Category Archives: restaurant

What’s Cooking: Nam Prik Hed

The finished product

The finished product

There is a scene in the movie “Pretty Woman” (have you ever heard of it?) where Julia Roberts (do you know who she is?) is having dinner at a fancy restaurant with Richard Gere (my mom’s boyfriend). This woman met Richard Gere the night before while wearing a tie-dyed dinner napkin and Woody Harrelson’s toupee from “True Detective”, and now he is taking her to a French restaurant with waiters and everything. That’s really realistic. And then this douchecanoe goes and orders the escargots, even though his date has no freaking clue how to use her cutlery and one of the dinner companions (the “hothead” grandson who plays polo) has clearly cottoned on to Richard Gere’s game and ordered a dinner salad. Why didn’t Richard Gere order her the salad too? Is he really that attached to the prix fixe menu? Isn’t he rich enough to order a la carte? That is the moment when I figured out this movie was complete horseshit. Let your hooker order her own meal, Richard Gere!

I was thinking about this because, well, there are lots of mealtime etiquette thingies that even I, with all the many many meals that I have eaten, have no clue about. When faced with the mushroom chili dip you see above, I did what I usually do and piled all the crap I could find onto my plate, crowned with a healthy heaping of aforementioned nam prik. My dining companions snorted in my face. “Steady on!” they basically said, in Thai. “That chili dip will still be there in a few minutes’ time”.

“Thais are very fastidious about their manners while eating,” said one person, trying to be nice. “That’s is the only thing Thais do properly”. (Again, horseshit).

Oh, but wait. Let me start at the beginning.

I love nam prik. But I am extremely lazy. So it’s rare that I will make my own, preferring instead to pester harried-but-obliging wet market vendors or darken the doorstep of the occasional Thai restaurant in order to get my chili dip fix. It’s just that there are so few dishes that are as immediate — spicy, tart, funky in that fermented, garbage-y, wrong-side-of-garlic sense that Thai food is known for — as this one. Strange, then, that it’s not such a well-known dish once you find yourself out of Thailand.

It’s also so pretty and deceptively obliging: that little dollop, that big taste. Always surrounded by its various little accomplices, all chosen to offset whatever chili dip you’ve decided to guzzle on that particular day: sweet silky tamarind (macaam), sharp peppery roasted banana pepper (nam prik num), the ubiquitous, funkier-than-George-Clinton shrimp paste (gapi), a pillar of the standard Thai meal. In fact, nam prik was such a go-to dish in Thailand that husbands were once said to choose their wives on the sound their mortars and pestles made when pounding out a particular dip (if this were the case today, I can confidently say I would never get married).

So when my friend Chin took me to Nakhon Pathom with the promise of a good meal and a cooking class, you could color me curious. I rarely take cooking classes, because a.) they remind me of the time I was in culinary school, where I was bad and not good and to which I was generally unsuited, and b.) I don’t like to listen for long enough to follow directions (which may explain a. Really, though, why cook and then not eat? Who cares about these so-called “customers”? Let’s not discuss cooking school ever again.) But at Oo Khao Oo Pla (a take on the Thai saying “Nai nam mee pla, nai na mee khao” or “There is fish in the water, there is rice in the fields” aka Thailand is a lucky land of bounty), the friendly chef is happy enough to chat with me as she gives her hand-picked mushrooms a quick stir-fry with sugar and garlic in the wok, and garnishes her thom kloang pla salid (sour soup with smoked dried fish) with freshly plucked tamarind leaves from the tree out back. Better yet, she lets me pound the nam prik hed (mushroom chili dip) into a paste on the dinner table, peppering her commentary on my poor working style with the occasional “pok pok pok” (the sound a mortar and pestle should ideally make).

Sacrificing my shirt to the cooking gods

Sacrificing my shirt to the cooking gods

 

So with her blessing, I’m giving you this recipe. A tip or two: when you are pounding the shit out of that chili mixture, make sure you do so with intent and malice. Pretend you are Mike Tyson in the ring. Thais may seem all smiley and happy-g0-lucky, but that is because they are getting all their aggressions out on their food.

