Hat Yai offers a southern style Thai fried chicken. Hat Yai specifically is named after another Hat Yai – a Southern Thai city of that same name near the Malaysian border. Foods from the South of Thailand have influences from Malaysia in the, as well as India – and this will be clearly apparent in the food at Hat Yai PDX.
Hat Yai restaurant is a sibling to Paa Dee (which I highly recommend) and ticketed “back of the house” LaangBaan (which has many months of reservations booked out already). Fortunately, Paa Dee and Hat Yai are easily accessible to everyone, particularly Hat Yai which is a counter style service restaurant and the most casual of the three. Plus, if like me, you’re a little paranoid about eating this messily outside with the public, you can totally get this delivered via Postmates (if you haven’t joined yet, sign up here and you get free delivery up to $10 and so will I if you enter my invite code 1I24N). I’ve done this on rainy nights or cold days and its ultra convenient instead of me trekking to the opposite side of town from where I live!
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can get the Vegan Curry Combo. The curry is a rich Malayu style curry – if you’ve had Massaman curry before, that is what this curry will be slightly reminiscent of, an earthier curry flavor that is a bit nutty and isn’t spicy. In fact, the name of the curry, Massaman curry, supposedly may have come from the Malay word masam so you can see it has close origins.
Although this is served with roti, it will be unlike Indian roti in that Thai style the roti is pan fried and a bit more crispy on the outside and a little greasier. You will need a couple napkins as you rotate between spoonfuls of the curry broth with vegetables and tearing and dipping the roti into the curry. Do be aware that the roti is not vegan – you should ask for sticky rice instead. A few pickled sides offers some respite from the richness.
If you are eating here for their fried chicken, prepare for even more napkins. Maybe even 2 wetnaps in addition. Hat Yai uses Mary’s free range chicken, and you can get a Hat Yai Fried Chicken order that offers fried chicken topped with crispy fried shallots accompanied by a sweet chili dipping sauce and sticky rice.
Here it is with two chicken wings, but you also have the option of a leg quarter, half chicken, or whole chicken. You can see the chicken wings are a nice size! However, if I visited again I would stick with only ordering from the Curry and Roti set section of the menu if you want fried chicken because I think the roti and curry are an important component of flavors to alternate with vs just having rice and the sauce.
So my recommendation is go for a Curry and Roti Set where the fried chicken also comes with roti and curry, too in addition to what’s in the Fried Chicken Combo. No matter what the combo, rest assured that all of it is meant to be eaten with your hands, be it smushing some rice between your fingers and dipping it into the curry, or chunks of chicken.
The Hat Yai Combo #5 includes with Mary’s free range chicken a leg, thigh, and a wing, served with sticky rice, roti, and a rich Malayu style curry broth. This is my favorite because I am a fan of juicy chicken thighs and there’s lots of meat to tear and smush into sticky rice and or dip in curry or chili sauce.
For a break in between chicken, consider a Skirt steak skewer. They are marinated in Golae style with coconut milk and chili paste for tenderness and spiciness. I was super happy I ordered this because it’s a wonderfully intense skewer in terms of flavors.
Another good side dish option, though you’ll have to grab a spoon instead of continuing to eat with your hands with everything listed above is the simple sounding but amazing Sauteed Cauliflower and Egg. If you are vegetarian, you could just eat this side with rice and make it a meal too. Make Make you get in a little egg in each of your Cauliflower bites.
They have a few other main dishes too, but I only sampled the above and the Muu Hong (a rice dish with braised pork shoulder and pork belly with fried egg on top) because honestly of course you get the chicken. I do like the Muu Hong because it is very authentic to what I have had in Thailand, but for American tastes I do recognize it is bit fatty but in Thailand this can be how the dish is.
After the crispy goodness of chicken or spicy skewers, finish your meal with something sweet: dessert roti. The traditional way is with condensed milk and Milo, which is a chocolate drink I remember fondly drinking as a kid all the time, a bit like Asian Ovaltine. This is my other don’t miss recommendation besides the chicken curry rice roti combo.
Hat Yai offers unique sweet spreads to go on top of the fried dough like an Asian version of funnel cake without the powdered sugar that gets all over your face. For toppings you may see the traditional condensed milk (which is what I remember from my trips to Thailand), or the specials like Pandanus custard, Cashew Nutella, Kaffir lime / lemongrass / jackfruit jam, berry jam, or lime / ginger caramel with toasted coconut with the recent addition of bad-ass pastry Chef Maya Erickson to the team concocting genius combos. If you’ve never tasted pandan, it is a very typical flavor in Southeast Asian desserts and pandan is a leaf – it tastes a bit sweet like banana leaf. Below you see the condensed milk on the left and the pandanus custard with toasted coconut (an extremely typical combo) on the right.
Have you been to Hat Yai or had Southern Thai food before? Do you use Postmates and who is your favorite to order from?