Northern Exposure

I try to post something every two weeks or so, but with the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej last week, it seemed silly to natter on about noodles while the country was still newly mourning. Don’t get me wrong, it is always silly to natter about noodles, but sometimes that is all that we (I) have.

One of the great silver linings about taking taxis in Bangkok is the opportunity to listen to whatever the taxi driver is listening to during a traffic jam. What we were listening to was a very long, involved radio interview with a royal palace cook hailing from Suphanburi, because Thais are fascinated by what royalty like to eat. What I learned was that the King was partial to a nice piece of steamed fish paired with Hollandaise or a lemon sauce, simple Thai culinary standbys like gang som (Southern-style sour curry), and childhood favorites from his time in Switzerland, taught to the cook personally by Princess Srinagarindra, the King’s mother. It was nice to know that the King was fond of dishes from his childhood, too.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you will probably know that I like to wax poetic on my own childhood favorite, kanom jeen nam ngiew, a Northern Thai noodle dish that my father used to call “Thai spaghetti”. In the North, it is typically made with the fermented Mon-style rice noodles found all over the South called kanom jeen, but you can also find it served with rice noodles, just like they appear to do in Laos (where, to make things more interesting, they call it “kao soi”): a stew of minced pork with tomatoes, chilies, shallots, and garlic over a base of fermented soy beans and topped with bean sprouts and coriander leaves.  In the North, they add well-stewed pork ribs, cubes of congealed pork blood and the requisite dok ngiew, witchy-looking blossoms that resemble broomstick ends and bring a chewy texture and floral taste to the brew. If one is lucky, the ribs have been cooked until the bones have nearly disintegrated into the sauce, the blossoms are thick and plentiful, and the dish comes to you with a generous dusting of deep-fried garlic. And if you are really lucky, the chef has been liberal with the tua nao, the fermented soybean discs that form the basis for flavor in Northern Thai cooking, much like gapi (shrimp paste) in the Central region and pla rah (fermented Thai anchovy) in the Northeast.



Eating the namesake dish at roadside vendor Nam Ngiew Nua Sud Sud

One reason I find a lot of the Northern Thai food lacking in Bangkok (especially with this dish) is that no one wants to bother using tua nao, thinking the Chinese yellow bean sauce (thao jiew) is good enough. I am here to tell you that is not true. And at Raan Nam Ngiew Nua Sud Sud (meaning “Northernmost Nam Ngiew”, Soi On Nut 12, 081-741-8917) … they also do not use tua nao, rendering the sauce just-ok-but-good-enough-because-there-is-nothing-better-in-Bangkok. But their larb kua (a minced beef dish cooked Northern-style with plenty of liver and a heavy chili paste base) is off the hook, the best I’ve had outside of the North: properly ponderous, slightly bitter from the deep-fried garlic, thick with the deep dark flavor you would expect to find in a place like Chiang Rai.


What my dad calls “larb muang”

Of course, they also offer khao soy, because what is a nam ngiew stand in Bangkok without the ubiquitous curried noodle dish? Through my Wikipedia research, I have just learned that Northern Thai khao soy most corresponds to the Burmese dish ohh no kao swe. 


Khao soy

And, in a shoutout to my brother Sutree, the all-important Northern Thai accompaniment of nam prik ong, a chili relish most like Bolognese sauce in the Thai culinary lexicon, except with a fermented soybean base:


Nam prik ong

Is this stuff going to change the life of a Northern Thai food lover whose best memories center around eating these dishes? No, of course not. It’s hard to compete with one’s childhood, and to prepare for the change that inevitably lies ahead. It’s good enough for now, though.


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Glutton Abroad: KL overload


Malaysian ice kacang at Madame Kwan’s

One of the best things to have happened to me this year is learning that I am allergic to almost everything. Instead of the usual old response to “how are you doing?” (which was “I’m okay I guess aslfjasklfnbj;js ……..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”), I can now regale people with fascinating insights on not being able to eat gluten, dairy, asparagus, almonds, mustard, cashew nuts, etc. It gives me a good 10 minutes of cocktail conversation at least. Sometimes people lose track and offer me a sour cream dip or cheese afterwards, but I don’t blame them, because the list is so very long — who can be expected to remember all that? I myself keep a list handy whenever I forget (which is often):



I am supposed to stay away from these things for six months, and indulge occasionally in some of the others every 3 or 4 days or so. The idea is to gradually reintroduce these offending ingredients into my diet in a controlled manner. In all honesty though, I eat eggs and coconut probably every other day — how else would I be able to eat Thai food otherwise? — and the rest … well, I now know that I’m allergic to them. And when I overindulge? Let’s just say I still bear the traces of my last two indiscretions on my chin, in the form of zits named “4 slices of Domino’s Pizza” and “pecan pie”.

