Review: Tuk Tuk in Hongdae
Yeonnam-dong, just off Hongdae, is very trendy these days, which is enough to make me hesitant to go there, since I’m about as trendy as cardigans and corduroy (both of which I am planning to wear this weekend). But I make an exception for food, so I’ve been to check out Tuk Tuk, a Thai place that’s made lots of waves since it was opened a while back.
Tuk Tuk is part of a small but growing chain of Thai restaurants in the area which also include Soi, just down the street.
The interior is really nice, the lighting a little bit dim – this is a decent place to take a date. My lunch date was focused solely on the food, which was good because I was hungry. Service, despite the numbers of people still showing up towards 2pm, was pretty fast.
The menu is extensive – so many pages, in fact, that I’ve parked it at the bottom of this post as there are too many photos to put in the middle here.
Those little deep-fried shrimp cakes are a favourite whenever I go to a Thai restaurant. I can certainly say that these were among the best I’ve had. They’re often rubbery, but these were incredibly light and fluffy.
With a soy sauce dip to make them a bit more interesting, they disappeared quickly.
On both of my visits, I’ve had a dish of spicy stir-fried flat noodles, which comes with your choice of chicken, pork, beef or prawn. The chilli in this is real and noticeable. I was less wild about the addition of carrots, cherry tomato and broccoli, none of which are vegetables I’ve encountered in my travels in Thailand. Nevertheless, authentic or not – and “authentic” is a much-abused term, and everyone knows that there’s a massive difference between northern and southern Thai cooking, and most stir-fries in Thailand are basically Chinese recipes anyway, and yadda yadda yadda, there were cherry tomatoes in the noodles – it’s not a bad dish, but I don’t know that I’d order it again.
The chicken panaeng curry was somewhat more successful. The foundations of this curry is a paste of peanuts and spices which are cooked in coconut milk to make a nutty, salty-sweet sauce. This version was… not bad. I would have liked a bit more spice – panaeng curry isn’t hot even when done properly, but this was quite anaemic. Luckily there are the usual dried and vinegar-soaked fresh chillies at the table to amp things up. No sign of any basil in the sauce, either, which was a fault – those green bits in the photo are chopped lime leaves.
Even though I would have wanted a richer, spicier sauce – and indeed, after years struggling with the recipes in Thai Cooking, by David Thompson, I can make a better version myself – it was still pretty more-ish. For 10,000 won (which includes a bowl of boiled rice), it was also decent value. It was consumed very quickly.
A meal for two, with one appetiser and two mains (and no drinks), was around 30,000 won – not cheap, but not extortionate either. Given that we both left satisfied, I’d say it was fair value for money. But I noticed that there were a lot of pretty pricey menu items on there – literally everyone at every other table was eating a yellow soft shell crab curry which sells for 27,000 won, and they are flogging glass noodle salad with a BBQ’d half chicken for 24,000, which is surely just taking the piss. So, your mileage may vary.
Afterwards we repaired to Coffee Libre, which is just round the corner and worth checking out.
Overall? A mixed bag. I’ve enjoyed both my lunches there, but both meals seemed less impressive when I looked back on them later. The stir-fry was tasty but nothing special, the curry likewise. I felt that the food has been Koreanised somewhat. I want to go back again and try more menu items before I make a definitive judgement, but for the time being, I’d say Tuk Tuk is worth a visit, but not worth the hype. Amazing Thailand, on the other side of Hongdae, remains my go-to for Thai food.
- Category: Thai
- Price: $$$$
- Must try: Shrimp cakes
- Subway: Hongdae (Hongik University / 홍대역) exit 3.
- Directions: From exit of Hongdae station, walk up towards the intersection (away from Hongdae) and into Yeonnam-dong. You’ll come to Tuk Tuk after five minutes or so – look for a sign above a GS25, and it’s just tuck-tucked in to the right (see what I did there?), down in the basement. Coming from outside Hongdae, it’s much quicker by bus – the 110 or 740 from Noksapyeong both drop you within sight of the front door – just get off at the first stop after the bus turns right at Hongdae station.
- Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 12:00-10:30.