A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.



Nyaungshwe’s morning market

Posted at 1am on 8/19/14 | read on
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Several communities in the Inle Lake region play host to a revolving market. Once every five days, a particular town’s market will swell to several times its normal size, practically bursting with vendors, shoppers and exotic (and not so exotic) produce. Some of these markets are found at remote locations only generally accessible by foot or boat, while others take place in already established markets in bustling market towns.

Nyaungshwe, the town Myanmar’s Shan State that essentially functions as the gateway to Inle Lake, is an example of the latter. It has an already large, diverse market, but once every five days, it spills out beyond its usual walls, packed with exotically dressed Pa O and Danu shoppers, Shan-run food stalls and Burmese traders. Not surprisingly, given that the village is adjacent to Inle Lake, the wares include a huge selection of fish. But there’s also produce from the surrounding hills, lots of Burmese-style sweets, Shan-style noodles and savoury dishes, and housewares from China.

For images from Nyaungshwe’s market day, hit the play button above; click the button in the corner for full-screen mode and captions.


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Few people seem to make it to Lamphun, which is a pity. The city is located 30km south of Chiang Mai, but getting there is part of the fun, particularly if you go via the old highway, which is edged by towering rubber trees:

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and which passes through small towns. And Lamphun itself, although small, is charming:

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hardly a surprising setting for an equally charming, longstanding restaurant serving northern Thai food.

Dao Kanong has been around for 40 years now, a history that’s evident in the restaurant’s somewhat institutional and bare dining room. The food isn’t as rustic as some restaurants in northern Thailand, or as or homestyle as the take-away food from markets, but it’s prepared with care — in particular the vegetables, which in northern Thailand can tend to be overcooked — making it a good introduction to the region’s dishes.

On my first visit (pictured at the top of this post), I had (starting from the top and moving clockwise) kaeng ho, a stir-fry of crunchy, tart pickled bamboo, glass noodles, a curry paste and a mixture of meats, vegetables and herbs; nam phrik num, a spicy dip of grilled chilies, shallots and garlic, served here with a lovely selection of steamed vegetables; sticky rice; and smooth, herbal aep muu, minced pork combined with egg and a mild curry paste, and grilled in banana leaf package.

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It was all good enough for me to make the drive again:

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And on my second visit there was (moving clockwise from the top) sai ua, the northern-style herb and pork sausage, which here has more emphasis on the pork than herbs; kaeng phak, a deliciously earthy, vegetable-heavy soup that was studded with crunchy strips of rainy season bamboo; fresh green chilies stuffed with a minced pork mixture before being battered and deep-fried; and kaeng hang lay, the Shan pork curry, here seasoned a bit too sweet for my tastes.

Those stuffed chilies, seen again here:

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were a real highlight: crispy, not oily, and with lots of flavour; easily worth the drive.

Dao Kanong
340 Th Charoen Rat (Th Chiangmai-Lamphun), Lamphun
053 511 552
9.30am-8pm


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Down the street, Lisbon. #portugal

Portuguese food is relatively little known, and the reputation it does have tends to involve words like “stodgy” or “meat and potatoes”. But after two visits to the country, I’ve found that eating in Portugal is a lot like eating in Thailand: unpretentious, garlicky, messy, cheap, boozy, full flavoured and fun. True, meat and potatoes pop up a lot, and the cuisine isn’t as varied or spicy as that of Thailand — or as diverse or sophisticated as that of Spain, to which it’s often compared — but Portuguese food is just plain good; not a surprise given that the ingredients the Portuguese do have to work with are pretty impressive. Amazing seafood, surprisingly good bread, a pastry and coffee culture to rival just about any country in the world, and good olive oil that flows like water are just some of the standouts, not to mention the alcohol, which is invariably cheap and tasty. Yet going light years beyond Thailand are the people involved with food — at least the ones we were lucky enough to encounter — who often tended to display an intimate knowledge about that which they made, served or sold.

