Yet another restaurant located way out in the wasteland of northern Bangkok, but after four recent visits, I reckon it's worth the drive. For starters, Crokmai Thai Lao has one of the most extensive menus of any isaan/Lao restaurant I've been to in Thailand. It has a full page dedicated to insects:
Another page of the menu is entirely dedicated to dishes using ant eggs. Crokmai Thai Lao must also be among the few isaan/Lao restaurants anywhere with a website: www.crokmaithailao.com. Check it out; you can even see the entire menu, including many photos, scanned into the page, and of course the obligatory page of celebrities who've visited the restaurant. I've been told the guy in the red hat with the microphone always wears red hats. Very heady stuff. Rest assured though, it's not all fancy technology and famous people--this place does some pretty good food.
Crokmai means 'wooden mortar', the tool used to make som tam, so naturally there was a dish of the famous papaya salad (pictured above), made here Lao-style with plaa raa and salted crabs. Sour and extremely spicy. There was kaeng poerh (I really have no idea how to transliterate this last word--it sounds a lot like someone spitting bad soup out):
This soup combines a dark broth (the result, I believe, of the addition of bai yaanaang, a leaf), thin slices of crispy bamboo, mushrooms, pumpkin and my favourite bit, a pungent herb called cha om (the green leaves seen above). I've had this dish at restaurants and even at peoples' homes, and reckon this bowl is among the tastiest and most balanced I've had.
Another great dish was mok nor mai:
bamboo stuffed (or combined?) with ground pork and a very coconutty curry paste mixture, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. Almost creamy in texture, and despite the disparate ingredients, a wonderful combination.
Naam phrik plaa raa:
Good, but not outstanding. The naam phrik, a 'dip' of Lao-style fish sauce was tasty, but watery. I liked the combination of veggies though, including steamed pumpkin and some edible flowers.
And every time I eat here I have to order plaa som thot:
Freshwater fish that has been fermented via some rice and deep-fried. Sour, cripsy and meaty.
I recommend a visit, be it physically or virtually.
Crokmai Thai Lao (Google Maps link) 6/257 Muu 1 Soi Ladplakhao 24 (off Kaset-Navamin Highway) 02 570 6234 11am-11pm