Lakkana Thai restaurant. An authentic Thai restaurant in Braga. If you’re like me, you might be thinking, “Ok. There are a lot of transplants here in Portugal. This must be a family owned restaurant. Their last name is Lakkana and they emigrated here from the Thailand.” That’s logical. You may have even expanded your imagination to include a couple, now in their early 60’s, who came to Portugal years ago. With meager savings they bought their first little shack of a restaurant, ate nothing but rice for the first few years and slept on four sacks in the back…you get the picture. As romantic as that may sound, that’s not quite the truth.
The only Thai that Braga native Luís Ferreira has in him is a heart that loves the Land of Smiles. Prior to opening Lakkana, he was in the bar business. Specifically a bar owner. This may explain why one gets the feeling of stepping into an English (sorry) a Portuguese pub when you first walk through the door at Lakkana.
After many successful years serving drinks, in 2014 he decided to start serving food. His love for all things Thai and the absence of his favorite food in his own home town led his to an obvious conclusion. But to do justice to the food, he needed a cook. A Thai cook. Enter Dang. Yes, that’s her real name. Actually, it’s a nick name. I’m told that her Thai name is 47 characters long containing 46 vowels.
Originally from the Khon Kaen province in Northwest Thailand, Dang attended culinary school in Bangkok before coming to Portugal and landing in Cascias. She working in a resort when she was recruited away by Luís. Although her menu spans the whole of Thailand, she admits to a northern bias. All of the recipes are her own, and let me tell you. Her cooking is, (wait for it) Dang good! Sorry, but how could I NOT use that one? While the majority of her ingredients are locally sourced, there are a few items that are brought back from Thailand. These include teas, banana leaves and secret spices Dang uses in her homemade curries and sticky rice.
Only 2 minute walk from the cathedral, Lakkana is one of those places that you either plan to visit, or you stumble across. But find it you should. The location itself is worth a stop. Reminiscent of a Brownstone, the building is narrow and tall. Owing to Luís’ prior life, a well-stocked bar occupies the first floor. Here you can enjoy you libations while the smells from Dang’s kitchen get your stomach growling. Garlic and onion, curry and coriander, grilled meat and ginger. Ascend the switch-back staircase to the dining area above. Two floors of intimate Thai seating; one with big, cozy cushions.
So what to order. Most restaurants have a signature dish, or house specialties. Dang describes her menu as a starting point and her kitchen as a lab. Tell your server what you like, and she will create it. Look to the menu as a suggestion, but from there tell her team how to create your masterpiece. A tall order to be sure. But we were up for the challenge.
We began with Popiah (Thai spring rolls), Koong Tod (won-ton wrapped shrimp) and shrimp toast (grilled shrimp paste with cream cheese). The spring rolls had a nice crunch to them. The wrappers light and crisp. Not at all greasy or heavy. The vegetable filling was slightly sweet. The shrimp were tender and succulent. Simple and light. But the shrimp toast (I have no idea what these are called in Thai) were really extraordinary. They were hot and cheesy and creamy. Fabulous. All three were served with a sweet sauce. Now for the main event!
Beef with oyster sauce. Tender, thin sliced meat with mushrooms, broccoli, onion and carrot. Topped with a slightly salty hearty au jus-lke sauce.
Chu Chi Goong – Red curry with prawns and coconut milk. This was amazing! Just the right amount of fiery spicy extinguished by the creamy coconut milk. I could have swam in that sauce, but I used the sticky white rice instead.
Pad Thai Goong – Fried rice noodles with egg, prawns, soy beans, peanut & Thai sauce. This was recommended as a dish to have if you have no idea what you want or if you have never had Thai before, but even if you are a Thai food veteran, you cannot go wrong with this. Egg noodles, fresh veggies and sweet/spicy Thai sauce. A heaping pile of Thai comfort food.
OK. I admit. If I were visiting Braga for the first time, and I didn’t think my travels would allow me to return, I wouldn’t even consider a Thai restaurant. I mean, I’d be looking for Portuguese food. But if you’ve had your fill of bacalhau, farinheira and eggs on everything (God love ‘em), and you’re looking for something VERY different, Lakkana is a gem that you will treasure. They do offer take-away, and delivery is through Comer em Casa
Oh, And as for the name Lakkana? Although there is a connection to deity, it’s also a common Thai surname. So there ya go!