Tag Archives: rice noodles

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.


Filed under Asia, Bangkok, food, noodles, restaurant, Vietnamese

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


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