So here are some of my best hits from my most recent trip to Lisbon, a city I wouldn’t hesitate to call one of my favourite eating destinations anywhere. I didn’t bring a proper camera on the trip, so the below are all taken with my iPhone 4 and edited courtesy of Instagram.

Cervejaria Ramiro

Said crab, Cervejaria Ramiro. The fat is combined with butter and served in the shell in a something of an intensely rich crab curry. #portugal

Easily one of the most enjoyable and pleasurable meals I had in Lisbon, if not of all time, was at this longstanding seafood den. In many ways, Ramiro is not unlike Chinese-style seafood halls in Bangkok — both feature tanks of live seafood, flat-screen TVs and a loud and hectic atmosphere — but the emphasis here is on seafood rather than seasonings. If you’re coming from Southeast Asia, this may be the first time you’ve really, truly tasted seafood, which here takes forms such as shrimp in garlicky olive oil; cold spider crab with its fat made into a buttery dip (shown above); cold, briny gooseneck barnacles:

Gooseneck barnacles, Cervejaria Ramiro, Lisbon. Just one of several dishes of an amazing meal that also included clams in broth, a giant steamed crab, tiny prawns in olive oil and garlic, grilled buttery bread, and rather incongruently, a garlicky steak s

my first time trying this unusual specialty; the famous amêijoas à bulhão pato, clams in olive oil, garlic and parsley; and perhaps most incongruously (and memorably), prego, garlicky steak sandwiches, which one smothers in yellow mustard. All of this was coupled with buttery toasted bread and a slightly fizzy red vinho verde.

Cervejaria Ramiro
Avenida Almirante Reis 1, Lisbon
noon-1am Tues-Sat


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Páteo Do Petisco

#portugal

Near the seaside destination of Cascais, this place does petiscos, the Portuguese equivalent of tapas. Heartier and less sophisticated than their Spanish cousins, but if you ask me, more satisfying, the petiscos we had on our two visits to the restaurant included crispy deep-fried potato skins; a soup of rice and octopus; grilled, rice-stuffed blood sausage; tiny snails:

Caracóis, Portuguese snails: tiny, salty, garlicky and possibly thymey. A drinking snack available all over Lisbon. #portugal

pipis, chicken giblets in a paprika-heavy sauce; a surprisingly tender and meaty steak; clams; and a shocking number of bottles of vinho verde.

Páteo Do Petisco
Travessa das Amoreiras 5, Cascais Torre
noon-2am Tues-Sun


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Pastelaria Aloma

The pasteis de nata at Pastelaria Aloma, winner of the best egg tarts in Lisbon two years running. Amazingly flaky and crispy, with a taste somewhere right between sweet and rich. #portugal

Although it dates back to 1943, Aloma has aged well, in 2012 and 2013 was deemed to serve Lisbon’s best pastéis de nata (egg tarts). And justifiably so; although the standard in Lisbon is pretty high, the tarts served here were exceptionally light and flaky, and held a likewise rich filling.

Pastelaria Aloma
Rua Francisco Metrass 67, Lisbon
8am-7pm


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Sol e Pesca

Sol E Pesca, Lisbon: barely a restaurant, but easily one of the most charming and delicious places I've ever eaten at. Choose a tinned fish or shellfish -- sardines, tuna, mackerel, mussels, octopus -- from the huge menu and they'll grab it from a shelf,

Sol e Pesca is a converted fishing tackle shop that also happens to sell tinned seafood. There’s a vast menu of the stuff, ranging from tuna paste to octopus in spicy olive oil, which to order are grabbed from a shelf, dumped on a plate and served with a sprinkle of parsley and a wedge of lemon:

Fat sardines in spicy olive oil w pickles; Sol E Pesca, Lisbon, #portugal

Barley a restaurant, admittedly, but nonetheless one of my most memorable and satisfying meals in Lisbon.

Sol e Pesca
Rua Nova do Carvalho 44
noon-4am


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Solar dos Presuntos

Solar Dos Presuntos: buzzy, boozy, bustling, big screen TV -- pretty much the epitome of the Portuguese restaurant.

