Was fortunate enough to have lunch with David Thompson, Head Chef of London's Nahm, and author of a big fat book on Thai cooking, and his partner, Thanongsak. I first met David when I interviewed him for an article on Michelin-starred chefs visiting Bangkok. We got to talking about Thai food and mentioned that there was a place near my house that makes an excellent khao mok plaa, fish biryani. He was intrigued, and yesterday we finally met up again, this time at the aforementioned restaurant.
The place in question is Yusup (probably a Thai corruption of the Arabic name Yusuf), a Thai-Muslim restaurant located along the Kaset-Nawamin highway in northern Bangkok. I had unknowingly driven past this place literally thousands of times before a friend recommended it to me. After my first visit I soon became a regular customer, and have been wanting to take people there for ages.
David and I started with the requisite khao mok plaa:
Not a particularly evocative pic--was focusing more on eating and chatting about Thai food, but you get the idea. For those of you not familar with this dish, biryani, called khao mok in Thai, is rice cooked with spices and meat, which in Thailand is almost always chicken. It's an amazing concept, but, as David mentioned, never seems to fulfill its potential. Most of the time it's just rice colored yellow with turmeric (or food coloring) with some crap chicken thrown on it. The good men and women at Yusup however, know what's going on and load their version with spices, peas, minced carrots and fresh herbs. Other than fish they also have beef, goat, and the ubiquitous chicken versions.
This was accompanied by sup haang wua, oxtail soup:
A Thai-Muslim speciality, this soup is both mouth-puckeringly sour (from lime juice and tamarind) and rich (undoubtedly the result of all that marrow and bones), and the oxtail has been slow-stewed until fall-apart tender. Amazing stuff.
Thanongsak wisely ordered something outside of the two dish repertoire that I tend to stick to and chose matsaman nuea, "Muslim" curry with beef with roti, fried dough:
I found the matsaman to be one of the best coconut milk-based curries I've had in a long time; smooth, not too sweet, savory, and with a pleasant taste of coconut that, oddly enough, isn't usually found in these curries. The roti, on the other hand, were mediocre--not nearly as crispy and fresh as they should be.
And finally, after all this nosh, David shocked us all by ordering a bowl of kwatiao kaeng, "curry noodles:
This is a dish that one rarely sees around, and is more similar to the Malaysian laksa than anything Thai. David mentioned that he liked it the more he ate it:
but in the end commented that it could have used a final swirl of coconut cream to smooth it out.