Nick feels the heat of Rosa’s Thai Café new Southern Thailand menu

My vision is going watery, an explosive cough is threatening to scatter customers across the room and I have lost the power of speech. You can’t beat a good bit of chili, that’s for sure.

Of course Thai food is notoriously hot, a friend of mine has a Thai wife and even after all these years she has to be restrained from putting enough chilies in her cooking to fell a squad of SAS soldiers.

Rosa’s Thai Cafe has upped the game across their restaurants though by adding a Southern Thai menu to their usual one. The south being notorious even in Thailand for turning up the heat all the way to 11.

We took this as something of a challenge and so popped in to the Rosa’s Thai, Dean Street, Soho to taste a couple of the dishes,

In fact, even the standard dishes are pretty hot, I always like Papaya Salad (raw papaya, long beans, tomatoes, dried shrimp and cashew nuts) and I always like Rosa’s version. This time the dried shrimp seemed a bit low key but by all that’s holy the chili certainly wasn’t.

S looked in some amusement as I spluttered away, while quietly eating his char-grilled pork in soy and honey marinade and tamarind dipping sauce. Well the menu said tamarind sauce but it seemed to be satay sauce to us, sweet and peanuty and with no trace of the classic bitterness of tamarind. Oh well, it was still good.

There are four mains on the Southern Thai menu – smoked mackerel curry, turmeric chicken, spicy orange curry and sea bass with turmeric, and all get their heat blast from the infamous Birds Eye chilies that are largely unique to Southern Thailand. Small, almost tiny, they are total chili bombs. The two fish curries by the way are for two to share

We tried the spicy and sour orange curry with papaya chunks and prawns. This was certainly madly hot and yet not terribly exciting, the prawns had not picked up much flavour and, as a personal thing, I like to see prawns butterflied. Not only does it look good and let more flavour in, it removes the black digestive tract, a potential source of tummy trouble for some of us. 

The thin, fierce, orangey sauce was interesting though and when ladled over lots of rice became slightly calmed of its heat and was actually rather moreish. An interesting dish and not one you’ll often see.

The minced chicken, or Khua Gling, was really very good though, blindingly hot of course but in a zingy, exciting way and not too debilitating. It came with a crispy head of lettuce and was packed full of spices and flavours such as turmeric, lemon grass, lime leaves and galangal. It had me reaching for more tissues even as I kept obsessively spooning more of into my wounded mouth. It was very addictive, indeed.

We didn’t stay for dessert but we didn’t really want any, the dishes had filled us up rather efficiently and at the same time rather stunned us into a zombie like chili trance. But there are worse ways to leave a restaurant and we headed to the Dog & Duck in Soho for extra fire-quenching lagers.

If you like it hot, and you like your Thai, then this the first of Rosa’s Thai’s upcoming regional menus will certainly hit the spot.