So when I decide to fall off the wagon, it’s a real, conscious decision with pros and cons: pros (I will be happy), cons (I will look like I have leprosy). On my trip to Kuala Lumpur for my friend May’s birthday, I choose to go it whole hog, as it were, for as much as I can.

There are places we never miss while in KL, such as Overseas and their Chinese roast suckling pig, sliced into crispy fat-backed squares, laid atop a mound of sticky rice and served alongside steamed white buns and gravy boats (gravy boats!) of Malay-style curry.  But May always tries to mix it up with dishes we haven’t tried before, and although that list gets smaller every time we visit, there are still, unbelievably, things there.

Such as Ipoh-style chicken and noodles. Where we go (creatively named “Ipoh Chicken Rice”), we try all the things we are meant to, even though it is our second lunch of the day after a quick “breakfast” (15 minutes ago) of succulent pork belly char siu with a side of stir-fried thread-like egg noodles and a plate of gossamer cooked lettuce leaves. We eat the stir-fried bean sprouts, Ipoh’s best, awash in a light sour-salty sauce and a platter of chicken with meat so custardy that it barely resembles meat:


Ipoh Chicken Rice’s chicken and sprouts

Plus the noodles. As a Thai, I am supposed to say that they were bland and strangely resistant to chewing, but as a Glutton, I can say that their texture was strangely addictive, bouncy and sweet from all the shallots.


At Kukus (26, Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 1, Taman Tun Dr., 03-7731-3559), open only three months ago, we go batshit crazy and each order what can only be described as a gigantic circular tray of rice (150 g or 300 g’s worth of 100 percent Basmati rice, take your pick) topped with various types of sambal ranging from sweet vegetarian to a slightly spicy dried fish version and incredible fried chicken (“worthy of a Southern matron,” says my friend Nat).


The “Kapitan”, with four types of sambal and two eggs

There was also a rice dish hailing from Malaysia’s Northeast, where the Thai influence is strong, and the chilies are more predominant. The rice is colored lavender with butterfly pea extract, a dollop of curry rests alongside it, and the “salad” accompanying it resembles a spicy-tart Thai “yum” in taste, melding the textures, smells and flavors that both Thailand and Malaysia are known for.


My favorite dish of the trip, however, may be the spicy crab at Sweet Inn (18 Jalan SS20/10 Damansara Kim, 03-7732-6623), where freshly cooked crab is stopped with a mixture of deep-fried shallots, garlic, scallions, flour and plenty of salt and sugar to form a dish that is better than anything that Under Bridge Spicy Crab in Hong Kong could ever come up with.


Yet it is with a feeling of something like relief when I get on the plane to get back to Bangkok. Not just because I will have to detox for days before approaching anything like normalcy again, but also because there is something else popping up on my chin that will soon get big enough to develop its own allergies. Time to call it a day.



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Disappearing Thailand

There are few things that people dislike more than whatever makes them feel old. So although Drake seems like a very nice guy with lovely taste in shoes, I have to say that I want to jump out a window every time I hear him on the radio (I would never voluntarily put him on (except for “Hotline Bling” (OK GRANDMA))) because I for the life of me cannot understand why anyone would enjoy listening to that. Does it seem to you that he’s just mumbling over the top of a track laid down by that band that played at your cousin’s bar mitzvah because they offered a 10 percent discount? Mumbling, but without his headphones on, so his words have nothing to do with the beat? Mumbling about his feelings, which you don’t care about, because you have things to do and just want to go about your day? I mean, what are people thinking? Is it just a case of dominos falling, like, oh since that person listens to Drake, I should too? To me, Drake’s music feels like that one friend you have who just will not get off the phone, no matter how many hints you drop about stuff boiling on the stove. Please get a therapist, Drake, who is surely reading this right now. For my own sake.