This three-storey restaurant is epitome of the Portuguese institution: busy, buzzy, decked with celebrity portraits and big-screen TVs, and served by gruffily amicable male staff. And best of all the food delivers; highlights were the tender roasted kid goat, a soup of rice and prawns, and slices of tender Portuguese pork fried in lard.

Solar dos Presuntos
Rua Portas de Santo Antão 150, Lisbon
noon-3.30pm & 7-11pm


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Cervejaria Trindade

Expensive by Lisbon standards, and perhaps a bit touristy, Trindad — located inside a former convent — makes up for these with an immaculately beautiful tile-lined interior, a relatively brief menu that serves as a great introduction to Portuguese standards, and friendly staff.

Cervejaria Trindade
Rua Nova da Trindade 20C, Lisbon
noon-midnight


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Confeitaria Nacional

An amazingly crispy and light almond paste tart, and yet another galão, Confeitaria Nacional, Lisbon, #portugal.

Dating back to 1829, this is allegedly Lisbon’s oldest pastry shop. Located in the centre of town, it’s almost one of the most popular, and after approximately 10 visits, among the best I came across. Expect a huge selection of Portuguese pastries and cakes here, including a particularly memorable pastel de feijão (pictured above), an impossibly light and crispy pastry shell filled with bean paste that was almost as light and airy as whipped cream.

Confeitaria Nacional
Praça da Figueira 18B
8am-10pm Mon-Sat, 9am-10am Sun


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BA Wine Bar

This place is admittedly tiny and relatively expensive, popular among foreign tourists (reservations are a must) and lacks the charmingly old-school atmosphere of other places in Lisbon, but for non Portuguese speakers interested in testing the waters of Portuguese wine, I can’t imagine a better starting point. The selection of wines by the glass is immense, but the real highlight here is the customer service, with the people running the place being both exceptionally welcoming and extremely knowledgeable about their food (limited to canned seafood, as well as meats and cheeses) and of course, their wine.

BA Wine Bar
Bar Rua da Rosa 107
6-11pm


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A Taberna da Rua das Flores

Bacalhau com grão de bico, salt cod and chickpeas dressed in vinaigrette at the charming Taberna da Rua das Flores, Lisbon.  #portugal #latergram

A closet-sized tavern that has a short, daily menu of dishes, some traditional, such as meia desfeita (shown above), chickpeas and codfish in vinaigrette, or iscas:

Also enjoyed at Taberna da Rua Das Flores was iscas à portuguesa, pork liver fried w air-dried ham in a garlicky, bay-leafy white wine reduction. Not usually a liver fan but really enjoyed this. #portugal #latergram

pork liver marinated in wine and sauteed with dried ham, as well as a couple more modern options. Equal parts charming and tasty.

A Taberna da Rua das Flores
Rua das Flores 103
noon-midnight Mon-Fri & 6pm-midnight Sat


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Mercado da Ribeira (Mercado 24 de Julho)

#portugal haul. Think I'll go w some smoked mackerel tonight. #wishidboughtmore

The original section of this market, Lisbon’s largest, is pretty unexceptional, and feels rather empty. The main reason to go is the new Time Out-branded food hall, which unites several famous restaurants and vendors (a couple of which are mentioned here), and shops, including one selling tinned seafood (pictured above) and branch of the well-stocked and knowledgeably-staffed Garrafeira Nacional, a wine store:

I did get to taste this: grapes picked in 1944 and held in wood for the next 40 years. Light, aromatic, almost no taste of alcohol and a bunch of other things I don't have the vocabulary to describe. #portugal

which had some interesting and ancient stuff for sale by the glass.

