uses the chillis of its name, as well as ingredients such as garlic and bamboo shoots, to provide tongue tingling pleasure – its crowd pleasing self and other versions such as panang are served throughout the city, including at the centre’s swanky Chaophraya.
Another saucy speciality of the Thai menu are the stunning soups. Tom yum is the classic; a clean clear liquid that has a mighty spicy kick and a satisfying sour flavour, usually given body by mushroom and recommended with prawns. This sensual versatile joy can be slurped up across Leeds, as a starter at Sukhothai or a main at Line Thai, and is sure to refresh and revitalise! Another super soup is tom ka gai, which is a creamy chicken broth, warm and deep, that at Tamarind on Roundhay Road will get you feeling all coconutty.
Perhaps a surprise to the uninitiated, salad is a big player as a standalone Thai meal. Som tam is a native staple, whose main ingredient of papaya is much needed to offset the fiery chilli heat in the most vibrant salad you’re likely to encounter, when you try it at the fun and filled Zaap or the marvellous My Thai. Also spicing things up, pad krapao is a simple sounding dish that packs a powerful punch. What is basically rice and mince is elevated way beyond and into lively complexities at city favourite Thai Aroy Dee.
There are of course plenty of other options on every Thai menu, including oddities that the British tongue generally fears to entertain. At Mommy Thai, a foodies menu offers traditional awesomeness, which whilst not for the faint hearted, is absolutely for the hardcore eaters. But it’s a humble noodle dish that is recognisable as Thailand’s most popular UK cuisine: pad thai is a stir fried street food, comprising of rice noodles, eggs, tofu and mixed vegetables such as bean sprouts and radishes. Done badly and this can be a bland bugger, but try it at more authentic places like Khan Gaeng Thai in Kirkgate Market and the fantastic flavours really shine through.