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Can you eat Thai food?’ A waiter at one of Bangkok’s smarter eating establishments may well ask you this out of genuine concern for your well-being, doubting your ability to handle their spicier dishes. In São Paulo, though, it’s more likely to be frustrated Thai food lovers asking the question – and the answer is often no. It’s as difficult to find decent Thai in São Paulo as it is to devour a green curry without breaking a sweat. The handful of worthwhile spots are far from traditional – think long-time fusion favourite Mestiço, the Mex/Thai/Brazilian options of the excellent Obá, or the takeout-turned-restaurant Namga.
Enter Made in Thai, owned by the Brazilian chef Camila Paludi, who studied the Southeast Asian cuisine on Koh Samui island and returned hellbent on opening a no-frills Thai joint. Dispensing with decorum and with chic decor, Paludi’s focus is on the food, inspired by Thailand’s spectacular street food culture.
Simplicity is evident from the get go in the restaurant’s menu – scrawled on a blackboard over an otherwise bare white wall – and the unassuming Paludi, who cooks your order in an open kitchen.
Aside from a few Buddhist ornaments and a promising downstairs refuge, the hole-in-the-wall eatery, nestled in a small space on a cobblestoned corridor off hectic Rua Augusta, lacks the ambience and exuberance that most people might expect from a Thai restaurant, but offers a welcome respite from the area’s run-of-the-mill lunches nonetheless. And the food more than delivers on expectations.
The Khao Pad – aromatic fried rice with Panang curry (R$20) – was light and creamy, albeit a bit mild to really excite. The green curry (R$20) on the other hand – a delicious coconut milk concoction – was not quite hot enough to worry that Thai waiter, but satisfyingly spicy nonetheless. The shrimp pad Thai (R$25) was light and full of flavour, with all the requisite toppings and served with a fork and spoon. For dessert, we cooled our palates with the only Brazilian-Thai fusion dish on the menu: the brigadeiro de cidreira (R$4), a lighter, lemon-grass version of the popular Brazilian chocolate and condensed-milk sweet.
Can you eat Thai food? Yes, you can, and this compact, refreshingly simple little spot is an excellent place to do it.