My chili paste

My chili paste

Nam Prik Hed (makes 4 servings)

– 2 hed fang (large straw mushrooms), cut up

– 4 red bird’s eye chilies and 4 green bird’s eye chilies

– 1 green, 1 orange, and 2 red prik chee fah (chili peppers)

– 5 garlic cloves

– 4-5 shallots

In 1 tsp oil, fry garlic, shallots and sliced chilies in hot wok with mushroom pieces until “dry”, about 5 minutes.

It should look like this.

It should look like this.

 

Next, mix the dressing:

– 3-5 tsp fish sauce

– 2-3 tsp sugar

– juice from 2-3 limes

Or, if you are going the vegetarian route, substitute the fish sauce for light soy sauce and salt.

Mix to taste.

Pound your wok mixture with your mortar and pestle. Add “dressing” to taste.

Done!

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Filed under Asia, Bangkok, chili dip, food, restaurant, Thailand

Thankful, circa 2013

Saying goodbye at Japanese restaurant Teppen

Saying goodbye at Japanese restaurant Teppen

It’s that time of year again when I look back on the past 11 months and post about stuff I’ve liked under the guise of being thankful for it. Which I am, really. I’m thankful for my family, my friends, and the fact that 2013 was a pretty great year, food-wise.  I’ve managed to make a fool of myself in eight different countries this year, some of them twice! I have tried goat testicle sashimi, rancid fermented bean paste, deep-fried pork cracklings rolled in Thai spices, and countless varieties of booze squeezed from bits of wheat, barley or rice. It’s been a busy year.

But there have been some great discoveries I’ve managed to make at home, too. And — no, I’m not talking a discovery like: “don’t try to make your soon-to-be-teenage daughter feel better by pointing out that setbacks are actually a learning experience” (a revelation I have just had in the past five minutes). I’m talking I’m-gonna-want-to-put-this-in-my-mouth discoveries. Strictly culinarily, of course.

I’m thankful for:

1. Teppen. It’s on Sukhumvit Soi 61, about 50 m from the entrance to the soi, on the right hand side right before you reach Park Lane (one of the neighborhood’s many, many community malls). It looks like a house and there’s not really any visible sign from the road, so it can be tricky to find. Basically, Teppen is an izakaya masquerading as some sort of sushi bar. The real stars here — aside from the “sushi” chefs who put on a “salmon show” where they race to fillet a salmon each, while shirtless — are the different types of sake on offer, which are numerous and delicious. So delicious, in fact, that my friend passed out in the bathroom here after maybe one too many. Please do not do this. I want to be able to dine here for many months to come.

Seared tuna at Teppen

Seared tuna at Teppen

2. Gai Thong. Located on Sena Nikom 1 Road, near Phaholyothin (02-579-3898), this place isn’t really that easy to get to for Sukhumvit dwellers like me. However, this unassuming little restaurant with the type of atmosphere that translates into “Isaan diner” is worth taking the trip. What I like about this place is, essentially, the chicken: a combination of both juicy and meaty — something you don’t see much in tandem anymore. What is this craze for dry, mealy gai yang (grilled chicken)? Is this something akin to the Bangkokian fondness for the candy-sweet som tum (grated papaya salad) that will inevitably accompany it? Are cottonmouth and sugary sweetness supposed to complement each other somehow? I don’t get Isaan restaurants in Bangkok nowadays.

Gai Thong's grilled chicken

Gai Thong’s grilled chicken

Incidentally, the som tum here is too sweet, too. I think I am doomed to wandering an infinite number of dusty Bangkok streets, eternally in search of a good som tum that doesn’t come straight from the top of a cart.