Something else that makes me feel old: remembering the Sam Yan area as it used to be. There used to be a real wet market there. There were street food vendors and restaurants who were worth the trek from Sukhumvit and driving around the block five times to try to find a parking space. Now, some of them are still there, clinging on by their fingernails to the clientele who have been coming to their shophouses for decades, but not for much longer — Chulalongkorn University, which owns this land, has given notice that the remaining eateries have 3 years to clear out. This makes me sad for two reasons, and those reasons are called Nakorn Pochana and Jok Samyan.


Preserved egg congee at Jok Samyan

I don’t think there is a Thai person in Bangkok who hasn’t heard of Jok Samyan (245 Chula Soi 11, 02-216-4809), regardless of whether they are a Chinese-style congee fan or not. Jok Samyan is one of the most famous street food vendors in the city, period, up there with Polo Fried Chicken and Thipsamai. Unlike Polo Fried Chicken (which now has an indoor A/C room and delivery service) and Thipsamai (which now has a velvet rope and at least six line cooks), Jok Samyan hasn’t really changed much since when it first started out. They still stir their congee out in front of their shophouse every day, and still make their peppery meatballs (their real claim to fame) by hand before every service.

Thais get all “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” when you ask them what makes a good jok. They will tell you it’s all about “patience”, like they are Axl Rose or Will Smith in that golfing movie with Matt Damon. What they mean is, it’s about how smooth the porridge becomes, and how the rice grains get cooked into a nearly uniform whole. Although Jok Samyan is a street food place, their congee does get that silky, the individual grains broken down for the greater good. Put in a barely-cooked egg and you have one of the greatest street food dishes that Bangkok has to offer.



Curry crab at Nakorn Pochana

(Photo by @karenblumberg)

Nakorn Pochana (or “Nai Hai” as regulars like my parents like to call it, 258-260 Chula Soi 11, 02-214-2327) is another eatery that has been in the Chula area for generations. Different people like different things here: for my mom, it’s the wide range of stir-fried greens, always crisp, always fresh,  never bogged down in oil. For my husband, it’s the khao pad nam lieb, or fried rice with Chinese olive, cooked in a claypot and brought to the table fluffy and aromatic with olive and garlic, accompanied by a plate of cubed lime, chilies and slivered shallots. For others, it’s the stir-fried crayfish, cooked until the shells are crispy and crack under the pressure of your thumbs to reveal juicy, sweet tail meat. For me, it’s probably the curry crab, probably my favorite (aside from Raan Pen) in the city. Like beauty, your favorite dish is in the eye of the beholder (or taster). Only the best restaurants can do that.

The reason for this is probably because of the cook, who has been working the woks since he was 19. He is now 53. Nakorn Pochana plans to move to the suburbs within the three-year timeframe, but the chef may not go along for the ride. Oh who am I kidding, the chef is married to the owner, Khun Chariya. All the same, “Thais today do not have the kwam od ton (determination or perseverance) to be good cooks today as they did before,” said Khun Chariya. It’s something only an old person would say.

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A very Phuket breakfast


Kanom jeen and green curry at P’Pom

Some dishes are inextricably linked with places, like croissants and Paris or pizza and Naples. For Phuket, the dish that most likely springs to mind is the Mon-style rice noodle known as kanom jeen, served at curry stalls throughout the island from the early hours of the morning. Just as mainland Thais expect to start their days with something like a bowl of eggy congee and a deep-fried cruller or two, anyone in Phuket unlucky to find themselves up at 7 in the morning will typically go for a plate of these noodles instead of rice, slathered in a crab or nam ya (minced fish) curry, a gaeng tai pla (spicy soup of fermented fish entrails) or, at the very least, a green curry studded with cubes of congealed chicken blood and tart little Thai eggplants.

It would make sense to love this dish for its rich bright curries or even the bounce of the rice noodles. But I love this dish for the treasure trove of stuff that I can adorn my plate of curry noodles with, both pickled and fresh:



So many options! And it’s not even counting the hard-boiled eggs that one, if one were not to tragically discover they were allergic to eggs, should happily chop into little pieces and sprinkle over their plates like Parmesan cheese (which one might also be allergic to). There are the pickled garlic bulbs, and pickled bean sprouts, pickled mustard greens and even, if you are lucky, Chinese-style pickled turnips that you normally find on your egg noodles or rice porridge. And because it’s the South, there are fresh mango and cashew tree leaves, long beans, chunks of cucumber and pineapple, basil and mint, pennywort, stink beans still in their pods to distract your tastebuds and fresh Thai eggplants to cut the spiciness of your curry. Dried tiny fish, just because. Fresh bean sprouts if you’re greedy. It is hard to practice restraint, when everything is already there.