Time Out Food Hall
Mercado da Ribeira (Mercado 24 de Julho)
Avenida 24 de Julho
10-midnight Mon-Wed, 10am-2am Thurs-Sat, 10am-midnight Sun


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A Tasca do Chico

Daytime veterinarian/nighttime amateur fado singer Carlos Rodrigues in action at A Tasca do Chico, Lisbon, #portugal

Food is available here, but the emphasis is on fado, a type of Portuguese music with roots in Lisbon. On Monday and Wednesday nights, the Bairro Alto branch holds sessions of fado vadio, a sort of open mic session, where anybody who wants to can come up and sing a few songs. We were never out of here earlier than 2am on both our visits, made new friends (hi Carlos!) and found it a warm, inviting place.

A Tasca do Chico
Rua do Diário de Notícias 39
7pm-3am


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Northern Thai food can be frustratingly elusive. Even in Chiang Mai, the region’s largest city and cultural and culinary capital, there aren’t many places serving local dishes. And the restaurants that do exist tend to sell similar repertoires of meaty dishes for a predominately male clientele, or are targeted at tourists (of all genders) and tend to lack real northern flavours and ingredients. Truth is, if you’re in Chiang Mai and want to try good local food, the best option is to make a local friend and try to score a home-cooked meal, or to buy take-away food from one of the city’s numerous markets.

But there are a few options. Decidedly un-toursity and rooted in the meaty laap mould, but with enough soups, salads and other dishes to claim some diversity, is Laap Kao Cham Chaa.

The obscure name is the northern Thai dialect name for the rain tree. The restaurant — more an open-air gathering of rickety chairs and tables under the eponymous tree — is open during the day, but I’ve only ever visited at night, when it’s consistently packed with loud, happy eaters and drinkers, smoke from the grill and the blare of western music that never made it in the West.

The food isn’t going to blow you away, but again, you’re going to struggle to find a local place that does this many dishes served with local-style flavour, and with a fun local atmosphere to boot.

I always go for the tam som oh, a pounded salad of pomelo and nam puu, a funky paste made of tiny field crabs and herbs (shown in the middle of the pic below):

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I like their soups, particularly kaeng awm, a meaty, spicy curry of pork or beef (also shown above), or the tom sop, a vast bowl filled with a spicy, clear broth and beef tendon.

They do northern-style laap, which is garlicky, spicy and fragrant, as well as a huge array of northern-style grilled meats — grilled intestines; sai ua, a northern-style herb-heavy sausage; skewers of peppery beef; jin som, northern-style fermented pork wrapped in a banana leaf — which are generally just OK.

Couple any of these with a basket of sticky rice and a Singha, and you’ve got yourself a good intro the flavours of Thailand’s north.

Kao Cham Chaa has a cameo on a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, and Thai-language write-ups of the place (which include more images) can be seen here and here.

Laap Kao Cham Chaa
Th Ratanakosin (behind Prince Royal’s College), Chiang Mai
9am-11pm


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Jin Sot/จิ้นสด

Posted at 10am on 5/27/14 | read on
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Phrae, a little-visited town in northern Thailand, is probably the region’s most famous place for laap and other meaty, northern Thai-style dishes. Yet the glowing rep has meant that many of the town’s cooks have opened shop elsewhere in northern Thailand, and today most restaurants with the name Laap Phrae are found far outside the tiny town’s city limits.

Yet one guy who chose to stay in his hometown is Wiwat Kanka, the chef/owner at Jin Sot:

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Jin Sot is northern Thai for fresh meat, an apt name for this open-air restaurant that serves an entire repertoire of northern Thai-style dishes — many served raw — made from pork, beef and buffalo.

Dishes such as laap, a “salad” of minced meat, can be found across Thailand’s north, but according to Mr Kanka, the thing that makes them particularly Phrae is the khrueang, or chili paste. “The chili paste is the same everywhere: chili, garlic and shallots; the flavour depends on how the dish is seasoned,” explains the native of Phrae. “Here we use lots of makhwaen [Zanthoxylum limonella Alston; a spice related to prickly ash and Sichuan pepper], deeplee [long pepper] and malaep [Heracleum siamicum Craib; a local spice].”

