Thai Culinary | Tarng
We’ll dive into the realm of cheap eats in Melbourne’s CBD. I’ll cover two places today, one is Korean, the other is Thai. And both places are close to each other. I wanted to title this post “CBD Ethnic Showcase”, lol… but decided to give it a more proper title.
This place took a bit of convincing before I decided to visit. I’m that skeptical about Thai food in Melbourne.
It was Vicky who first told me late last year that the food here is pretty good. Then quite recently, both Kelly and Fakegf also said it’s worth a visit. So we organised dinner on a Sunday night a few months ago.
Thai Culinary lies on that stretch of cheap student joints along Elizabeth Street, near Queen Victoria Market. In fact, it is neighbours with my nostalgic favourite, Rose Garden BBQ Shop.
Thai Milk Tea
The eatery is small, narrow, shiny, cheap and bright. You enter, eat, and leave. A one dish meal will cost less than $15 here, with big serving sizes. Cheap and cheery!
Som Tam (Crab) $14.00
Shredded paw paw sprinkled with ground shrimp, peanuts
We shared Kelly’s favourite dish, the papaya salad with crab. Sadly, we weren’t as keen on it. It lacked spiciness, and the crabs were also odd-tasting. I was expecting tiny edible soft shell crabs. Instead, we got crabs with quite stiff shells that were hard to chew or swallow. And they had an odd seafood-slash-jetty flavour to it with preserved medicinal hints.
All that said, Kelly still loved this salad. I watched with wonderment (and slight horror) as she ever-so-daintily ate all the crabs… shells and all!
Tom Yum Fried Rice with vegetables, tofu and egg $11.00
Thai Style Fried Rice with pineapple, chicken, vegetables and egg $11.50
Kelly and Mark both ordered fried rice as their one dish meal. Mark finished his giant plate of pineapple fried rice without comment. I had a small sample of Kelly’s tom yum fried rice and it was very fragrant, tangy and nice.
And just to give you an idea of the serving size, my photo above features Kelly’s hands… measuring up the enormous plate of rice.
Pad Kee Mao Noodle (Chicken) $9.50
Stir fried spicy dish with holy basil, capsicum, bamboo, onion, egg and fresh chilli
Fakegf opted for a ‘spicy’ noodle dish. We agreed that the spice levels were mild, and the noodles were too sweet.
Fakegf previously had the spicy fried chicken ribs here and it was delightfully spicy, so she was surprised and quite crestfallen that her noodles were so mild this time.
Pad Prik Gang (Beef) $9.20
Stir fried spicy dish with red curry paste, holy basil and vegetables
I selected this dish because the menu describes it as ‘spicy dish’ with ‘red curry paste’. As expected, it wasn’t spicy enough, and the dish was once again on the sweet side. Still, I thought it was quite tasty, moreish, and easy to finish.
I think Thai Culinary is yet another joint in Melbourne that caters to the Australian palate, with mild, non-spicy dishes that leans towards being boringly sweet. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I was personally disappointed by this visit. I’m looking for spicier, punchier flavours. C’mon, Melbourne!
The menu, however, is quite extensive. So maybe there are other dishes in there that may satisfy. It’s also very affordable… a perfect place for students to have a big feed cheaply. As pictured above, both Kelly and Fakgf could not finish. The servings were that huge!
32 A’ Beckett St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9639 4456
A couple of weeks later, I caught up with Ees here.
Tarng is about 5 mins walk from where Thai Culinary is, below a block of new apartments on A’Beckett St. I find the decor here quite cute… plastic sunflowers on black walls… lol.
I used to dislike living in the CBD… but these days, I’m beginning to appreciate the perks that go with living in the heart of Melbourne. So much cheap good food can be found within walkable distance.
Tarng is another cheapish, no-frills Korean eatery. But this one specialises in hot pots. That means no Korean BBQ here, which is perfect for me. It means you don’t leave the place with your clothes reeking of meat-smoke.
Kimchi Pancake $9.80
Ees and I shared a kimchi pancake as an entrée. I half expected something like an okonomiyaki, but it’s more a kimchi dough-cake wrapped with fried egg.
It was alright… tangy and spicy from the kim chi, with odd mushy bits of kimchi-mixed dough. Ees and I liked the tanginess but not its mushy texture. If this is how Korean pancakes are supposed to be like, I’ll skip this dish in the future.
You have the option for individual hot pot (Tarng) dishes, or larger hot pots for sharing. The larger hot pots come with a portable stove and are served in a large flat ‘wok’ with all the ingredients already inside.
There are more things on the menu besides hot pots, including bibimbaps, which from previous visits I found were very good.
Ginseng Chicken Tarng $18.00
Chicken with ginseng, sticky rice, garlic in clay pot
For this visit, we went with individual serves. Ees’s ginseng chicken soup was really really good, I had dish envy here.
The broth was thick, rich, and gently herbal with fall apart pieces of succulent chicken. And even though the individual tarngs don’t come with a portable stove, I noticed that Ees’s bowl was still steaming at the end of the meal.
Special Tarng $14.50 Pork bone, Chinese cabbage and potato in spicy base
I went with the ‘Special Tarng’, which turned out to be very similar to the pork spine soup that I had at Mr. Lee last year. Earthy, warming, and gently spicy. Very comforting for winter months. The pork flesh wasn’t as tasty as Mr. Lee’s, but it was still a satisfying dish.
Can I just add here that I found the thin, slippery metal chopsticks really difficult to wield? I don’t know how the Koreans do it… but I guess I only have myself to blame for not having respectable chopstick skills despite growing up in Singapore.
For some reason, I really like Tarng. The hot pots are good, the kim chi soup and the bibimbaps here are good too. A few doors down, there’s another Korean place called Darac. I’m very keen on trying that place too.