In normal times, the four walls of Thai Aroy Dee are nothing short of a haven. Surrounded by twinkling lights, strips of tinsel (present all year) the scraping of wooden chairs and the happy shouts of fellow diners nearing the end of their second bottle of Sainsbury’s own prosecco, this is the place for joyful evenings – no matter what the day has held.
But as we’re well aware, these are far from normal times. So while my friends and I pine for the wonderful chaotic order of the restaurant itself, Deliveroo comes to the rescue once more.
It’s a Friday night, and I’m scrolling the Thai Aroy Dee menu on my phone. I’m not sure why – I know the hundred-plus dishes like the back of my hand, but something about it brings me joy. If I close my eyes, I’m there, sipping my shop-bought wine and salivating over a giant pile of noodles, in anticipation of a bill that will, without doubt, have us all exchanging enthralled glances and whispering, ‘so cheap!’ as if this secret is ours to keep.
Thai Aroy Dee has a yummy range of starters – sweet satay chicken, juicy homemade prawn toast and pork spareribs are just a few of the highlights. But if I were you, I’d go big on the sides – or even order an extra main to share. Obviously, it’s your choice, but the main section of the menu is where the hearty flavours really come alive. Here, you’ll find traditional Thai cooking and some stuff to send your taste buds into overdrive. This is a menu that demands your time.
At the end of this particular week of lockdown two (or is it three? I lose track), we order a variety of dishes to share. First up is Pad See Eew, my personal favourite of the noodle dishes. This one comprises thick-cut noodles, egg, veg and a meat of your choosing soaking in a gloriously sweet soy sauce.
Our other main dish appears on the menu as Goong Pad Sam Sahai – but the digital nature of food ordering in 2020 saves me the embarrassment of trying to pronounce that. It’s a fresh dish, in which king prawns sit alongside mushrooms, mangetout and baby corn in a sesame oil-based sauce. With a bit of jasmine rice to soak up the juices, it’s the simplicity of this dish that I love. Perfectly al dente veg with tender prawns and a light, savoury sauce. I’m almost back among the tinsel.
Side-wise, we’re on the veg hype, with pad broccoli (stir-fried broc with fresh chilli garlic and oyster sauce) adding a delicious bite of freshness to our meal. But there’s one more dish, and it’s a clear hero. The dish we pine for – lockdown or no lockdown. The dish scratched on Thai Aroy Dee’s looming chalkboard in Thai and English – the highlight of every meal there and the one that keeps us coming back for more. If you know, you know – it’s the morning glory with belly pork, or pad pak boong. Words can’t describe this dish and its power of salvation. There’s something in the smokiness, achieved only by the high heat of Thai Aroy Dee’s flames. Something in the heat of the chili, the intense hit of garlic, the umami that starts a party in your mouth as you smile and reach for another heaped spoon.
So all in all, a pretty good takeaway from Leeds’ favourite, Thai Aroy Dee. This place is one of the City’s absolute gems – honest and authentic, with happier prices and happier customers. This indie is well-deserving of your time, your money and your taste buds.
Photographs by Kate Ryrie. Feature photograph is Morning Glory.