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This unique spice combination is particularly apparent in the restaurant’s excellent pork-based dishes, including its laap muu suk, cooked laap:

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a dish of finely minced pork, offal and that spice mixture (unlike elsewhere in northern Thailand, blood does not feature in the cooked version of this dish), briefly fried and topped with fresh herbs and no small amount of deep-fried crispy shallots (they sometimes do a unique local variant called that also includes tart cherry tomatoes). Like elsewhere in Phrae, the dish is spicy — surprisingly so for typically mild northern Thai food — yet also packs the fragrant, slightly numbing punch of makhwaen and the citrusy zing of malaep.

For adventurous eaters there’s also luu muu, a “soup” of raw pork blood and a spice mixture:

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“It’s hard to make,” explains Mr Kanka, who explains that in addition having to prepare the obligatory sides of crispy deep-fried noodles, pork intestines, pork rinds and kaffir lime leaves, he also has to take great care with the dish’s main ingredient (“The blood has to be very fresh, and as soon as we get it, it has to be kept cool.”). To serve the dish, the blood is mixed with the spice paste, cooked minced pork, the liquid from picked garlic (“for sweetness”) and sweetened condensed milk (“for a sweet and oily taste”), before being served over the noodle mixture. It’s an undeniably intimidating but delicious dish, a unique combination of herbal spiciness, meaty savouriness, soup and crunch.

Jin Sot also serve some exceptional beef-based dishes, including an excellent jin neung, beef shin steamed over herbs and served with nam phrik khaa, a dry galangal-based dip, and an equally tasty kaeng awm:

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a rich, thick, intensely meaty stew.

Jin Sot
Rte 1023, Phrae
9am-10pm
054 627 067


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Phrae, March 23, 2014

Posted at 6am on 4/14/14 | read on
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Backstage at a Chinese opera, Phrae, Thailand

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Most Thais are familiar with khanom jeen nam ngiaw (ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว), the northern Thai staple of a pork- and tomato-based broth served over thin, fresh rice noodles. Yet few are aware of the variations the dish can take across the region. In Chiang Mai, nam ngiaw is often rich and oily, and is supplemented with the dried flowers of the cotton tree; in Chiang Rai the dish is hearty and meaty, and there’s even a variant made with beef; and in Mae Hong Son, khao sen, as it’s known there, tends to be thin and tart with very little meat.

Even Phrae, a relatively obscure province in northern Thailand, has its own version. On the surface, khanom sen nam muu (ขนมเส้นน้ำหมู), as the dish is known there, appears deceptively simple. But as served at Khanom Sen Paa Net, a 60 year-old restaurant in the eponymous provincial capital, it might be the most interesting and delicious version I’ve encountered — largely due to the broth:

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This is made by simmering a shocking amount of pork bones with coriander root, garlic, salt and a bit of fish sauce over very low coals for as long as six hours (allegedly they start making the dish at 3am). The result is one of the most amazing broths I’ve encountered in Thailand — virtually clear yet profoundly meaty without any of the funky “porky” odour that pork-based broths tend to have. Towards the end of the cooking process, they toss in a few halved plum tomatoes and cubes of steamed blood; the broth is served over khanom jeen noodles, drizzled with a mixture of crispy deep-fried pork fat and garlic. The tomatoes offer barely enough acidic tartness to counter the rich meatiness, and the dish is served with optional sides of ground chilies toasted in oil, lime slices, chopped coriander, shredded cabbage and bean sprouts.

Given the work that goes into the dish, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the folks here — the third generation to run the restaurant — are extremely proud of the food they serve, using the best ingredients and taking great care with them — practices one doesn’t always encounter in Thailand. I was told repeatedly that no MSG or stock powder were used in the broth; even the chili condiment is made from chilies sourced from Ubon Ratchathani (“They’re better than the local chilies,” I was told).

Typically served alongside khanom sen in Phrae is khao som, tomato-tinted rice topped with a mixture of deep-fried crispy pork fat and garlic:

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The tomatoes are steamed before being lightly fried with the rice and a bit of salt. The dish has a slightly sour (the som in the name) flavour, and upon request, they’ll scoop up some of the simmered pork bones to accompany it.

