Finding Thai food in Belgium isn’t very hard. Most cities typically have one or more Thai eateries with larger cities having have a few dozen, if you count every restaurant with a link to the Land of Smiles. Finding authentic Thai food is another issue altogether, with most chefs focusing on Farang (or Foreigner) Thai Food. Just like the Chinese have done several decades ago, the Thai have adapted their recipes abroad to better suit the Western palette: sweeter, more colorful and less spicy. When looking for authentic Thai dishes, one of the restaurants that stand out is Ploy Pochana.
Ploy Pochana is located at the Van Wezembeestraat 69, right in the heart of the Asian neighborhood in Antwerp. Pochana means Royal Thai kitchen, referring to a high standard of quality, as food is supposed to be prepared at the Royal Court. Ploy is a common Thai (nick)name which can refer to the owner, the chef or the famous fictional character of Mae Ploy. In the stories of Kukrit Pramoj, Mae Ploys worked in the household of a princess in Rama V‘s household, and preserves Thai culture and heritage.
After the references to the Royal Thai Kitchen, entering Ploy Pochana is a bit of a let down, because it is a hybrid business. The front is a Thai tavern, and not a fancy one at that. Just head to the back and the scenery improves drastically. In the past, we’ve had a few issues with the friendliness of the hostess and even stayed away for a while for this reason. These issues seem to have been sorted however, with patrons welcomed with a friendly smile, currently.
The menu is elaborate and includes Isaan dishes from Thailand’s North-Eastern region, which are my personal favorite. Prices are reasonable. Even though not part of Thai culinary tradition, the menu is split into starter dishes, main dishes and deserts, which is one of the rare concessions to Western eating customs we have seen there. Personally, I prefer the dishes categorized as starters to be brought together with the main dishes, which is not a problem when requested. My only remark is that these starter dishes are rather small in size. I absolutely love Tod Man Plaa (Thai fish cookies), but just three makes for a very light course.
The main dishes are absolutely fabulous and are as close as they are served in Thailand, as I have ever seen in Europe. Please do try Nam Tok Moo (Porc Waterfall is the literal translation) I you want to try an Isaan dish. However, don’t ask it to be made Ped Ped (very spicy) if you aren’t trained at eating full Thai hotness. Medium spicy should be as hot as the untrained tongue should go, but just a little spicy (Ped nid noy) as my recommendation, for anyone new to the Thai kitchen.
Ploy Pochana is one of my fiancée’s favorite Thai restaurants in Belgium. As she is Thai, that is a guarantee to the authenticity of this restaurant.
The reason Ploy did not get a five-star rating is the presence of the tavern in front. This makes it unsuitable to invite more distinguished formal invitees to join.
Practical suggestions: Parking Zoo Antwerp (formerly known as Parking Nova) is practically across the street from Ploy Pochana and is perfect to park your car at, if you and your company do not prefer to walk very far. Do make a reservation, as the number of tables is limited and seats fill up quickly, especially in the weekend.