3. Places you’ve already heard about. If you have been anywhere in Bangkok lately, you have probably already heard of Appia and Opposite Mess Hall. These restaurants have only opened up in the past year! That is how quickly time flies. And then we all die. What was I saying before? …

So, what do I love about these places? Well, let me tell you guyz one thing for starters: I love artichokes. Marry me, artichokes. And Appia’s deep-fried artichokes (carciofi alla giudea) = one of my favorite foods in the world + the only place in the city that serves them. Also, co-owner Jarrett Wrisley is one of the best front of the house guys in the city. I’ve said this before, but I don’t try to say this too often because I suspect he suspects I may be trying to stalk him. <cue uncomfortable laughter>.

So, let me tell you another thing. I don’t really like chocolate all that much. No, seriously. I know this invalidates all the opinions I have spouted on this website previously, and that no one will ever listen to me anymore, and I will be alone forever. That is sad, but, I am all about The Truth. Except when it comes to the freaking Marou chocolate tart at Opposite Mess Hall. Marou is a chocolate maker from Vietnam who grows and processes its own chocolate. The fruits of its labors are then brought to Bangkok, where they are baked into a pie crust and somehow morph into food for the gods.

OMH's Marou chocolate tart

OMH’s Marou chocolate tart

Opposite Mess Hall has other great dishes too, and seasonal specials like yada yada yada. I am sure they are good. I don’t know. All I can think about is this tart, which is a shame, because I prayed at the Erawan Shrine and promised to give up desserts FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. So I don’t go into Opposite much, just in case this tart tempts me into straying. This is my life now, people. But in spite of this stupid silly vow, I still have a lot to be thankful for. Like pictures of chocolate tarts.

 

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Glutton Abroad: Bongiorno Lampedusa

Tuna skewers and white mullet dusted with pistachio, garnish of the gods

Tuna skewers and white mullet dusted with pistachio, garnish of the gods

I have known The Italian for 22 years. During our freshman year at Bryn Mawr, she lived at the end of my hall in Pembroke West. Even then, she was an effortlessly chic little blond tornado, a glamorous chain smoker with an Italian-accented Stevie Nicks croak, a high-heeled aficionado of Valentino and Missoni at a time when I was still wearing red plaid pinafores from Talbots picked out by my mother.

So when the time came for The Italian’s 40th birthday party, I was on board. A shame it was at a place that the Italian embassy workers in Bangkok claimed didn’t exist. “Lampedusa?” they said. “No, that is not in Italy.”

We checked our birthday invitations again. “But it is Italian,” we said. “It’s an island that belongs to Italy.” But only a phone call from an actual Italian person would persuade them. Even then, they were skeptical. No one had ever heard of this little island before, including me.

It turns out Lampedusa is the southernmost part of Italy, a pebble skipping off the toe of the boot, landing somewhere between Tunisia and Sicily. The island spans nearly 8 miles, and is home to about 4,500 people, who speak “Lampedusan” — a mish-mash of Italian, French and Arabic that is incomprehensible to the regular outsider. The dry, rocky soil means vegetables can be hard to come by, as is most meat (although a herd of goats did live nearby, roaming the hills around our rented cottage in an area charmingly known as “the Bay of Death”). The only thing this place abounded in: seafood, and plenty of it.

While Lampedusans may be considered a breed apart, their cooking is purely Italian — Sicilian, to be exact. The mussels and clams that proliferate in the azure waters around the island are melded with scampi, garlic and tomatoes in a sauce for pasta. Sometimes, bits of tuna or red snapper are mixed with spaghetti and crowned in pistachio dust in the way a Roman would scatter grated Parmesan. Mullet and tuna are simply grilled, or, if it’s a fancy place, once again dusted with pistachio (and then grilled). Bits of octopus and/or scampi are marinated and served as a ceviche; rings of calamari are lightly breaded and deep-fried.

