Last night I headed out to Sawadee in Ponsonby for a Zomato meetup. This place has been running for 25 years and it’s not hard to see why – the food was delicious, the staff were friendly and the decor sets the scene perfectly. On a humid Auckland summer evening, it did feel a lot like my last trip to Thailand – sitting in a big wooden hut surrounded by plants and with ceiling fans whirring above our heads.
I was seated next to the owner, Theresa, who is enthusiastic about her chefs and was keen for us all to try out all the food and cocktails on offer. She explained the menu to us and was kind enough to satisfy our questions about how things were cooked by asking staff to clarify where she couldn’t answer.
I loved that the menu for the night was made up of dishes you wouldn’t necessarily see on typical menus at Thai restaurants here in Auckland. Most of the food we tried were dishes that will soon be on the menu, although we were also lucky to enjoy some of the chef’s special creations just for us.
For the entrees, we enjoyed poh pia sod (Thai style fresh spring roll with vegetables, a boiled strip of chicken and shrimp rolled with rice paper and served with a tamarind sauce and sweet chilli sauce), moo ping (charcoal BBQ marinated pork skewer with Thai herbs – not on their menu) and sai aua (Northern Thai style spicy pork sausage – minced pork seasoned with fresh shallots, fresh lemongrass, dried chilli and fresh kaffir lime leaves). My favourite was the sai aua as it reminded me of the sausages we ate in Chiang Mai. I loved the strong taste of herbs and spices.
For the mains, we had yum pla foo (crispy snapper with green apple & red onion salad), goong ob woonsen (baked prawns with glass noodles and fresh ginger served in a clay pot), hormok talay ma praw orn (prawns, squid, scallops and snapper steamed in a young coconut with red curry paste, eggs and Thai herbs) and goong pad pug (stir fried prawns with seasonal vegetables in oyster sauce).
I really loved the hormok talay ma praw orn. The seafood was fragrant with the red curry paste and it all had a lovely silky texture when combined with the steamed egg and the coconut meat which you could scrape off the sides of the coconut. The next time I come back, I will definitely order this dish.
The other dish I really enjoyed was the yum pla foo. The salty, crispy snapper was delicious with the sweet, sour and spicy sauce spooned over the top. Sadly, this will not be on the menu. Luckily, I have made a version of this before which you can check out here if you’re interested in having a go yourself.
Dessert was a special creation by the chef. It was a different take on the traditional Thai dessert of red rubies in coconut milk. This one involved smoked coconut milk (a staff member brought out the candle they use to smoke it – a fascinating process which had to be done about four times) and was served with pandan sugar syrup on the side if you wanted to sweeten your dish more. I really loved this – being Malaysian Chinese, coconut desserts are exactly up my alley, and this one had such a different and complex flavour that I finished it all, even though I was really full by then. I never would have thought that smoked coconut milk would make such a beautiful dessert. It was full of interesting textures as well – silky coconut meat, crunchy water chestnut and crushed ice, and gummy toddy palm seeds.
Sawadee have a new summer cocktail menu and I tried the red spider cocktail. This was a fruity and sweet concoction of vodka, peach schnapps, midori, raspberry cordial, orange juice and cranberry juice. If you like sweet cocktails, then this one is for you. As well as this, I had a mocktail which unfortunately, I didn’t pick up the name of. It was lovely though – not too sweet, good mango flavour, creamy and fizzy. I enjoyed it more than the cocktail.
Overall, I really had a great time thanks to Zomato. Great food, wonderful company (including seeing someone eat a prawn for the first time in his life!) and a fun atmosphere. It’s been a long time since I last went to Sawadee, but I will definitely make sure that the next visit isn’t so long overdue!
Address: 42A Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland
Phone: (09) 376 0320
Open: Monday and Tuesday 5pm-late, Wednesday to Sunday 12pm-late