Category Archives: duck

Just Ducky

Chinese-style duck at Ros Niyom

Chinese-style duck at Ros Niyom

Because it’s so hot, I’ve been even lazier than usual about getting out and about with the street food. It took a handful of text messages and maybe a phone call or two before my friend Chris could gently pry me off of my couch and into the real world, where people move around on sidewalks and take crowded Skytrain rides and, yes, even sweat. Although Chris swears that the temperature in Bangkok has only been hovering around the mid-to-late 30s (and where else can you say “only in the mid-30s”? Very few places), I swear this city is the hottest its ever been, and that it’s foolish to even pretend to go about your daily business, because the world is crumbling down around our very ears (earthquakes? A tornado? Never before in Thailand, in my lifetime).

A good meal will make your forget these things momentarily. So will a good drink, but it’s noon, and things are not (yet) as dire as all that. So when Chris takes me to the far end of Nana (past the entertainment complex, past the various Indian restaurants, and what appears to be a fairly new gigantic Subway), we end up in the kind of relatively quiet, sedate neighborhood that you’d expect to find much further from the pulsing heart of the city’s nightlife center. Right before the street dead ends into a factory sits the Thai-Chinese restaurant Ros Niyom (172-174 Sukhumvit 4 Nana Tai, 02-255-0991), an aharn tham sung (made-to-order) spot that specializes in pet palo, or duck braised in 5-spice sauce. You can tell this is what to order from the ducks hung from their necks in front, where a fairly taciturn lady silently dissects duck meat and skin for practically every table in the restaurant. And it’s not just the duck meat that’s in demand here: also a specialty, the congealed blocks of duck’s blood served swimming in a duck broth, its jelly-like texture contrasting with the sour chili sauce ladled over the top.

Duck blood in a bowl

Duck blood in a bowl

The essence of everything that is ducky, with a generously-sized plate of rice and maybe a stir-fried garlicky bitter gourd shoot or two, and you’ve got a substantial lunch that could see you safely to dinnertime. Throw in a couple of bowls of beef noodles, the highly-recommend hae gun (deep-fried shrimp dumplings) and a couple of beers, and you can just forget about venturing out  from under the safety of that restaurant awning for the next few hours, or, at the very least, until the next torrential downpour comes to take some of the bite out of this heat.



Filed under Asia, Bangkok, duck, food, restaurant, Thailand

When it’s time to break up

roasted duck

(Photo by @SpecialKRB)

This is the duck we never had. But I should start from the beginning.

Relationships with restaurants are like relationships with people. There is the flicker of interest, the sideways glance, the feeling that maybe you should check that out sometime. There is the lust. And then there is falling in love.

Like anyone who lives a lot in the past, I remember the details: 1997. Paris. Le Grand Vefour. Plaques marking where past patrons once sat — I sat at Colette’s place, but I also remember a Napoleon. A platter of velvety, almost candied pigeon. A wine like leather and mushrooms. And a Swiss financier who sent over a bottle of dessert wine, simply because we “looked happy”. I remember a vista had spread out before me of previously unexplored things, at least for a culinary student living on hard-boiled eggs in a 5th-floor walk-up on the edge of the Greek Quarter. I do not go back to Le Grand Vefour very often, but I will always love that restaurant because of that feeling.

At least, I think I will always love that restaurant. Because, like for any relationship, the threat of a break-up always looms. They can be clean and clinical; a bad meal, bad service, and you simply never go back. They can be contentious: he said, she said sort of stuff, requiring the intervention of a manager. And they can be ugly.

When you have driven for hours from Rouffillac to Paris, enduring Opera-area traffic, drunken throngs in the Greek Quarter, and a winding queue down the sidewalk, and it’s already 9:30 and you’re bone-tired, you want some TLC. You’ve seen the guys at Mirama before; you lived just around the corner, for Chrissake, you remember being a loyal customer even though you never really counted Hong Kong-style duck and egg noodles as one of your favorite dishes.

It’s kind of jarring when they start picking and choosing from the line in front of you. But it’s okay; they said two tables of five, and that’s fine, it’s understandable. It has now been an hour, you’re next, and the group behind you that has just sidled up is big as well — eight carefully-coiffed blondes in the kind of scarves that suggest they are “slumming it” for the evening on the Left Bank.

So it feels like a punch in the gut when the group behind you gets called, and you’ve been waiting for over an hour. The celebratory whoops are salt in the wound. You are being taken for granted. The wise thing to do is to walk away. But you can’t help it. You march into the restaurant and confront the 60-year-old, balding, stressed-out Chinese man, who explains they don’t seat tables of 10. He is now telling lies. The Chinese man is now like all those other guys who tell tales when confronted: she was just a friend, he was alone that night, she meant nothing.

Walk away, walk away. So you do — for two seconds. You double back again. He needs to know it’s wrong. You need closure. You tell him. He doesn’t seem to register what you are saying. It feels like talking to a brick wall. So then, you walk away. But because you just can’t help it, you walk back again. You need to know. “Is it because she’s blonde?” you say. “No, no,” he says, and you think he’s lying, yet again.

You walk away for the last time, only to hear your name after you’ve crossed the street. “He can seat four!” someone calls out, and it’s the final straw, the last insult — he couldn’t seat 8 of you, but now 4 is okay? “He can kiss my ass!” you scream across the rushing traffic on Rue St. Jacques, convinced you will never, ever return. You turn around and seek out the next best thing, Roger Le Grenouille, and he is kind and welcoming, and the frog legs are great, and things are okay. But you will always remember Mirama’s rejection, and how that stung, a little bit.


(Photo by @SpecialKRB)


Filed under Asia, bamee, Chinese, duck, food, France, Hong Kong, noodles, restaurant

My lunch at Michel Rostang

Every time I go to Paris, I try to go to at least one nice place a visit. This time, we made it to Michel Rostang, a two Michelin-starred restaurant with a menu that changes seasonally.

My husband and daughter, Nicha, asked for canard au sang, a dish they were initially discouraged from ordering because it was very “special”, a word the French use to describe something that is potentially disgusting. It turned out to be thin slices of very rare duck breast, bathed in a foie gras sauce thickened with blood. The legs are then poached in duck fat, shredded and encased in a razor-thin potato “tower” — a great reminder of why people love French food.


Filed under cooking, duck, food, France, French food, restaurant