A photo of marinara sauce on the boat, blurred by the tossing waves

A photo of seafood marinara sauce on the boat, blurred by the tossing waves

As for the sweets, fuhgeddaboudit (I’m sorry. This is the last time I do that, I promise). There is a ton of gelato, of course (I am told the best “tests” of a gelato’s quality are the pistachio and banana flavors). There is Sicilian-style granite, or finely shaved ice (coffee is, inexplicably, the most popular flavor, it would seem). There are ice cream cakes mixing coffee, pistachio and strawberry flavors. So there are all these things, but only one thing matters to me, and that is cannoli: tubes of fried dough that are filled with a ricotta-augmented cream. They are super-sweet and occasionally delectable treats while eaten at a place like Veniero’s in the East Village; in Italy, they are the greatest things to have happened to the world since Michelangelo and da Vinci.

Sicilian-style cannoli at Pizzeria Dell'Amicizia

Sicilian-style cannoli at Pizzeria Dell’Amicizia

But all this fabulousness has a price, of course. Over the week, I hit a bit of a seafood wall — there is just too damn much fish. TOO MUCH FISH! Fish, everywhere, forever and ever, purple mountains of it, and fruited plains too. You see, Lampedusans love their seafood, especially their sgombro — a bonito-like fish of which they are inordinately proud that is eaten in everything including sandwiches, paired with capers and onions. Let me tell you how much they love their seafood: there are SEVERAL types of fish-based baby food. Mull(et) over that for a while.

Fish baby food on the supermarket shelf

Fish baby food on the supermarket shelf

Meanwhile, if the water is a little rough, ships can’t cross over, and you are left with a few heads of wilting romaine lettuce, a couple of withered Sicilian cucumbers, and the disheartening sight of NOTHING at the meat counter:

Karen, in line for nothing

Karen, in line for nothing

At a low point, my husband and I stop at Gerry Fast Food, where we are told we can get a fix of some sweet, sweet, meat. What we get: boiled beef lung and tongue, spritzed with lemon juice and enclosed in a plain hamburger bun. We eat all of it. But we never want to go back to that ever again.

 

 

 

 

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Glutton Abroad: When Irish hands are cooking

A bushel of Ireland's finest at the English Market in Cork

A bushel of Ireland’s finest at the English Market in Cork

Potatoes. It’s what most people think of when they think of Ireland and its cuisine. Maybe mashed with some boiled cabbage, or sliced and covered in cream and cheese and baked, or cut into matchsticks and double-fried, perhaps doomed to a thorough smothering in some pepper gravy. Maybe, just maybe, simply cubed and boiled with its frequent partners, carrots and turnips and a shoulder of hapless lamb. Or molded, ice cream scoop-like, next to a slab of gray, fibrous roast beef or wonderfully plump hunk of “bacon”.

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Cabbage & bacon and Irish stew, with their friends the Guinness twins at T & H Doolin, Waterford

But I’ve got other words for you. Cream. Cheese. Mussels. Salmon. Goujons. I defy you to find a pub menu in sunny green Cork or Kerry counties that does not feature these lovely, and inevitably ubiquitous, ingredients. This is the way of southern Ireland: creamed or deep-fried bits of seafood, paired with the inevitable Guinness or glass of Magner’s.

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Having fun at the Guinness factory in Dublin

At first, we have fun with it. Ha ha, we say, we’re going to gain 100 pounds! I think of the tears my trainer will shed as I plod back into the gym, an inevitable 5 kg heavier, all our hard work erased with the help of my frenemies Guinness and Jameson. But it’s new acquaintances I must watch out for, too: beautifully buttery, flaky scones, slathered in proper clotted cream and a whisper of red berry jam; bits of crab and avocado retiring bashfully under a blanket of cream and melted cheese; and bacon, always bacon, tucked into white bread or flaunted shamelessly next to poor old cabbage or oats-heavy slices of black pudding.

