I like novelty. If you have ever seen my Instagram page or heard me talk, you know I will spend good money to satisfy my need for novel. So I am happy to have discovered “Ban chok dee”, as this place gets me. They know food is more than just what you taste, but also about how your other sense experiences it before it hits your tongue. Taking all this into consideration has made “Ban chok dee” one of my favourite restaurants. However, sadly they aren’t a stone’s throw away.
I don’t often drive to Langley for a restaurant. But as one of the Vancouver Foodster caesar Challenge competitors, I was obligated to take the drive out as a judge for the month long competition. I strategically choose a statutory holiday day for my visit, to avoid the rush hour traffic driving into the city. However what I and the restaurant didn’t expect was the turn out they would get for the very same reason.
We had made reservations, but given the utter chaos of their dining room, due the unexpected number of patrons wanting to dine with them, and the fact that they were short staffed; we were given the entire patio to dine and photograph on, whilst being asked for our patience. With free parking and no where else to be, we took our time and enjoyed their hospitality.
As always, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
We started off with their caesar entry, however had to first wait for everything needed, to craft the most complicated caesar I have ever witnessed the making of, being moved from the kitchen and bar to a table on the patio. But it was well worth the trouble and the wait. To get the explanation behind the cocktail and watch it’s assembly, only made you appreciate it all the more. There was lots of work put into this and they certainly deserved to win the competition as first place for judge’s favourite.
I highly recommend watching the creation of their “TYG Caesar” by clicking the link below.
The “TYG Caesar” is a cocktail inspired by the heat and flavours of Thai style Tom Yum soup. They found a way to represent their culture and their cuisine in this Canadian classic.
There are a few elements to this offering. The first, a “Spiced Bacon Caesar Sphere” made using molecular gastronomy, sprinkled with dried spiced prawns and smoked bacon bits. The process includes taking a liquid and making it into a semi-solid jelly state, before popping it into your mouth to unleash the “bubble” like a wave of flavour and drink.
The drink itself is a mix of chilli and herb infused Absolute Vodka, Maekhong (Thai whiskey), tobacco, horseradish, Worcestershire, black pepper, thai chili sauce, lemongrass, galangal, lime juice, lime leaf, and mixed Caesar spices. The cocktail is mixed together then poured into a bottle, presented with the sphere and a fully garnished glass. This is so that you can fully see and appreciate all the green of the fresh celery and pickled bean, and note the frozen tomato juice sphere and the ice balls frozen with herbs; before covering it all with an emptying pour of the bottle.
And the finishing skewer is just as intricate. Lime, cornichons, chilli pepper, red pepper, green olive, and a crispy shrimp wrapped in noodle. The prawns are from one of their appetizers. Deep fried and marinated jumbo prawn wrapped in crispy yellow noodles.
You are immediately impressed by this show of labour, the amount of work needed just to set it up. Though when it came time to actually start drinking you didn’t know where to begin. The whole display left you feeling overwhelmed, but deliciously so.
Despite the caesar eating like a meal, we then followed it with a full six course meal.
Their “Stuffed chicken wings” are marinated with Thai spices and normally stuffed with sautéed shredded vegetables, vermercilli noodles, egg, ginger, and garlic. However the version we had utilized “rice berry”. A special ingredient they were doing a tasting of as part of their fresh sheet.
“Riceberry” is a newly registered rice variety from Thailand. A deep purple whole grain rice with a soft and palatable after taste. Riceberry has been the most popular brown rice known for health promoting properties. This and the molecular gastronomy in our drink above, was a good tell of the owner and head chef’s dedication to learning and expanding her culinary expertise. More on that later.
The rice was stuffed into a chicken wing, then steamed and deep fried to a golden brown. It is served with a sweet chilli peanut sauce on the side. The rice added substance and a starchy chew. A good contrast for the crispy skinned chicken. The sauce gave your bites a sweet, yet tart and garlicky add on.
The “Chor muang dumplings” came with it as a side. They were a visual treat, set in moulds to shape them like flowers. The colouring of green and purple were achieved through natural food dyes, however I could not taste from what, past their dominant filling. These are traditional Thai dumplings filled with palm sugar, chicken, onion, cilantro, pepper, garlic, roasted peanuts, and aromatic Thai spices. And then drizzled with garlic oil as a final touch. The flavour of the shrimp paste came through with onion as an after note. It wasn’t my favourite, given the chalky texture of the sugar and ground up peanuts married with the perfectly sticky dumpling shell.
