In an old hotel on the city's western edge you'll find a perfect example of how pubs in our city are getting better with age.
A Cambodian chef and vegan curries: Adelaide pubs are catching up
Built in the 1840’s, the historic Mile End Hotel has gone through various iterations in its almost 200-year history but it’s the current menu we feel could be the most interesting.
The venue’s Sous Chef Sivatha Ngok, or Tha (pronounced: t-ah) as he is known by his colleagues, has been instrumental in formulating the hotel’s spicy new menu alongside Head Chef David White. Rest assured the ‘Aussie’ pub classics like breaded and fried meat remain, but Tha’s oriental influence and inclusive dishes ring true to the changing dining requirements of a serious food venue.
Tha says The Mile End’s multicultural line-up of dishes allows them to demonstrate unique flavour combinations, telling CityMag it’s what he enjoys most about being a chef.
“I like to do something different, everything is made from scratch,” Tha says.
“I like a lot of flavours infused together.”
Tha is of Cambodian heritage and says his family have always loved cooking. Beginning his career as a chef in 2001 in his home country for a year, Tha moved to France to gain experience in a French kitchen before eventually moving to Australia where he has lived for the past eight years.
The Mile End’s rustic art-deco fit out renovated a few years ago is coupled with the flair of Tha’s extensive culinary repertoire and anchored by David’s years of experience, which – combined – provide a glimpse at the true nature of contemporary South Australian cuisine. It’s a pub but with great food.
The Hotel’s beef curry dish is a culturally mixed affair which Tha says incorporates influences from Malaysia, India, Cambodia and Afghanistan. Tender and juicy meat pieces are drenched in an aromatic curry paste served with Afghan rice, a nod – we figure – to their incredibly successful neighbours Parwana just down the road.
“A lot of things [are] going on in this curry,” Tha says. “The basic curry paste [ingredients] garlic, lemongrass, ginger, coriander, mixed with a bit of Indian spice to it and a lot of tamarind paste and a lot of dry coconut. I love the flavour all together. The beef is cooked for an hour-and-a-half to make it tender and tastier.”
“I make the paste first, put the beef in together, coconut juice, tamarind paste then a slow [cooking] process.”
The white fish curry is a fragrant and modern take on the popular rice dish that is plated in a neat and simple manner. The fish is light and silky, complimented by a delicious curry paste and accompanied with cooked vegetables.
“We cook the curry paste first in coconut cream then we turn to low simmer and pour the fish into the broth, not breaking the fish – a gentle cooking process,” Tha says. “[We add] snap peas [and] baby corn and we serve it with jasmine rice. The flavour is fragrant of lemongrass, garlic, ginger and coconut cream.”
Another interesting dish on the menu is the vegan pumpkin tofu salad which is creamy in texture and fresh in flavour. “We put hummus on the bottom of the plate first and then we put quinoa, pepita nut, and pomegranate [then] seasoning it [and] lemon juice,” Tha says. “Then we throw a bit of roast pumpkin and pan-fried tofu together then finish the dish with garlic herbs.”
Other dishes The Mile End are serving up this winter include a vegan laksa, satay chicken skewers and a Mexican bowl, along with pub favourites such as schnitzels, steaks, burgers and more.
In 2019 CityMag is happy to report the good old Aussie pub has updated its operating system and now includes all the dietary and cultural requirements of a truly inclusive public house for every South Australian.
CityMag is celebrating the best food and drink businesses in Adelaide throughout July