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Baked crab and avocado at Mary Ann’s in Castletownshend

But it gets to be … much. Too more-ish for our beleaguered digestive systems. Suddenly, without even expecting it, I begin to look longingly at passing Chinese restaurants, places I would not bother giving a second glance at in flusher times, but with every meal in this or that pub, every menu a variaton on fish and chips, seafood chowder and some sort of grilled salmon, one’s stomach begins to contemplate … straying. Wandering. Imagining a life without boiled carrots and well-done meat, mashed potatoes and cheeseburgers. I can’t help it. I miss Asian food.

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This man enjoys the same meal every day

But even as I — strangely, bizarrely — contemplate the odd tryst of a meal at a place like the Chinese Shamrock (a monstrous hut in a gas station parking lot that is, obviously, painted bright green), I find bright spots to focus on. The soft-serve ice cream, possibly the best in the world; an abundance of beautiful berries so reasonable that I stuff myself with blackberries almost daily; the little mussels, glittery handfuls of sweet, tender morsels that can be simply steamed in white wine or cooked in cream and coated in breadcrumbs:

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Mussels at Cafe Hans in Cashel

Even at our (temporary) home, we end up cooking Irish food: pie made with the fresh, ruby rhubarb the caretaker has thoughtfully left at our doorstep; carefully pan-fried wild salmon; a 2-day simmering stew of the surprisingly tough beef mixed with the produce we find at the market that day. Always the bacon, and a wedge of Cashel blue or the room-clearingly pungent Durrus. To end the day, a shot of Jameson.

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Karen, an official whisky taster at Jameson

We finally get home to Thailand, and set to gorging ourselves on all the flavors we missed before: chilies, lemongrass, coconut milk, fish sauce. It is here that I gain 5 kgs, instead of on the fair, sunny Emerald Isle. The weeks pass in a blur. How time flies.

While stuck in traffic, I find myself looking longingly at the new-ish Irish pub on Ekamai. What can I say? I miss Irish food.

(All photos except the first by @karenblumberg).

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Follies of youth

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Sweets at Punjab Sweets

Every few years or so, another movie about going back in time to relive your high school years reemerges. The reason why this premise is eternally popular? Everyone wants to fantasize about fixing their youthful indiscretions. Because young people are boneheads. A case in point: me. I once dated a parachute pants-wearing Patagonia-phile who would listen to Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” continuously on loop for days on end. Then there was the Gordon Gekko wannabe who could not let a day pass by without spouting a line from the movie “Trading Places”. Or the guy who took food from my plate without asking. Or the one who expected me to pay for everything. Or the one who liked to say “It is what it is.” Awful. Awful awful.

I didn’t know better then.  And maybe I don’t know much now (after all, I did marry the guy who said his first gift to me was 50 percent off because he bought it at the last minute). But I do know more than I did before.

I don’t know much about Indian food, beyond the usual — butter chicken, chicken tikka, chicken tandoori, anything murgh-related, really. But there is an entire continent of delicious food I’ve been missing out on, much of it vegetarian. Deep-fried rings of dough made to be dipped in thick bean-based stews; hot discs of bread accompanied by pungent lime pickle and kidney beans; sword-like Indian “burritos” filled with spicy potatoes with a dollop of coconut chutney: these are things I’ve discovered only recently.

Where have these dishes been all my life? Hiding out, far away from the Northern Indian restaurants my family likes to frequent. Hiding out in places like Bangkok’s Pahurat district (also known as “Little India”), where many of the city’s Indian-Thais like to go for a quick bite of comfort food while replenishing their groceries, or picking up bolts of fabric. In a tiny alleyway to the left of Pahurat’s India Emporium (marked by the great samosa cart that I featured in my book) lies Punjab Sweets, a vegetarian Indian hidey-hole that not only sells delectable Indian desserts and sweet snacks, but which also harbors a small air-conditioned dining room hawking all manner of dosas, chickpea samosas, lentil stew with rice, and deep-fried wada with lentil soup. The storefront looks like this:

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The Punjab Sweets storefront

I found this place purely by accident; while looking for somewhere else, of course. I dragged friends halfway through the city intent on a noodle stand that we had passed by long ago — this is how I know I am slowly losing my mind. But it was for the best. Fading and a little hungry, hoping to take a load off but in no mood for a food court or a hurried bite under an awning at a street corner, we found this literal hole-in-the-wall towards the end of the walkway, and it was suddenly okay that I took us all on a wild goose chase. Slate cleaned. Not-so-youthful indiscretions forgotten. Tomorrow — when I would be older and, ostensibly, wiser — is another day.