“Gaeng kua batel leaf over rice berry”. Scallop with basil and rice berry in a yellow curry made with coconut milk. This was a sublimely creamy curry, but too salty for my liking. Shame, as the flavours were solid and this is the kind of curry you would normally lick your plate clean of. I even liked the texture of the stewed basil and I typically avoid wilted greens. But the scallop was the star of the dish. It was cooked perfectly and deserving of its crowning perch.
The “Tuna tatare” was a little too salty with the smear of soy, and a little too tangy with all the citrus used. Also the edges of the fish itself was a little dry, whereas I wanted more raw and refreshing from the cut.
My guest was most excited about the “Curried noodles (Kai soi chicken)”, under the street food category of their many. Apparently not many places make this and they do it very well here. Chiangmai style egg noodles and curry with tender chicken, cilantro, red onion, green onion, chilli oil and lime. Stacked like a tower with a chicken drum lollipop anchoring the noodles, its sauce is poured at your table, over the dish before you eat. This ensures that the noodles stay as crispy as possible for as long as possible. Although the sauce quickly moistens it, for a nice starchy chewy. The curry is slightly spicy and just a bit sweet.
For dessert we were treated to their tropical twist on a classic: “Coconut creme brûlée”. Tropical and extra creamy from the coconut milk used, and served with a caramelized Bosc pear for a nice soften texture. It was fairly sweet, so having the torched sugar topping was a little overkill.
Most of what we had above was either not on the menu or offered with a slight variation, prompting me to return the next time I was in Langley; for a more everyday look at this popular Thai restaurant. Once again the place was busy, line ups and a wait, even on a Monday. Which made sense, considering most of everything else was closed before 6pm. Luckily I made a reservation and got our group a table for six inside.
On this visit, they were once again competing in a “Vanfoodster” challenge, this time for best chicken wings in the city. However with their head chef having the day off, they were not offering it on the menu today. So we made due with more classic Thai dishes instead.
This time I tried their “Stuffed chicken wings”, the regular way. And I preferred them stuffed with sautéed shredded vegetables, vermicelli noodles, egg, ginger, and garlic instead. It offered the perfect chewy texture to contrast the crispness of the fried chicken skin. And it was even better with the sweet and tangy plum sauce for dipping.
Although my favourite sauce of the meal went to the thick and creamy dish of peanut sauce partnered with the order of “Chicken satay”. Grilled tender, marinated chicken in traditional Thai spices, broiled and served with peanuts and a peanut and cucumber plum sauce.
The “Seasoned lettuce wraps” was a build yourself scoop of minced chicken, beef or pork; stir fried with fresh lime leaves, onion, garlic, spices, and roasted cashews. The mix was a little watery and when brought together on a still wet from the wash leaf. It was a little too watery for what should be crisp from the lettuce and crunchy from the fried noodles and roasted cashews. My guest who ordered it found it just fine and tasty enough, I thought it too spicy for my liking.
The “Sweet and sour stir fry” was exactly as expected with your choice protein between beef, chicken, or pork; sautéed with sweet pineapple, juicy tomatoes, fresh zucchini, crunchy carrots, fragrant green onions, and crispy red and green bell peppers. All generously coated in their thick and syrupy, house made, sweet and sour sauce. I appreciated the larger serving of rice, for the ideal base to something so tasty.
“Gang gong pineapple curry” was a rich and creamy mix of large prawns, pineapples chunks, red and green bell peppers, and fresh basil leaves in a red curry with coconut milk
They of course had a traditional Pad Thai, pan fried rice noodles in a tamarind sauce, with chicken or prawn, egg, tofu, green onions, and bean sprouts, topped with ground peanuts. No complaints from the one who ordered it. It was as excepted; and as a large enough serving to take home leftovers for a second meal.
The “Pad si eu” is stir fried wide rice noodles in oyster sauce with egg, carrot, cabbage, and broccoli; with your choice of chicken, beef, or pork. Plenty of flavour and as expected.
The “Thai fried rice” is fried rice made using Thai spices, egg, onion, red and green bell pepper, and sweet basil. The rice had a texture more soft than crisp. With it I ordered beef, but found it a little dry. I also felt I needed a Main with the rice, as there wasn’t enough to keep me satisfied within. Better as a side than a main.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
There is not much food diversity in Langley compared to Vancouver. One of restaurants at this calibre are rare. So to find such a gem, but to have to drive great distances from Burnaby to it, puts me in a bind. I really appreciate all the work that goes into everything on the menu, the care and love shows. I can see why they are so popular in this community. Possibly my new favourite Thai place to recommend, if not for the commute. I wish they opened up a new location in Vancouver. Don’t deny your cravings