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We review Thai Orchid offshoot Aroi Dee in Lockmeadow, Maidstone, specialising in street food


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I'm sitting hunched over, grabbing at noodles with chopsticks, and making a mix of slurping and gulping noises.

In Japan, slurping your noodles is an indication that the meal is good. If this is true, then my Thai meal must have been truly delicious.

Aroi Dee in Lockmeadow, Maidstone
Aroi Dee in Lockmeadow, Maidstone

Tasked with finding a restaurant open on a Monday night in Maidstone's town centre was a challenge.

But I make my way to Lockmeadow Entertainment Centre, along Barker Road, where inside sits a Thai street food stall called Aroi Dee.

I seek refuge in the industrial, canteen-like food hall in the entrance of the complex, which is described on the website as a "communal seating area".

In October last year the town geared up for not one, but eight unique and independent food stalls, all serving a variety of cultural cuisines.

And here I was staring at the brightly-coloured pink menu in front of me, with a lot of options to choose from.

The Thai street food stall had plenty of options to choose from
The Thai street food stall had plenty of options to choose from
Atmosphere in Lockmeadow eating hall, wasn't electric to say the least (56310638)
Atmosphere in Lockmeadow eating hall, wasn't electric to say the least (56310638)

Aroi Dee is an offshoot from the Thai Orchid brand in Maidstone and Whitstable, and owner Chutima Blakley says she wants to bring the taste of proper authentic Thai street food to the town centre.

A few minutes passed where I was umming and ahhing at what I should go for, trying to decide whether to be adventurous or not.

Trying to stray from the classics as a Brit is like attempting to choose something other than a katsu curry at Wagamama, or not ordering a takeaway every Friday night.

I opted for the duck noodle soup, as well as the sesame prawn toast (which I don't know its ethnic origins, but I am always a sucker for when ordering a Chinese).

I decided to splash out, be adventurous, and also order deep fried sweetcorn. To top it all off I went for an iced coffee, which was £3, as I had a sneaky feeling I would be needing the ice later to cool down my mouth.

£23.85 worth of food and drink from Aroi Dee in Barker Road, Maidstone
£23.85 worth of food and drink from Aroi Dee in Barker Road, Maidstone

We were told the deep fried sweet potatoes - which my mum so desperately wanted to try - were sold out so we chose the prawn crackers instead.

Picking a spot round the side from the stall, I sat down, not knowing whether it was a free for all at the counter, or a wait at your seat for your number to be called situation.

As it was just us and and one other family waiting, I went for the latter option.

The food only took around 10 minutes to be ready and seemed to be freshly prepared.

I sat craning my neck impatiently to check if it was done and ran back over when I saw the first sesame-sprinkled prawn toast pop up on the counter from afar.

Posing with my chopsticks, which I inevitably did not use after making a fool of myself
Posing with my chopsticks, which I inevitably did not use after making a fool of myself

Next came the prawn crackers and deep fried sweetcorn, and finally the soup... the pièce de resistance.

Starting on the duck noodle soup, which cost me £7.95, included what I think was egg noodles, along with roasted duck and bean sprouts in a chilli/meaty broth.

After looking up the menu on Just Eat, the dish could have been served with either rice, vermicelli or egg noodles - I unfortunately didn't get the choice offered to me at the time.

Cracking open my chopsticks, I chuckle nervously at my mum as I begin to half-stab and half-flick the soup's contents across the room.

Why do I always think I can use them? Reading the helpful instructions on the back I try a second time, and end up nearly throwing a piece of duck into my lap.

The duck noodle soup at Aroi Dee went down a treat
The duck noodle soup at Aroi Dee went down a treat

Surrendering, I shamefully grab my fork, and sit there like the hunchback of Notre-Dame, stuffing my face and enjoying every slurp.

Though not scientifically proven, I truly believe that the duck noodle soup could cure all colds.

It had the perfect amount of heat - not too hot that we couldn't taste anything, but enough that our noses ran - that's a sign of a good spice to flavour ratio.

We both had to have pit stops throughout consumption, dabbing our noses that were running faster than Usain Bolt, and gulping down our drinks before we ploughed on.

Then we dived into the two classics, the prawn crackers and sesame prawn toast, which cost £1.50 and £4.95. Each came with a sweet chilli sauce, which sadly ran out quite quickly as I am quite a generous dipper.

The crispy sesame prawn toast, costing £4.95, was a little on the small side
The crispy sesame prawn toast, costing £4.95, was a little on the small side

There was a large portion of prawn crackers, which were a light brown colour and crunched with every bite.

They were far from the bleached white, chemically preserved ones you pick up from a supermarket, and seemed somehow, I dare say, healthier? And I preferred them - so did my mum!

We had four prawn toasts, which seemed a bit on the pricer side being nearly £5, and costing roughly £1.25 each. They were very moreish, however became a little on the dry side after our reserves of sweet chilli sauce were used up.

I was slightly dubious of the deep fried sweetcorn.

To be honest, I don't like sweetcorn normally, it conjures up childhood memories of having to gnaw it off the cob and finding stringy bits stuck in my teeth three days later.

Thai prawn crackers (left) and the deep fried sweetcorn (right) both came with a sweet chilli sauce
Thai prawn crackers (left) and the deep fried sweetcorn (right) both came with a sweet chilli sauce

But I was being slightly adventurous, so I dunked a chunk in my dip and went for it. It was somehow both crispy and soft at the same time.

It didn't really taste like sweetcorn, as the batter disguised the original texture and flavour of the vegetable.

Child-me would have craved something like this, though it's not overly healthy.

Nearing the end of my meal I did end up biting down on a bit of chilli in my soup, which I had so desperately tried to avoid in my bowl as it was floating about. However, my plan of having sweet iced coffee at my side worked a treat at cooling down my palette before I finished up.

After an hour we had cleared the table, and found ourselves waddling out of the building, clutching our tummies which held our food babies - I knew we were both very content.

Aroi Dee is Thai for delicious, which seems like the perfect name for this stall to me.

Out of five:

Food: Just like the name, the food was delicious. The duck noodle soup was a smash hit. *****

Drink: Not a huge selection, with the choice being either fizzy drinks or iced coffee. ***

Decor: Lots of spaces to sit down, however a bit canteen-esque with the bright fluorescent light and school benches. Good song choices made up for the ambience. ***

Staff: The woman who served us was quiet but smiley, and happy to wait for our order whilst I deliberated. ****

Price: £23.85 for a main meal (which fed us both), three sides and two cold drinks is reasonable. The soup is worth the £7.95 price tag, but the sides are slightly more expensive. ****

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