Restaurant review #6 – Chang Thong Thai is a Thai restaurant in a small alley next to ‘t Zand. Their online menu card lists several vegetarian/vegan dishes seperately. We’ve already heard some experiences from other vegans and vegetarians about this place, so we decided to go check it out ourselves!
It was a good thing we made a reservation for dinner, because shortly after we arrived, the place was packed (on a weeknight). Although it is in the city center, we hardly saw any tourists probably because it’s not in a main street. There’s a small area upstairs with some tables as well, but since the toilets were located there we decided to take place at one of the tables downstairs. Tables are stashed pretty close next to each other, which made us a bit uncomfortable (hearing every word of the conversation of the couple next to you, willingly or not, is not really enjoyable). Comfy arm chairs though. This is dining in a traditional Asian style setting (well, you know, Western Asian style), with buddhas statues and oriental muzak.
The menu card we initially got didn’t list any of the vegetarian dished we had seen on their website. Upon asking, we swiftly received a different menu card, containing only the vegetarian dishes. A very attenful gesture and the waiter explained that these newly printed menus with vegetarian dishes were made especially to make it easier for vegetarians to choose. A bit surprisingly (for an asian restaurant) no dishes with tofu, and most dishes just seemd a variation of vegetables with X or Y sauce/curry.
Most of the dishes on the vegetarian menu seemed to be vegan, but we explictly checked upon ordering both our starters and the main dishes (more on the oyster sauce below).
One of us took the coconut soup with coriander and vegetables (Tom Kha Phak*) and the other papaja salad with mild chili and peanuts (Som Tam Malakor). The soup was very nice, with a very outspoken sour flavour. Very hot though, and because of the candlelight underneath it didn’t cool. So be careful not burning your tongue! The papaja salad with chili was a bit disappointing. A glorious portion, but the chunks of tomatoes and pieces of carrots didn’t really give this dish an Asian feel. There were no peanuts in this dish, but we did find some cashews (which are also nice of course).
Our main courses were thai curry with vegetables, respectively a red one (Phanaeng Phak) and a green one (Kaeng K Waan Phak), which standardly comes with a bowl of white cooked rice. My partner asked for some noodles on the side (Pad Thai), and we also inquired to make sure this dish also didn’t contain egg (normally it would, but the waiter said he would ask to leave them out).
The main dishes were nice, standard portions, and just spicy enough. Not much variety between the two dishes though, except for the different curry of course.
On an online vegan forum, we had already read a remark about a dish with oyster sauce being listed under the vegetarian section in Chang Thong Thai. Oyster sauce is traditionally made with oyster extract, although vegetarian oyster sauce (prepared from mushrooms) also exists. I was kinda hoping the restaurant was using the latter. Not giving any clues, I ignorantly inquired about the oyster sauce, and what this was exactly? The waiter was excited to tell me that this is a typical Thai ingredient, made out of oysters (‘but you cannot taste it comes from oysters’)! I kindly informed him that the ‘vegetables with oyster sauce’ isn’t really a vegetarian dish then, and he seemed genuinly surprised. Apparently, I was the first person to have ever made a comment about it (!), and he assured me that many vegetarians had already ordered that dish and really enjoyed it! I also suggested he could use vegetarian oyster sauce, but I suspect they would leave things as they are.
Just so you know, maybe best to check and double check when visiting this restaurant, I remember one of the side dishes listed on the menu was also prepared with oyster sauce (can’t recall the name).
On the list of desserts, the coconut ice cream with liquor caught our attention (with whipped cream, but that can easily be left out)! That sounded good! We inquired whether the coconut cream didn’t contain any dairy or eggs? and got a “I don’t know ma’am, we just import it” reply. Now that left me baffled (for just a split second 😉 ). I reformulated my question a bit, but got the same reply. So I suggested maybe he could go check the ingredients on the box then? And so the waiter took of and went to the back of the restaurant. He soon returned and unfortunately he said it did contain milk and eggs.
So we just went for a sorbet: one with lime and one with mango.
Afterwards, we regretted having eaten the sorbet. Sorbet is most often vegan, but sometimes is does contain dairy or egg. Although we had checked and inquired if nothing contained eggs or dairy when ordering our starters and our main dishes, and also inquired about the coconut ice cream, we didn’t explcitly ask again when ordering the sorbet. We were unconsciously assuming after having asked so much, they would have warned us about the sorbet not being vegan if this would have been the case. Looking back on it, I doubt if the waiter even knew or checked the sorbet boxes for animal ingredients.
Lesson learned. Always check. And if necessary, double check. Maybe the sorbet was vegan afterall (and maybe the waiter did check!), but we’re not really sure about it.
Typical Thai dishes (although no tofu), in an informal atmosphere. Service is casual, and sometimes a bit too casual to our liking (waiters starting to chat) but that’s our own personal preference of course. No high flying gastronomical experience, but ok for a casual dinner out. Be sure to check and double check upon ordering if everything is vegan.
* We list the Thai names of the dishes, as they are mentioned on the menu card, but we don’t speak a word of Thai. So, just trusting these are right!