Zaap Thai in the Grand Arcade is the latest addition to Leeds’ booming street food industry. Walking in, you’re greeted by an authentic Thai atmosphere with street signs, rickshaws, and free popcorn straight from Bangkok market. Friendly staff showed us to our seats and explained the menu, giving us insight into the Thai way of life. The manager was more than helpful, suggesting everything on the menu from the Som Tum Pou Ma and crab salad, to the Guay Tiew Rua, a noodle dish with pork and liver, and everything in between. The menu is expansive but not overwhelming, and even the most bizarre sounding dishes are appealing. There is clearly a passion and an authenticity in how Zaap Thai has been created, in everything from the menu to the traditional décor.
Intending to keep with the entire experience we ordered the An Chan Soda and the Cha Yen. The former being a bright purple, sparkling butterfly pea juice and the latter was an iced Thai milk tea. The An Chan Soda was beautiful, very light and refreshing – definitely worth trying. The Cha Yen I found to be too heavy when paired with the meal, with a flavour that reminded me of almond milk that was rather sickly sweet.
To start we shared the chicken gyoza and the Sa La Pao Moo Daeng, a dish of steamed buns with roasted red pork filling. Both starters were absolutely delicious, the perfect balance between light bites and a teaser for the rest of the meal. The steamed buns were completely bizarre with a sweet pastry casing and a rich savoury pork hidden within the cloud like buns.
Within only 10 minutes of ordering and not having even finished the starters, our main courses arrive. Beautiful, aromatic, and totally filling. On recommendation from the staff we ordered the Guay Tiew Rua and the Pad See Aew Gai, a tradition Thai street food with rice noodles in a dark, sweet soy sauce and egg with chicken. We were shown how to garnish our food to suit our own tastes using a traditional Thai blend of spices and sugar. For the Pad See Aew Gai we tried half a teaspoon of sugar, half a teaspoon of the crushed chillies, and squeeze of fresh lime. This could be customised for how spicy or sweet you prefer your food. The small addition of the spices gave the meal an entirely new depth of flavour that allowed me to adjust the spice levels as I ate.
We decided to omit the liver from the Guay Tiew Rua and the staff were totally accommodating to our requests. The beautiful herbal broth was very light and full of flavour giving way to the roast pork and the noodles. Both main courses were stunning and very filling.
Overall the restaurant will definitely be on my list of recommendations, the service was prompt and the staff were all a total joy to speak to. The food was beautiful and you feel like you could be quite easily sat at a street food vendor in Bangkok Market. With reasonable prices meals averaging about£3.60 for a starter and £6.50-£7.50 for a main course depending on the dish and the type of meat used. There is no pretence to Zaap Thai; the idea behind the restaurant is quick, authentic Thai street food and it delivers exactly what it sets out to achieve.
Nicole Stewart Rushworth
Images: ataleoftwosittings.com, leeds-list.com and The Yorkshire Evening Post.