Back in the early 1990s, some friends from Perth who had moved to Sydney used to say “Thai is to Sydney what Mexican is to Perth”. While cheap Thai food was hard to come by here, it was everywhere in Sydney.
A couple of decades on and there is no shortage of Thai food in Perth, with relative newcomer Sa-Lung Thai Cafe moving into the subdivided former premises of That Little Mexican Place in North Perth.
It’s the result of three Thai friends, Nujaree Limsuthasee, Sunisa Sompong and Anyarin Titiporntanyawong, uniting to bring the authentic tastes of Thai street food to local customers who are treated like friends and family.
“So many people tell me it is like eating in Thailand — the taste takes them back to childhood,” Limsuthasee said.
Some of the crockery and recipes used at Sa-Lung Thai came from the Bangkok restaurant of her late mother.
“My mother came from a humble background; she learnt how to cook from her mother and was selling food on the street when she met my father,” Limsuthasee said.
“For as long as I can remember, my father was always in plastics and my mother had a little coffee shop where she sold her duck noodles.
“When my family came into financial difficulties, it was my mother’s cooking and her duck noodles which helped turn our fortunes around for our family.
“So this recipe means a lot to me and my family because it inspires me to be optimistic even when times are tough.”
Limsuthasee moved to China to study and the only way to get the food she loved from home was to cook it for herself.
She was soon in demand to cook for friends as well, who brought Thai ingredients to Shanghai for her.
She moved to Perth to study English and settled here after meeting her future husband.
The trio met while working as waitresses at the iconic Dusit Thai restaurant, and Limsuthasee and Sompong previously ran a Thai food stall at the Wanneroo Markets.
“Many of our dishes have a unique story behind them,” Titiporntanyawong said.
“For example, the Sa-Lung duck noodles are a tribute to Nujaree’s mother. Other dishes are items which we found other Thai food spots don’t have.
“We make a point of educating customers about the flavours to expect in a dish. We love teaching people how to eat Thai street food as it’s intended.”
Popular dishes include entree chicken wings and spring rolls based on recipes from Limsuthasee’s mother, nham phrik pla raa fired rice served with homemade fermented salmon, and Bangkok chicken rice with ginger sauce.
Of the six noodle dishes, the duck noodles are the most popular but the su kho Thai also appeals to many because of the sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours and the crispy wonton skin laid on top.
The friends settled on the Fitzgerald Street location after almost two years of searching.
The name Sa-Lung means “small change” — with entrees priced at $7.90, most mains under $20 and a daily special from Monday-Wednesday.
Sa-Lung Thai Cafe is at 382 Fitzgerald St, North Perth. It opens daily for lunch from 11am-2.30pm and dinner from 5-9pm.