When my office first moved to Surry Hills back in 2011, I really liked Muum Maam. This week I gave them three chances to remind me why, but was left wondering whether this group, started by former graduates, had forgotten all of their Spice I Am lessons...
By day Muum Maam is a Thai hawker-style outlet, with orders placed at a little wooden food cart and most diners claiming their place on a long central table.
Kicking off on day one with a classic, I ordered the Sen Jan Pad Thai ($17) with prawns. Sen chan is the name for the Thai rice noodles, named for the Chanthaburi Province and created during a World War II rice shortage. My modestly-sized plate of thin rice noodles and four lightly-cooked prawns sits under a nest of juicy, fresh bean sprouts.
The plate is lined with chilli powder, peanuts and a lemon wedge, but even applying them all, including a good dousing of sharp citrus, can’t save me from all the sugar. Lightly speckled with egg, a few scarce pieces of chopped firm tofu, and a scattering of dried shrimp, the noodles are, quite frankly, boring. I finish the serve mostly because it's small, I’m hungry and I hate wasting food.
On my second visit, I pad out a salad with two plump Rice Paper Rolls ($8). While textural cold slices of roast duck are the hero ingredient, they’re padded out with greens and vermicelli, with fresh mint being the dominant note. Dragged through a sweet soy dressing that’s so thin it drips everywhere, they're fine without being particularly inspiring.
Larb Chicken ($14) is a rubbly chicken salad made with chicken mince and ground roasted rice powder, broken up with coriander, mint, red onion and thin rings of spring onion. It’s presented with an undressed handful of green leaves, and has a slight tremor of chilli on the back palate.
Once again I’m bored and looking for sriracha halfway through the plate. Where are the toasted, dried red chillies? Where’s the fragrance from kaffir lime, lemongrass and galangal?
On my third – and I suspect, final – visit, I break with my tradition of ordering dishes as the chef wishes to cook them, and ask for the Salmon Choo Chee Curry ($17) hot.
Under a lake of yellowish, coconut-dominated sauce sits an overcooked, deep fried salmon fillet with a wide brown bloodline sitting under its crisp skin. It’s resting on steamed greens - snow peas, snake beans and one of the choys - next to a mound of jasmine rice. Despite faint red flecks, there’s no heat to this curry, even after specifically requesting some. The end result is - once again - one-note sweet with none of the nuance you’d expect from fish sauce and kaffir lime.
While back in 2011 I thought Muum Maam was a Thai standout, there are now better places to eat Thai food, even in this little nook of Surry Hills. I miss the pungent, piquant dishes they began with.
Shop 1, 50 Holt Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9318 0881