I like to try out a different kanom jeen place every time I come to Phuket, given that it’s a local thing and all. On my last trip to the island, I went to P’Pom, where the rice noodles are not the only popular thing on the menu — there is also a highly-praised hor mok (steamed seafood curry), including one with fish eggs, like a Thai-style (and very fishy) chawanmushi.


So how to get to this place? It’s hard to explain, plus I am directionally challenged, so I’ll just leave it to Google:!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d3952.0784717208385!2d98.3719103147787!3d7.886858994318043!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x0%3A0x0!2zN8KwNTMnMTIuNyJOIDk4wrAyMicyNi44IkU!5e0!3m2!1sen!2suk!4v1472806058361” target=”_blank”>



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Come to Thailand


Jay Fai’s famous tom yum soup, cooling on the countertop

Let me tell you what bothers me the most about Adam Sandler’s movies. No, it’s not the ingrained misogyny. It’s not the fact that this dude is transparently enjoying a holiday while pretending to “work” at the same time, all on someone else’s dime. Hey, it’s not even Rob Schneider. It’s the music.

I believe “Adam Sandler” is a musical fraud. He is not the real-life Adam Sandler. The guy in the “Wedding Singer” who claims to have been “listening to the Cure a lot lately”? I don’t believe him — unless it’s “Sunday I’m in Love” played over and over again 1,000 times a day, because real-life Adam Sandler seems exactly that cheesy and annoying. That guy, who loves Van Halen and Billy Idol, but not, like, White Lion or Ratt like people who actually lived during the 1980s, because his taste is so superior to everyone else’s, even when everyone’s taste at the time was notoriously terrible. Real-life Adam Sandler looks exactly like that guy in junior high school who would make fun of you in your Damned t-shirt, confuse the Clash with the Cult, and question your sexuality for listening to Depeche Mode. He would have worn a mullet and listened to Bad Company and had an AC/DC poster in his bedroom, just like everyone else. Only after the fact, in the safety of his college dorm room, can he begin wearing white K-Swiss sneakers with little ankle socks and boxer shorts and proclaim his affinity for the Smiths. All of a sudden he’s deep and cool, and not the trash-talking metalhead who tormented you on the bus ride home because “SKID ROW RULES!” You know who I’m talking about. The guy on the side of strength, until he didn’t have to be. The guy who never had to pay his dues. That guy is Adam Sandler.

I feel the same skepticism when I see something like Netflix’s “Stranger Things”. Don’t get me wrong, because I loved “Stranger Things” and thought almost every single detail, from Barb’s glasses to Steve’s BMW, was great. But give me a break with the older brother’s music. So he’s so cool that he indoctrinates his brother with the wonders of the Clash and the glories of their second-most-overplayed song, eventually turning it into a major musical focal point of the story? Is everyone in this po-dunk town really that cool? Does everyone remember the 1980s differently from me? Where is the Def Leppard? Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam? TAYLOR DAYNE? Because if I had to suffer through “Love Will Lead You Back” 800,000 times every day, someone else must have, too. Or are we just denying this ever happened to us? Sweeping this under the rug? Who, in 1985, would have said that people would remember Echo & the Funnymen 30 years later, that nostalgia would make it cool to play a snorefest like “Nocturnal Me” on a television show and enshrine it as a classic?

“Best Restaurants” lists are also attempts to pick out classics, but for food and in real time. That makes it doubly hard. So it didn’t surprise me when the Michelin Guide awarded two Singapore hawker stalls their very own stars, or that there is even a Singapore Bib Gourmand Guide at all, because $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Also, you know, street food is currently having a “moment”, I hear. Did you guys know that? That’s what all the kids are saying these days. Street food is “in” right now. What’s that? You think it smells like a ploy, like pandering to millennials, like Hillary Clinton claiming to carry hot sauce in her purse at all times a la Beyonce? Well, I say, how cynical of you! Oh, and did I mention $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$?

Why, I’m hearing through the grapevine that Michelin might even come to Thailand! E-GAD. Finally, an outsider can validate/nullify our own food choices. How have we ever eaten before now? And what should we do until then? THE SUSPENSE IS UNBEARABLE (she says, hitting herself in the head with a broken chopstick slathered in artisanal Sriracha sauce). What do you think should be considered for a star? What do I think? Oh, I am all a-flutter, like Tom Brady in a restaurant when his chef has the day off.

