Three chef talking points from lunch at Smoking Goat Chicken Shop, Shoreditch

Egg Soldiers heads to Smoking Goat Chicken Shop, the Thai barbecue restaurant's month-long fried chicken transformation, discovering big, bold and comforting Bangkok street food creations
Smoking Goat's Thai fried chicken
For the month of March, rock 'n' roll Thai barbecue restaurant Smoking Goat morphed into a next-level fried chicken shop, delivering a tantalising set of new menu 'essentials' inspired by the vibrant flavours of Bangkok's bustling street food scene, specifically those of the famous 'Fah Fried Chicken' stall found on Charoen Krung Road.

The Smoking Goat team fell hard for the stall's crisp chunks of chicken, which were “steaming hot and dripping in spicy nam jim sauce”, on a recent trip to the Thai capital, with the pop-up concept's menu including Thai-style fried chicken with crispy garlic and dipping sauces; Kuaytiaw Khua, a Chinese-influenced egg, rice noodles and lardo dish; and Tom Yum Nam Sai, a hot and sour soup made with makrut lime leaves and velvet crab.

We're all about authentic Asian street food flavours at the moment, having only recently embarked on an almighty food safari across Vietnam to discover potential avenues for modern Vietnamese dish development. So we obviously made sure we were one of the first through the door at Smoking Goat's month-long Thai comfort food concept, with the bold array of flavourful small plates and chicken showstoppers typifying perfectly the team's ongoing new wave Thai food focus.

Smoking Goat's Thai-style fried chicken
Let's waste no time here: Smoking Goat's Thai-style fried chicken was something else.

Available in three portion sizes (£9, £18 and £36 - the latter being effectively a bucket's worth); the fried chicken recipe is said to be "an amalgamation of styles" from across southern Thailand, with the batter purposely thin to spotlight crispy bits of chicken skin poking through.

The batter itself contains "many, many variations of starch", with a little of it finding its way into the fish sauce marinade for "satisfyingly squidgy pockets" after being twice cooked.

And the spice blend, driven by coriander root and garlic, blew our socks off. Each ravenous, sloppy bite of the crispy-meets-succulent chicken delivered complex, altogether aromatic, slightly sweet and spicy flavours - a powerful, memorable creation.

Imagine trying something so fundamentally brilliant on a team trip abroad that it persuades you to so sharply change your output in order to house it for a whole month! This was it, and the place was packed out with punters happily covered in fried batter bits. Smoking Goat, we salute you!
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Dip, dip and away!
Smoking Goat Thai-style fried chicken dipping sauces
Arriving hand-in-hand with the limited-edition fried chicken (albeit for an extra £1.50 each) were four fantastic Thai dipping sauces.

We practically lost count of how many brilliantly complex dipping sauces we had during our week's food safari around Vietnam, and it's fair to say we've only really scratched the surface in terms of Southeast Asian condiment opportunities for the UK market. Pioneers such as Smoking Goat continue to blaze a trail, with their Chicken Shop's dip line-up comprising Nahm Prik Lemongrass, Jaew Tamarind & Smoked Chilli, Nahm Jim Green Chilli, and the ambiguously named Hot Sauce.

Pictured is the Nahm Prik Lemongrass, which delivered a floral, tangy spin on the Thai chilli sauce made of fermented shrimp paste, chillies, garlic, and lime juice. And the Jaew Tamarind option - a wicked smoky/spicy Nam Jim Jaew powered by fish sauce, tamarind paste and Thai chilli flakes.

You're absolutely right: the Insights Lab is edging towards a proper deep dive of new wave Asian condiments, dips and sauces. Watch this space.

Kuaytiaw Khua
Smoking Goat Chicken Shop's Kuaytiaw Khua
During their trip to the Thai capital, the Smoking Goat team also tackled a "legendary" Bangkok street food, Kuaytiaw Khua, at Suan Mali Chicken Noodle, found at Rong Phayaban Klang Junction.

Kuaytiaw Khua is, at its core, a fried rice noodle, chicken and egg dish cooked with lard over hot coals, with the Suan Mali version also made with pickled squid and fresh 'sen yai' noodles. Described by the team as crispy, smokey, gooey, char and pillowy; Smoking Goat made its own Kuaytiaw Khua for the 'essentials' section of the new menu, producing an Insta-worthy Kuaytiaw Khua omelette with a gooey centre of rice noodles cooked in lardo, sporting a perfect egg yolk centre.

We all agree that it very nearly stole the whole show. Mixed with crisp lettuce, flying with chopped chillies and spring onion on its crisp, wok-charred outer layer; this was pure comfort and decadence on a pink plate, with moreish flavours reminiscent of the similarly Chinese-influenced, Southeast Asian street food powerhouse, Char Kway Teow.
Trailblazer Takeaways:
  • Find comfort in creativity
    Innovative spins on old school comfort classics, from fried chicken to soft serve (also offered at Smoking Goat Chicken Shop via Spa Terminus artisans Soft & Swirly), are huge hits with UK consumers, with broadening palates opening up new, exciting avenues for globally-inspired, nostalgia-driven dish development.

    Consider Smoking Goat, boldly finding a middle ground within the fried chicken concept - both a Thai street food staple and a go-to UK comfort food. This won't be the last iteration we see on the UK market.
  • Dips for the win
    As mentioned, we've only scratched the surface in terms of Southeast Asian dips, sauces and condiments for the UK market.

    It's a remarkably complex, diverse and dynamic arena for food developers, both in retail and hospitality, with Smoking Goat notably placing its fried chicken dips second from top on its menu, rather than being lost at the bottom - clearly signifying their importance to the whole show.
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