A weekend in Pattaya was a welcome reprieve from the clamor in Bangkok (literally: workers are fixing a hole in my roof) and also turned up some truly tasty Thai seafood at Nong Ae in Banglamum, the best meal I’ve had in weeks. On offer: an aggressively spiced gaeng som with fish eggs, round and alarmingly transparent like mini-balloons; a lovely nam prik (pepper dip) of crab eggs; sator (a lima bean-like bitter vegetable) stir-fried Pattaya-style in fermented brown bean sauce; a surprisingly yummy fried head of cabbage slathered in black peppercorns (the original Thai spice, long before the Portuguese introduced Thais to chili peppers); and a whole pomfret, steamed with pickled plums, whole cloves of garlic and shiitake mushrooms.
The last was the best, but least Thai of the dishes — Thais traditionally deep-fry their fish because they usually pluck their dinner from the nearby rivers, and frying ensures that any worms are killed before consumption. Steaming is a Chinese innovation, which is why a lot of Thai seafood joints are Chinese-Thai in origin.
I would show you pictures, if I had any, but I was busy stuffing my face. Instead, I can show you this:
But this post is not about Pattaya, or even about Thai-Chinese seafood. It’s about things that are bad for you. We are all guilty of indulging once in a while — otherwise, we wouldn’t be human, or we would be Madonna. Things that are bad for you include: passing out after a hefty lunch of pasta (guilty); an all-day 30 Rock marathon when you are supposed to be working (yeah, that too); following Thai political developments (actually, not so much. I have a strong instinct for self-preservation). Add to that list: kuay thiew kua gai, which is basically 3-4 different ways to a heart attack, stir-fried with a gallon of oil and served with a smidgen of lettuce in an effort to pretend it isn’t the coast of Louisiana on your plate. Believe it or not, it’s yummy. And among the best purveyors of this menace to your cholesterol levels is Nai Peng (20, Chula Soi 20, Suan Luang Market).
It looks like the murky remnants of a stir-fry chef’s pan, wrapped lovingly in egg, but it is so much more than that. Silky noodles, slightly charred at the edges, large chunks of chicken, or, if you are “watching your health”, seafood, and the most important part of all, the bits of lettuce that just manage to save this dish from falling over the edge into Greasy, Unappetizing Mess. If you are hell-bent on living high off the hog, Nai Peng offers these noodles with “Taro”, a salted fish product processed to look like squid. White vinegar studded with orange chili pepper slices and generous lashings of sweet chili sauce finish this picture.
It’s good, quick and tasty, the Thai equivalent of the KFC “Double Down” sandwich — best eaten late at night, after a few rounds of beer, when you are feeling young and invincible and not thinking about the encroaching specter that is middle age. Enjoy, while you can.