Honestly, I can only think of two (street food) places I would think about. One of them is this:


Bamee Sawang, biotches

because, even though I can’t eat them anymore, the egg noodles here are probably the best anywhere in the country. But maybe Chinese-style noodles are covered? Maybe we should be thinking of a tom yum noodle place, even though most tom yum broth is too sweet and adulterated with condensed milk? (she says, brandishing her AARP card)

The second one is my favorite, even though we have a complicated relationship, she and I. Some days she likes me and some days she doesn’t. That uncertainty makes my trips to her shophouse very exciting.


Jay Fai at work

It’s not easy to stir-fry noodles. It’s not easy to be a “made-to-order” (aharn tham sung) cook. It’s often thankless and always draining. But Jay Fai (who is either 70 or 77, depending on what day you ask her) has managed to stay one of the best in the country — if not THE best — through sheer will, ego and a dedication to top quality ingredients that is reflected in her sky-high prices. If you come here, you must pay obeisance, if not outright acknowledge that she is the best, because she is absolutely willing to dismiss your sorry ass. After all, she used to serve abalone gravy noodles to then-Prime Minister Thaksin at 10,000 baht a plate. What is she doing wasting time with us jokers?


So, who would you propose? Quite frankly, I’ll be happy with any Thai place that ends up in the guide, because any acknowledgement of great Thai food is a plus in my book. I’m totally serious. Even if it ends up being something like S&P, I will be behind it 100 percent. Now, I am the bully on the bus telling you what to like. Because Thai food rules.


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When food is the enemy


Chicken rice at Nai Thong

It started with the insomnia. Sleeping two, maybe three hours a night, only to wake up to a still-dark room and a dispiriting “2:00” or even “12:30” on the clock. I started binging on sleep products. I did acupuncture, reiki, kinesiology, any treatment that could possibly help. My days went on like before. But I began dreading the sunset and the sinking feeling of disappointment that awaited me every time I opened my eyes. It wasn’t until I had a panic attack at my friend’s Thanksgiving party when I started thinking that there could be something really wrong.

It was, of course, psychological. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and put on Prozac. But my parents always suspected it could be something else — something hormonal. Something like menopause. I mean, once you head down that avenue, why not go all the way? So I met with a doctor in Bangkok Hospital Chinatown who took vials of my blood, sent away to Germany to be analyzed for whatever it was that could be making me batshit crazy.

I went away to the States to stuff myself with spinach-artichoke dip, tub-sized salads doused in blue cheese dressing, hamburgers capable of feeding a family of four and enough Buffalo wings to sink a miniature Titanic. This turned out to be a good decision. Because when I came back, Dr. Tanupol — spry, slim, blessed with the skin of a 10-year-old — told me that not only did I have an overactive adrenal gland and a creaky thyroid working at 50 percent capacity … but that I was also cursed with a host of food allergies that even Gwyneth Paltrow could be jealous of.

The list, helpfully alphabetized for my convenience, is long and even more insane than I am. Gluten, wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, wild rice. Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and mare’s milk. Almond, asparagus, cashew nut, plaice. Eggs. Coconut and cherry. Heartbreakingly, mustard seed. I was to try to stay away from these items for six full months, until my body readjusted to the new battery of supplements he would prescribe me, to be taken daily and nightly, the hero to my wack wimmin’s issues because wimmin always be going cray. Only after six months could I be retested to see if I could really eat again. “You are Asian. You should just eat Asian food,” he said, forgetting that there is egg or coconut milk in almost everything worth eating.

Let’s be real: there is no way I can stay on this diet. Because PIZZA. PASTA. PIE. OTHER FOODS THAT DON’T BEGIN WITH P. Watching other people eat the food I want to eat is an interesting exercise in vicarious experience, aspirational living, and envy tempering. Like meditation, it’s a good mental exercise. At least that is what I tell myself.