Other than som tam, Thai-style papaya salad, the only other dish served at Paa Net is dessert, which on the day I visited took the form of sago pearls and corn in barely sweet/barely salty coconut milk:

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which, like everything else, was utterly simple yet utterly delicious.

Khanom Sen Paa Net
Soi Muang Daeng, Phrae
054 620 056
9am-1.30pm


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Better than Bangkok

Posted at 4am on 3/17/14 | read on
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I had always avoided Bangkok/central Thai-style food up in Chiang Mai. The few dishes I’d had weren’t exactly great, and anyway, how could I not take advantage of all the wonderful local stuff?

But it appears that all I needed was a bit of pointing in the right direction, and recently I encountered two restaurants that do dishes traditionally associated with Bangkok, but, well, better.

Phat kaphrao, minced meat fried with chili, garlic and the eponymous holy basil, is available on just about every street corner in Bangkok. It’s always cheap, salty and spicy, but almost never exceptional; in recent years I’d begun exclusively making it at home rather than getting it outside.

Unless I’m in Chiang Mai, that is. Raan Kraphrao Samrap Khon Chorp Phet translates as “Phat Kaphrao Restaurant for People Who Like Spicy”:

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a slightly misleading name, as part of the deal here is that the customer chooses his preferred level of spiciness. I went for the pork version, medium spicy (shown at the top of this post). Unconventionally, the cooks here marinate the meat beforehand, and the resulting seasoning is spot-in. And I like that the holy basil (the eponymous kaphrao) is tossed into the wok at the very last second, so that it doesn’t wilt and disappear. Yet most of all, I was impressed by the texture of the dish, which emerges from the wok dry and concentrated, almost crumbly. This is an attribute I’d recognised in better versions of the dish, and something I’d always tried to recreate when making it at home.

Phat kaphrao is the obvious highlight, but they also do a daily selection of Chinese-Thai-style soups — perfect mild counterpoints to the spicy food — and full menu of central Thai dishes, including a really excellent phat khee mao.

Also putting Bangkok to shame is Pathom. This place specialises in khao tom, rice — steamed or boiled — served with various Chinese-influenced sides.

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The menu here spans no more than a dozen dishes, which over Pathom’s 30 years in business, they appear to have absolutely perfected. This isn’t sexy cuisine: the dishes aren’t exactly handsome, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find presentation or garnish, but you’ll also be hard-pressed to find better versions of these staples just about anywhere in Thailand.

On my most recent visit (shown above), I had eggplant, Thai basil and fermented soybeans expertly flash-fried until just milliseconds away from turning to mush; crispy, meaty deep-fried pork belly; jap chai, Chinese-style braised vegetables, which here includes lots of cabbage and pork skin; a really excellent tao huu phalo, firm tofu braised in five spice broth, where here is served with dip that’s a near-perfect intersection of spicy and tart; and of course rice. I generally opt for steamed rice, but most customers go for the eponymous boiled rice, which allegedly is given extra gluten by the addition of a bit of sticky rice

Everything is made in advance and staff are efficient, so you’ll be eating in seconds.

And like Raan Kraphrao Samrap Khon Chorp Phet, in addition to better-than-in-Bangkok Bangkok-style food, the other linking element is a dining room that has all the charm of airplane hangar:

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Bringing home the fact that, no matter where you’re eating Thailand, good food often involves a degree of compromise.

Raan Kraphrao Samrap Khon Chorp Phet/ร้านกระเพรา (สำหรับคนชอบเผ็ด)
Rte 1001, Chiang Mai
081 530 0380
11.30am-1pm & 4-9.30pm


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Pathom/ข้าวต้มปฐม
Th Chang Phuak, Chiang Mai
7am-2pm


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Tao huay & chao kuay

Posted at 1am on 3/15/14 | read on
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It’s heating up in Bangkok, and when this happens Thais have traditionally reached out to two very different sweet snacks of Chinese origin in an effort to cool down.

