Do you have standout meals that have etched their way into your memory?
As my spoon dips into the Khao Soi at Jaisungma, there’s a flash of recognition: the depth of flavour in this food reminds me of another meal long ago at Longrain.
Longrain, opened almost twenty years ago, was one of the first restaurants to latch onto the idea of communal dining, a long-accepted way of eating in many parts of the world that we were still catching up with. While its ’forced’ communal eating with strangers worked better in theory than practice, what did work was Longrain’s food. Each dish on its share plate menu was rich and vibrant, unstinting in the depth of flavour it delivered.
It’s the same punch-in-the-mouth intensity that we experience dining at Jaisungma.
Featuring the food of Northern Thailand, Jaisungma’s owner, Tom Sangsai, has come to the Gold Coast via Cairns, where his restaurant Samgasat was a runaway success.
Though his Gold Coast restaurant loosely carries the theme of ‘journeys’, it’s the food itself that tells the story of his homeland.
Over several meals, we navigate our way through the menu, beginning our journey with homemade Barramundi fish cakes. Plump, juicy and tender, the four cakes are topped with their own salad of chilli and shallots. Delicious!
Thai fish cakes are a familiar beginning to many Thai meals, however the menu diverges from there into less familiar territory. It’s an adventure to Chiang Mai, unfamiliar to many of us, without the Westernising influence we see in many Thai restaurants in Australia.
In Jaisungma, for the first time, we’re seeing authentic Northern Thai food with its depth and complexity of flavour still intact. What an adventure!
“We want people to have the food we would eat at home,” says Tom, referring to Gaeng Hung Lay (Northern Thai pork belly curry with cumin, ginger, tamarind and roasted peanut – a typical northern drier-style curry using pork, which is plentiful) and Larb Moo Chiangmai, punchy spiced minced pork, which we order on one of our visits, (available with or without offal and pork fat).
However, I have other favourites, such as Khao Soi (Kow Soy), a coconut curry-based chicken noodle soup that is arguably Chiang Mai’s signature dish. Tom has a great version, the boneless milk-poached chicken served with soft noodles for lunch, or topped with crispy noodles and served with rice for dinner. It’s a dish that carries Burmese influences, its flavours so complex and intriguing that I’m later to dream about them!
Due to the mountainous terrain of Northern Thailand, our other dishes are used for celebration: tender juicy Beef short ribs (usually served as a whole cow at Northern Thai feasts), and Stir-fried king prawns with garlic, chilli, white pepper and coriander -spicy, salty, sweet and sour, mouth-puckering with the hint of a dark ferment.
The Crispy whole market fish of the day, a goldband snapper when we visit, arrives in glory on a silver platter topped with greens and a fresh, sweet and sour chilli tamarind sauce. After being filleted, the fish has been deep fried, each fillet pieced and cooked separately before being reassembled. It’s cooked to flaky perfection, and all four of us hoe in, taking pieces to eat with rice, ladling spoonfuls of the sticky sauce and salad over the top. It’s a feast!
“We all have to go to Chiang Mai,” says my son between mouthfuls. Too busy eating, we can only nod.
Perhaps that’s it… In taking this taste journey, we’re encouraged to venture further, to wade in, no stopping us.
Longrain in Sydney has now closed. But we will certainly be back to bask in the flavours of Jaisungma’s menu again: Slow-braised beef, Poached chicken and crab salad and of course Tom’s version of Som Tum of green papaya. And yes, we’re considering a trip to Chiang Mai.
If there’s a metre for ‘tastiness’, then Jaisungma’s powerful fresh flavour combinations are off the charts. It’s like ramping up the colour of your shot when everyone else is using a wash filter.
‘Jaisungma’ – ‘my heart is telling you’, says Tom’s food. Somehow, everything else pales in comparison.
Shop 3/58 Brooke Ave., Chirn Park, Southport Qld 4215 Ph: 0473239883
Open: Thurs – Tues 11.30am – 2.30pm, 5pm – 10pm
GF is clearly marked on menu items. Mains: $15 – $25; BYO $2pp
NOTE: On one occasion, Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Jaisungma’s.