A taste of Thai at Buddha Raksa, Enfield

Friday, November 29, 2013

You know those homey restaurants you visit with your family when you're little? The ones you come to so often that you become friends with the owner, who always greets you with a warm and friendly hello each time you visit (although sometimes those visits don't occur for a long time..)? Buddha Raksa, located on the busy strip of Liverpool Road near Enfield, is one of those places for us. I remember going there when I was younger with my family, and even though our visits have become sparse and infrequent, whenever we do go for dinner we're never let down by the high quality of their food and friendly service. The couple who own the place, Teedee and Tep, are lovely people whose warm welcome and greetings always make you feel right at home.

We'd come for a taste of Thai food to celebrate Dad's birthday. The menu is quite extensive, with the regular classics (Pad Thai, Green Curry, Satay) as well as a range of more real, traditional Thai dishes - the stir-fry, meat and seafood sections of the menu are quite lengthy. The restaurant isn't very big and by the time we arrived during peak dinner-hour it was at full capacity, even on a Thursday night.

Although the shopfront is quiet and unassuming, once you step inside you are greeted with a warm and brightly coloured dining area decorated with numerous paintings and pictures of Thailand in an array of bright colours. We admired the beautifully hand-crafted crockery that was set down in front of us upon being seated, with the Buddha Raksa name and lovely blue patterns flourishing the plates. The specials menu on the wall indicated a number of entrees and mains, all of which sounded wonderfully pleasant.

Miang Kaam

We had one of the entrée specials to start with - Miang Kaam, a hand-held mixture of signature Thai flavours and textures served on an edible betel leaf, meant to be eaten whole in order to savour the explosion of different tastes. With a tamarind sauce and optional chilli on the side, the package was filled with roasted coconut, peanut, shrimp, onion, ginger and lime. My mouth was too small to eat it whole, so I took it in two big bites. The flavours were wonderfully refreshing and extremely strong, with the different textures of the nuts and coconut, as well as the mushiness of the shrimp and lime supporting the perfect balance between sweet, sour and salty.

Inside of the Miang Kaam

Our first dish was Pad Nam Mun Hoy, a classic pork stir-fry with oyster sauce. The pork was tender, tasty and with just the right amount of saltiness, accompanied by broccoli, snow peas, zucchini, mushrooms and carrot. It was a good palate cleanser side dish - I loved the zig-zig shaped carrots!

Pad Nam Mun Hoy

Our other stir fry main was the Tasty Beef (listed as an entrée but ordered as a main size), which was stir fried marinated beef with soy sauce. It was, as the name suggested, very tasty - almost too much so if it weren't for the salad accompaniment and lots of rice. The beef was tender and there was lots of it.

Tasty Beef 

We always love ordering Massaman Curry whenever we go our for Thai. I don't know whether it's the wonderfully slow cooked, stringy, mouth-melting slabs of beef, the star anise-heavy rich coconut gravy, or the combination of the two together, but it's one of my all-time favourite curries. Buddha Raksa's Massaman came with a swirl of coconut milk on top as well as roasted peanuts, and the sauce had a very noticeable hint of tomato in it which was surprisingly nice. Unlike some restaurants where all you would get is a couple of pieces of beef and lots of potato, the beef serving was large enough to feed two to three as a shared meal.

Beef Massaman Curry

The dish I most looked forward to tasting was one of the main specials, a green prawn curry cooked with young coconut meat and served in a coconut shell. It arrived on the table in a spectacular manner, seafood spilling out of the top of the shell and just beckoning to be eaten. The prawns were perfectly cooked, the thin strings of ginger, soft eggplant and peas adding to the rich and subtly spicy flavour of the green coconut curry gravy. My favourite part was the young coconut - thin slivers of white, jelly-like coconut meat that didn't really have much of a flavour but were a delicious addition to the curry.

Prawn Green Curry

The four main dishes we ordered was just enough to comfortably feed our family of 5. Rice was served communally by waitresses dressed in traditional Thai costumes from a grand, silver rice bowl and topped up whenever the rice on your plate was getting low.

The table next to us ordered an interesting main of seafood or meat steamed and bundled up in foil, which it came wrapped up in on a plate. The men helped themselves to the seafood, piling it onto their plate as they pleased. We weren't quite sure what exactly it was, but we'll be sure to try it next time we visit, as well as one of the many noodle dishes or fresh Thai salads on the menu.

We were too full to have dessert, but there was the classic sticky rice and banana split on offer, as well as both normal and deep fried ice cream. What's not to love about those classic Asian-Western desserts? Upon leaving we were given after-dinner chocolates wrapped with the Buddha Raksa name and details, a ubiquitous restaurant favour that we always like to keep in our handbags or pantry for those all-too-frequent chocolate cravings.

In all the years we've eaten at Buddha Raksa, I don't remember a single bad meal or experience. The staff always seem to be pleasant and helpful, and the food consistently wonderful and tasty and without excess salt or MSG. We look forward to returning to this family restaurant and continuing to eat their wonderful food for years to come.


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