One of Canberra’s most-experienced food critics and this paper’s longest-serving columnist, WENDY JOHNSON indulges herself with her top eating experiences for 2018
NO matter where you travel, street food is often the best food. Authentic. Down to earth. So delicious and a cultural experience.
Zaab brings Lao-Thai street food to us here in Canberra.
A dozen dishes feature in the street-food section of the menu. Zaab also celebrates curries, whips up food in the wok and offers a selection of “grilled and crispy”. The flavours are intense and delicious (some downright spicy). Just select and share away over good conversation.
Five of us headed into Zaab one night.
The betel leaf ($4 each) is fun to eat. Fold it up and pop it in your mouth. Easy and delicious. The larb bites, crunchy on the outside, are perfect packages of punchy flavours ($8). They’re addicting and perfect with an icy cold beer. The honey-roasted quails ($12) were succulent and not overly sweet. Just sticky and scrumptious.
The curry line-up includes chicken yellow, duck red and a beef massaman. We got stuck into the beef which was amazing. The slow-cooked beef was so tender and the hearty potatoes absorbed the special family curry blend beautifully ($23). We’d return just for this dish.
The Zaab Zone part of the menu is for those who like the heat turned on full blast with their food. Like the Crying Tiger ($16), medium-rare grilled beef with super spicy Thai herbs and dressing. Other Zaab Zone dishes include Glass noodle salad ($16), grilled King prawns with lemongrass dressing ($20) and a green paw paw salad, which you can order Thai style or Lao style ($12).
We didn’t have time for sweets but bet the mango panna cotta ($10) would be a creamy, cool way to reduce the heat factor.
Fifteen beers are up for grabs, from Laos, Thailand, Japan, China, Singapore, Indonesia and a few from Australia (from $7.50). Cocktails include the Mekong Jungle, Screaming Zaab and Watermelon Massacre (average $18). Non-alcoholic punches, juices and iced teas are also available.
Zaab’s décor is designed around eating on the street, with lots of raw materials and imported furniture part of the fun. You’ll see corrugated iron on the walls, heaps of bright beer signs (with Asian beers, including Tiger and Chang). Graffiti is another design feature and you sit on low stools like you would on the street. It’s edgy but relaxed all in one go. And fun.
The staff were great. Very knowledgeable and efficient. Happy to turn the blaring music down a notch or two so we could hear ourselves talk without screaming at the top of our lungs.
So, if sweet, sour, salty are the sensations you love with street food, head to Zaab for a little love from Laos and Thailand.
Zaab, Unit 2, 9 Lonsdale Street, Braddon. Call 6156 5638. Open 5pm to late, seven days.