So what to I do until then? Of all the street food that I could be eating, chicken rice falls squarely onto the top tier of things that I love (yes I know that soy sauce has gluten, but in the words of Donald Trump, give me a break). It’s a  Chinese-inspired street food dish found all over Asia, but no one quite does it like Thailand: the gingery, chili-spiked sauce, the fatty sheen on the rice, the tender hunks of poached chicken, the gleaming cube of blood. And the soup — it’s the soup, nowadays, that seems to set Thai chicken rice apart. Making a soup that will blow your socks off is the new black, and far easier than inventing yet another sauce to serve atop your chicken rice.

At Nai Thong (982/30 Soi Sathupradit 58, 02-682-4253, branch on Soi Soonvijai, 02-716-5664) the soup is a bracing, aromatic splash of lemon, grounded with a simmered slice of winter melon. It’s a soup eager to claim all the attention for itself, not content to play second fiddle to some tranches of boiled poultry. This would normally be annoying to me, because I delight in being annoyed by things. But not today. Not right now.





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Glutton Abroad(-ish): Fusionality


Beef tongue stew at Pattakarn Ahgawe (Fu Mui Gee 2)

It’s become trendy in recent years to deride fusion, especially in Asia. This is probably because this region arguably plays victim to the greatest number of fusion-related culinary crimes in recent memory. Many diners are still old enough to remember the global fusion experiments of the 1980s, the jumble of Middle Eastern, Asian, European and what-have-you influences combined with the judiciousness of a Donald Trump backstage at a beauty pageant. With all its flavor bells and whistles, of course, Thai food was an ideal target. Many, many bad dishes resulted. It gave fusion a bad name, making its adherents look like fad-obsessed school kids doodling “Mrs. Green Curry Pizza” on their Trapper Keepers, forever too earnest, always trying too hard.

Things have swung the other way, where the pedigree of a dish is celebrated and the best recipe bloodlines harken back several generations (but not too far that the Chinese influence is gone and the dish is a tasteless mess). It’s in vogue to point out when dishes veer from the prescribed conventional wisdom, and (in Thailand at least) subject every restaurant with even middling pretensions to a test of ideological purity worthy of any Bernie bro. That’s not to say that this is coming out of nowhere; the government, if all those stories of tasting robots are to be believed, is in on it too. In an attempt to control how things taste, there is now an official way to cook things, an exercise as useful — and ultimately, auspicious — as my quest to lose 10 pounds.

I was thinking of this while eating kimchi quesadillas and short-rib tacos drizzled in a chili-soy vinaigrette at Kogi BBQ in LA, an example of the type of fusion food people hate, except when they love it, because it tastes so good. Yes, a Korean and Mexican melange sounds like the very worst sort of foodie fever dream, a mishmash of two Southern Californian-favored cuisines that seem to have only “Hey, we’re not white” in common. Who knew it could be this delicious?


Kogi kimchi quesadilla

Later on, in Sonoma, I dined on a heaping big plate of avocado chaat (cubed ripe avocado piled over potato and lashed with tamarind sauce and coriander chutney), kale pakoras and naan layered with ripe cherry, cheese and coriander at a restaurant called “Delhi Belly” — I know! I know that it sounds terrible! Do not scorn me, Bernie bro! But I enjoyed myself regardless, because that weirdness was something we would never see anywhere else. It was uniquely American and, so, covetable.

When asked at a dinner party once what my favorite Thai restaurant was, I said that it was Silom Pattakarn (which has since moved). The person laughed. “That’s not even Thai food,” he said. Which is true. It is an Asian translation of Western favorites, made with Asian ingredients and Asian cooking techniques. According to Chef McDang, this type of cooking might have originated in the court of Rama IV, who hired many Chinese cooks to create a menu of “Western” dishes for visiting dignitaries. This type of menu is now replicated by a (rapidly dwindling) stable of Chinese-Thai restaurants that sprouted up in the wake of World War II and introduced a new generation of Bangkokians to the West via this Chinese-Thai-European fusion. The dishes that all of these places had in common: beef tongue stew, steak salad, and an Anglo-Indian chicken “curry” that, on occasion, would be served with slices of toasted white bread.

I don’t know where Silom Pattakarn is now, so in its absence, I go to Pattakarn Agawe, located on Rama IX Soi 7 off of Rama IX Road (romanization is tricky for Thai words so it could also be Agave, Akaway, what have you). The beef tongue stew is the best I’ve had, but everything else is pretty good too. Just think: even though it’s the fusion that someone undoubtedly railed against those many years ago, today it’s still considered delicious enough to put into a category all its own.


Chicken curry with a cucumber-shallot-chili relish





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