Once again, I did not sit down at my computer today with the intention of writing about lists (sorry forever, pending larb recipe post!) But a list that was released recently made a huge splash, and I felt like it would be hugely remiss of me to not address it, as a food blogger based in Thailand. For you see, it was an outrageous list, and injustices like this list cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.
It’s this list: https://www.thecut.com/2021/03/prince-william-declared-sexiest-bald-man-in-dubious-study.html. In this “list”, if we indeed are going to continue calling it that, a toe with eyes is declared to be the best looking “bald” man in the world, if by “bald” we mean “thinning on top but trying not to make a big deal out of it by attempting a combover”. And who, you may ask, is in “second” place on this list (yours truly will be making much use of “quotation marks” in this post)? Why, it is the Adonis known as Mike Tyson, noted champion boxer, facial tattoo aficionado and convicted rapist who made a stirring “comeback” in the “classic” movie “The Hangover”. And then Jason Statham limps in at third. Other famous honorees: Vladimir Putin, he of the temper tantrum after being called a “murderer” by Joe Biden (ATTN ALL: if I am to pass away soon after drinking tea, please refer the police to this post). Who else? No doubt Lord Voldemort, Karl Rove and and Moby. A stellar list, this. Not questionable at all.
You see, there is an art to making lists. If there is an entry that is ridiculous or, at the very least, controversial, you have to buttress it with choices that can be characterized as “safe”. In this vein, you do not follow up Prince Baldemort (thank you, random commenter on celebitchy.com) with Mike Tyson. You have to throw a Stanley Tucci or LL Cool J in there or at least, someone like Patrick Stewart or Common, someone everyone with a brain likes. You cannot follow up “huh?” with “OMG what?”. That’s just bad list-making. And then to fill that list out with scary people who might sprinkle poison powder in my underwear, yikes, no way, what are you thinking? This is why the list has generated so much publicity (much of it negative), with actual articles devoted to the methodology (number of Google mentions) so as to make sense of how this list could possibly have come to be.
It’s no wonder, then, that at closer inspection, the list is discovered to have been compiled by a plastic surgery clinic, no doubt offering hair transplant procedures. OF COURSE it is. When faced with a list like that, no wonder people would be Googling “how do i not look like prince william?” It’s like if you chanced upon a list of “best public restrooms in Tibet”, and the list ended up being compiled by a colostomy bag maker. Of course you would go with the colostomy bag. Anyone would.
So I’m here to dive into what it takes to make a good list. Number one, you have to know what you are talking about. No one would trust me to compile a list on the best haberdasheries in Bangkok. I don’t even know what a haberdashery is. Number two, you must be sincere. I suppose I could write up a list about where best to take an Instagram pic of your bikini bod, but you had better believe that I would be doing that from Google searches and not from personal experience. In other words, I would be doing it the way 90 percent of travel and food journalism is done.
And … those are the two criteria. So with that in mind, I — a food blogger based in Thailand — will be writing about the five most recent places where a bite of something gave me goosebumps. This is a good, focused topic, unlikely to be challenged (how do you know I didn’t get goosebumps?) Now, a caveat. I read recently that not everyone gets a goosebump reaction when moved by a piece of music, or a movie, or a good dish. To those people, I say, I’m sorry. I love getting that goosebump feeling, and there are times when I deliberately search it out, like when I get to the final part of “Bullet in the Head” by Rage Against the Machine (a band that does NOT support Trump, OMG listen to the lyrics, people) and I’m running on the treadmill (RIP treadmill) and the chill climbs up into the back of my skull and spreads out through my chest and arms.
Well, I get that feeling from food, too. Here are the five most recent places:
- Bankara Ramen (The Manor 32/1 Sukhumvit 39) — There was a time when I could get into this place with no wait because not that many people came to this restaurant. That time has come and gone. There is almost always an Isao-style wait here now, and staff are only just adjusting to it. In any case, it’s still my favorite ramen shop in Bangkok, one of my very own “happy places”. My fave dish to order is the Taiwanese-style maze soba, which, yes, is not strictly Japanese. It’s a soupless spicy noodle dish, a la dan dan noodles. And it gives me goosebumps.
2. Lai Ros (120/4 Sukhumvit 49 across from Samitivej Hospital) — This restaurant serves the summertime dish khao chae all year round, so it’s usually thronged with people looking for this dish, especially if it’s lunchtime in March-April. However, this place serves plenty of other great dishes that you don’t always come across at every Thai restaurant: for example, guaythiew nuea/moo sub (noodles with minced beef or pork, stir-fried in curry powder), or khao mun somtum, a Central Thai spin on the Isaan grated salad with the addition of green curry and coconut rice on the side (only on weekends). For me, the can’t-say-no dish is sen mee pad pak krachate, rice vermicelli stir-fried with shrimp, chilies, garlic and water mimosa, a vegetable that recalls grassy green young asparagus shoots. Here, they also include shrimp roe. It is irresistible.
3. Appia (20/4 Sukhumvit 31) — Speaking of irresistible, I’m loving that Appia is now open for lunch, which is the meal that I can safely pig out on guilt-free (I’m old). I came across this “troccoli” dish by accident, when expecting a broccoli pasta. It’s better than broccoli pasta; it’s handmade ropey udon-like noodles slathered in a cheese sauce punctuated with a hint of anchovy, then freckled with a shower of summer truffle. It is SO GOOD.
4. Samsara Cafe & Meal (1612 Songwad Road) — I’m always surprised when I’m told I didn’t take everyone to this riverside place yet; I’d always assumed they had discovered it already. In any case, my most recent visit was with my friends Chris and Tawn, after a long slog through Chinatown that also delivered dish number 5 (it was an evening of goosebumps). Maybe it was the setting, maybe it was the sunset, but this eggplant salad — replete with a garnish of bacon, just like at the much-lamented Soul Food Mahanakorn — came to the table, cut like nasu dengaku but awash in Thai yum dressing, and was the perfect bite in the perfect setting.
5. Nai Mong (539 Pháp Phla Chai Road) — I can’t finish off this list without a shout-out to one of my own personal street food faves, this oyster omelet stall on the outskirts of Chinatown. I love that they are experiencing success, I love that they are crowded, I understand why they have had to size down their portions. I also love that they remember my order: hoy nangrom (oysters), grob grob (extra crispy) all the way.