Tao huay (เต้าฮวยน้ำขิง), pictured above, is a unique combination of thin slices of a type of very soft bean curd pudding and a hot, spicy, ginger broth. The dish is garnished with crispy deep-fried bits of dough and a dash of raw cane sugar (น้ำตาลทรายแดง). Hot, spicy broth may seem a counter-intuitive snack choice in sweltering weather, but Chinese belief entails that eating hot, spicy things induces sweating, which ultimately cools one down.

Another cooling dish, usually sold at the same stalls that serve tao huay, is chao kuay (เฉาก๊วย), the somewhat medicinal-tasting black cubes known in English as grass jelly (for a description of how grass jelly is made, go here):

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In Thailand, the stuff is served with crushed ice and sprinkling of raw, fragrant cane sugar. The ice is an obvious cooling element, but in Chinese medicine, grass jelly is thought to inherently possess cooling properties, pushing the body’s balance towards the yin end of the spectrum.

These snacks are available just about everywhere, especially in the older parts of Bangkok, but lately I’ve been going to this streetside stall at the edge of Bangkok’s old town:

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where this vendor has been working the kettles for more than 50 years. He doesn’t make the ingredients himself, but they’re of good quality nonetheless.

Tao Huay & Chao Kuay Vendor
Cnr Soi Tha Kham & Th Maha Rat, Bangkok
Noon-7pm

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Good northern Thai-style food is hard enough to find in Bangkok. Yet a decent bowl of khao soi, the curry noodle soup that’s quite possibly the region’s most famous dish, is probably the most elusive thing of all.

There are a few places in town that serve passable versions of khao soi. But most of Bangkok’s bowls are creamy, bland approximations of the stuff up north. Those that do the best versions tend to have a direct link with Chiang Mai, which is the case with Khao Soi Chiang Mai. The original owner is a native of eponymous city, who, more than 40 years ago, started selling the mild Muslim-style khao soi associated with her hometown.

Chiang Mai’s Muslim-style khao soi is not as spicy, rich or fragrant as the coconut milk curry-based broth served at the city’s more famous Thai-Buddhist-run restaurants. Instead, the dish is comprised of two parts: a thick, rich, meat-based (beef or chicken) ‘stew’ and heated coconut cream that are combined to order. The result is a mix that, when done properly (such as that served at Chiang Mai’s Khao Soi Prince), is pleasantly mild, but not bland, with a consistency somewhere between watery and creamy, and with a subtle, almost indistinguishable flavour of dried spice.

Khao Soi Chiang Mai’s is the closest I’ve come to this version of the dish in Bangkok. Again, it’s worth reiterating that those expecting heaps of chili and spice will be disappointed; both the beef and chicken versions here are very mild, the former being slightly less so. Admittedly, a bit of seasoning is required, but once done, it’s on par with versions served up in Chiang Mai. Also as in Chiang Mai, the noodles here are smooth and dense, and here are made in-house. And the khao soi is served with sides of slices of lime, thinly-sliced shallots and good-quality pickled cabbage.

They also serve the other northern Thai noodle staple, khanom jeen nam ngiaw, thin rice noodles served with a pork- and tomato-based broth:

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Unfortunately the version here is neither particularly rich (as it is in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai) nor tart (as it is up in Mae Hong Son).

And like the Muslim-style khao soi restaurants up in Chiang Mai, they also do a few Thai-Muslim staples, including khao mok kai:

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chicken biryani, served here very Thai-style, ie the rice appears to be seasoned with little more than turmeric, and comes accompanied with a very sweet dipping sauce; chicken satay; and ‘Muslim’ salad: lettuce, eggs and tofu served with a sweet peanut-based dressing. All OK, but the main reason to come is that rarest of things in Bangkok, a real-deal khao soi.

Khao Soi Chiang Mai
283 Th Samsen, Bangkok
9am-4pm Sun-Fri


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