Not too long ago, I wrote about a special little Asian restaurant in Nasr City’s 7th District (الحي السابع) called Halal City. Though it offered a wide array of pan-Asian cuisine, it doesn’t really touch upon the edible offerings of Thailand. Luckily, and because convenience is key, those interested in delving into Thai, Malay, and Indonesian cuisine to boot can literally just walk to the next building after Halal City to discover Nile Thailand.
One of the things that I find endearing about Nile Thailand is how it’s structured on the inside. The minute you walk in, you’ll feel like you walked into somebody’s home rather than a typical restaurant. Immediately ahead of the entrance is a long table with up to 8 or so seats, perfect for big gatherings, or just folks who want to eat with a bit more breathing room. You might think it odd to sit next to a stranger and tuck into your dish, but the Asian expats and students who frequent the place are nothing if not kind, courteous and respectful. There are tables to the sides as per usual, and further in near the kitchen is a larger seating area with a view at the TV, and some quaint homely knick-knacks.
Perhaps the most charming aspect to the seating options is the air-conditioned section. For a measly pound or two, you can choose to bask in the glory of the more private, air-conditioned table in its own secluded room. Charging you a pound for air-conditioning might sound funny, and it is to an extent, but I think it’s an excellent example of venture capitalism. Clearly Thai folk know how to invest. All the furniture is simple, so is the lighting, the decor, it’s all pretty lived-in. I don’t know about you, but the more it looks like somebody’s home, the more I feel at home, and the happier my appetite gets.
Me being pretty basic in terms of food, the main engine behind my exploration of all things Asian (rhymes at all times) is whether or not they serve good noodles. Good noodles, to me, are any type of noodle that isn’t made of rice. I genuinely dislike rice noodles in terms of concept and execution. That was not the case with Nile Thailand, whose noodles are (almost) entirely rice. Their selection of noodles, both fried and in a soup, is expansive to say the least. Whether you want pad thai (peanuts and all), Nile’s version of sukiyaki, or just regular old (spicy) white noodles with black sauce, all the options are fragrant, full of various spice notes and flavour combinations, and you get massive portions for pennies. Much like Halal City, spending a hundred or so at Nile Thailand means a banquet, not a meal.
The rice dishes manage to make something as mild as white rice into superb works of culinary art. Their curry fried rice, for example, is a veritable roller coaster for the body and soul. If you’d prefer it mild, go for some light egg or village fried rice, and if you don’t much care for your tongue, lips and intestines, try anything with “spicy” in it. Let it be known that you’ve been warned about how serious they are with the concept of “spicy.”
If you’re more for soup than anything chewy, then their soup selection has you covered. Containing more than just a handful of lovingly-prepared, authentic Thai stews and broths, their Tom Yam soup in particular is worth praise. Herbal, sour, tangy and warming are words I’d use to try and describe what it’s about, but unfortunately, not even my writing prowess can describe it. You’ll just have to try it yourself.
Sides aside, their main dishes are a wonderful addition to anyone’s culinary compendium (as well as their stomach). Though I’m not one for seafood, I couldn’t help but feel a slight attraction to their baked chili-garlic whole fish. If you’re more into animals that enjoy dry land, their assortment of chicken dishes offer both quantity and quality in terms of variety and flavour. Something fun that I enjoy doing is to introduce the sauce that the chicken dishes are swimming in to my noodle or rice dish. The flavours from the chicken sauce, paired with the spice and texture of the noodles, come together like rice and molokheyya, but far better.
If you’re at all familiar with Thai cuisine and street culture, you’ll know that their selection of drinks both cold and hot is impressive. Being basic (again), I usually go for syrup limau (which is essentially Malaysian pink lemonade), and occasionally I’ll go for their wonderful sweetened ice tea. To delve into the drinks section on the menu is truly a magical experience, and the colours you’ll be gulping down impart a decent sense of whimsy.
Thai food puts a healthy emphasis on presentation more than most cultures. It’s the main difference between royal and common food back in the old Thailand (Siam), and generally, when something looks nice, your mind thinks it’ll taste nice (which it almost always does).
In truth, I can barely keep track of how many guys they have working the place. There are so many at the counter, running around the restaurant and going in and out of the kitchen that you’ll never have to do any awkward gestures to garner attention. They’re extremely polite, welcoming, and can all speak and understand Arabic to a serviceable degree. They also have a sense of humour: my larger friend once asked how big their “big” size for noodles was, to which the young Asian waiter replied in Arabic “To me, it’s big. To you? Not as big, but still big.” 10 out of 10 from me.
Like I said, most noodle dishes, even for big sizes, all go for under 30-35 EGP. When you order “big,” you get big; their servings are massive for the price you pay, and the quality doesn’t falter in exchange. The main dishes can set you back a bit, but they’ll usually stay within the 50-60 EGP range, whereas some can go for a bit more. But even then, compare that to your standard night out and tell me how it fares.
Do not even try to go there if there is any Islamic holiday. On average, and including weekends, the place is pretty chill and there aren’t that many people to crowd it. But when it’s crowded, you’ll need to call in advance and reserve a table. It doesn’t help that it’s tiny as it is. Sometimes, the food might take a while to get to you, but for the quality you get, it’s a worthwhile wait. They also have a habit of adding too many peas to everything, which might not seem like a problem to you, but peas are offensive to me.
If you don’t want to declare bankruptcy, go too far away, or dress to impress your waiter, Nile Thailand is the best option you have for a healthy variety of home-made, authentic Thai, Malay and Indonesian food. The people are great, the food is exceptional, the atmosphere really makes you feel like you’re somewhere else, and they will vehemently refuse tips out of principle. Nile Thai gets a solid 4 out of 5 from me, and hopefully, a 5 for you.