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Behind the counter

(All photos by @KarenBlumberg)

 

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For appearance’s sake

Yumminess, unrestrained

Yumminess, unrestrained

I’ve been thinking about appearances lately. Not my own, quite obviously, because that is a one-way ticket to Sadtown. I’ve been thinking about the appearance of other things that have nothing to do with me, and how some things appeal and some don’t. For example, put me in a white sequined top and a black lace hoop skirt, and I look — not like the bag lady who got dressed out of the dumpster behind the Playboy Mansion, but like the weirdo who mugged the bag lady who got dressed out of the dumpster behind the Playboy Mansion.

Meanwhile, my friend Tutti looks like a fairy princess ever-so-slightly tweaked after a few shots of pure unicorn juice.

Tutti at Chez Pape

Tutti at Chez Pape

Tutti is, of course, a designer (those people tend to know how to put themselves together), so it may be a bit unfair to compare my dress savvy with hers. However, I — like everyone else in the world — do eat. And like many other eaters drawn to street food, I like to pretend that my focus on stuff cooked in a dingy shophouse by a crotchety old man, or slopped onto my streetside table in the sweltering midday heat, makes me a deep person able to see into the depths of whatever is on the plate in spite of my dire surroundings. The more pain, headache and heat I encounter in the pursuit of this meal, the better — I have truly earned it, this steaming, bowl-shaped reward that must be won from the clutches of the frowning dragon behind the fiery wok.

There is a special name for me, this mix of masochist and Indiana Jones wannabe. And it is called … Sucker.

Because, while I’m not drawn to white tablecloths, baby-faced waiters, and rolling trolleys heaving with sweets, and though I’m suspicious of buzzy loud dining rooms, dry ice, and long queues (except in Japan), I do have my own culinary Achilles heels. For example, I am a sucker for a grumpy old man who tells me how to eat his food. If he is wearing a stained apron and do-rag, and there is a tableful of hungry-looking customers cowering nearby on a bank of plastic stools, all the better. Some other things I love:

— Fire. Some place with big fires underneath hot woks that leap up into the sky as the chef — invariably in some sort of beanie — tosses his ingredients into the air. Smoke is a plus, but I draw the line at the surroundings and/or bystanders catching on fire.

— Geriatric servers. If a place has servers that are in the 65+ range, I am almost guaranteed to patronize it. If they yell at me when I ask questions regarding the menu, then they’ve got themselves a repeat customer.

— And last but not least, repurposed dining rooms. This is my biggest weakness of all. I remember going to the original Jay Ngor, and being shunted into a “dining room” still lined wall-to-wall with other people’s dry cleaning. Or a moving heaven and earth to find a Chinese seafood “restaurant” called Charoen Pochana, located all the way across the river and completely invisible save for a handwritten sign set directly in front of the door (hidden inside a residential courtyard).

Now, these places can step aside for my new favorite place to brag about, Vietnamese & More, which is located on the bottom floor of a condo deep in the bowels of Sukhumvit 16. What was once a living room is now a spruced-up little restaurant, complete with tidy tables and slippers for patrons who leave their shoes at the door. The twee bouquets of plastic flowers, the laminated menus — I love it all. The menu itself, a terse selection of Vietnamese favorites alongside more fusion-inspired creations, I like: not too unwieldy, tightly focused, but not full of cliches. So alongside the summer rolls and pho, you get noodle dishes inspired by places as far-flung as Korea, a “Gangnam-style” stew that resembles Spaghetti-Os but full of kim chi flavor.  And of course, there is the banh mi, a collection of cold cuts, moo yaw (steamed pork sausage) and gunchieng (Chinese-style sausage) encased in a good baguette, a handful of julienned carrot and radish, and slicks of mayo.

