Foreign Food Finds
Ankur Chawla | Monday, November 28, 2011
My quest for the best Thai food in South Bend is complete. If you’re looking for flavorful food and one of the toughest spice challenges I’ve faced, go to Cambodian Thai.
At first glance, Cambodian Thai isn’t the prettiest girl at the ball. The storefront sign is easy to overlook and the inside is more cramped than a Morrissey double. If you are planning on going there, I’d recommend take out, as there is barely enough room to seat 15 people in the entire restaurant and there’s hardly ever a semi-quiet moment. Adding to the college dorm feel, the “menu” overhead of the cashier is reminiscent of an old hot dog vendor sign (be sure to look at the menu on yelp or urbanspoon.com beforehand).
What they lacked in ambiance, Cambodian Thai more than made up for it in the quality and quantity of their dishes. The first time I ordered, the waitress asked about spice level for my dish. Naturally, my bold self said, “spicy,” to which she replied, “American hot, or Thai hot?” I should have taken this as a warning. I should have kept my ego and bravado in check. Instead, I thought to myself, “Challenge Accepted,” and ordered Thai hot.
Having ordered take out, the drive back from downtown South Bend was unbearable with the bags of Thai food taunting us, waiting to be eaten while smelling delicious. I had the Green Curry, which is a coconut milk based curry with chicken, eggplant, bamboo shoots and plenty of spice. Even with a full serving of rice to go with it, I had to drink 8 Grab n’ Go juice boxes to handle the “Thai hot” level of spice. Still, it was worth every (mildly painful) bite and the best curry I’ve had within 50 miles of Notre Dame (yes, that includes my house and my mother’s cooking).
Other standouts on the menu included their Panang and Red Curry, which each had solid strong flavors and as much kick as you ask for. The noodle dishes (i.e. Drunken Noodles, Pad Thai) while good couldn’t remotely compete with the curry options on the menu. The portion sizes are more than enough to split if you’re feeling generous, but also manageable if you have big appetite. Prices ranged from $6-$8 for curry dishes, and $5-$7 for noodles. They are very flexible with making dishes purely vegetarian and such, just adding to my adoration of the restaurant.
Overall, Cambodian Thai isn’t the best place to take someone out for a sit down meal, but for a relatively cheap take out option, it is my new “go to” and the best Thai food I’ve had in quite some time. Though I will recommend being conservative with your spice ratings — a friend of mine couldn’t handle what the storeowner labeled as mild.