Try this

Try this

It’s open every day but Monday, and appears to serve all day long … but check first by calling 089-890-4890. Located on Soi Pai Sing To next to Monterey Place condo.

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Sukhothai, -ish

A bowl of Sukhothai noodles at Baan Kru Eiw

Do you ever find yourself in that situation where you recognize somebody across the room whom you haven’t seen for a while? What if they recognize you, too? What if you both sit, paralyzed, unsure of who is to get up and make that first stab at conversation? And if you lose this internal wrestling match and you do get up, what if you see that undeniable flash of resignation flit across his face, that “Oh crap, now I have to talk to this person I haven’t spoken to since my wedding in 2007” look? What if you catch that person desperately attempting to hide from you as your eyes lock onto his ear, trying to avoid the upcoming “Oh crap I said I’d call you back five years ago” conversation by suddenly becoming fascinated by the septuagenarian cashier near the entrance, the telltale hand coming up to shield his precious face from your gaze?

I admit it. I have nearly been run over by a bus in my haste to avoid an ex in San Francisco. So I know what it’s like to run away from someone like a bar of soap and stick of deodorant when faced with the likes of Johnny Depp in Full Hobo Mode.  But you can’t run away from me, Sukhothai. I admit, you nearly succeeded, what with my preoccupation with the north, and then Isaan, and that brief flirtation with Phuket over the summer. But there was no way I was not going to knock over every vendor in the city in my search for the best Sukhothai noodles — an ingenious dish that combines a Chinese base (rice noodles) with Thai seasonings (lime, fish sauce, chilies, palm sugar), topped with a signature flourish of julienned green beans.

Sukhothai likes its food sweet, and is fond of its coconut milk. This is why Sukhothai can be considered more of a central Thai city, and less northern Thai. Sukhothai noodles — usually built upon sen lek, or thin white rice noodles —  contain no coconut milk, but epitomize all the great things that characterize Sukhothai’s food: sweetness tempered by a bit of spice, a fondness for the pig in whatever iteration, and generous use of the region’s famously gorgeous cut lime. There is crunch from the blanched beans, crushed peanuts and tiny crumbs of pork crackling; there is a pork-bone broth flavored with tamarind juice and thick with slices of tender boiled pork. It’s hard to not like this particular hometown specialty.

The best place to have it may not be a street food stall. Instead, it’s a “comfort food”-style restaurant, what a diner would be like if it existed in Thailand. It’s called Baan Kru Eiw (www.bankrueiw-restaurant.com), located in downtown Sukhothai(ish) and named after the teacher who opened this restaurant out of her home a little over a decade ago. Teacher Eiw ran this restaurant in her spare time because she loves cooking and wanted to showcase Sukhothai specialties. That means you get other local favorites like naem nueng, a Vietnamese-derived do-it-yourself noodle dish featuring steamed pork “pate”, and gluey chuem, or boiled bananas in sugar syrup. Last but not least, there is pad Thai — a no-brainer for every Sukhothai noodle vendor in the city, since Sukhothai noodles are basically pad Thai in soup noodle form, with the same seasonings if not always the same protein (the pad Thai here usually involves pork instead of seafood). Kru Eiw wraps her stir-fried noodles up in a thin envelope of egg and crowns the result with a scattering of coriander leaves, with a side of bean sprouts, banana blossom and garlic chives (and of course, a cut of that big, juicy Sukhothai lime) to mop up any grease (Thais are very concerned about kwam lien, or greasiness in their food). At Kru Eiw, there is little grease to worry about. But if you see someone you recognize across the room, you’re on your own.

Kru Eiw’s pad Thai

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Filed under Asia, food, noodles, pork, restaurant, Sukhothai, Thai-Chinese, Thailand