I don't think Phil was too keen on the idea, giving prions as a lame excuse. But they were out of brains that day anyway, so he got off easily. However on a recent visit to Banglamphu I wasn't so lucky; they hadn't yet run out of brains, and I finally got a try. What I'm referring to is tom yam samong muu, pig brain tom yam.
This unusual -- even for Bangkok -- dish is served in an ancient townhouse in Bangkok's Banglamphu neighbourhood owned an extremely friendly 80-year old man:
His father, an immigrant from China (and who eventually lived to be 94 -- the result of a diet of pig brains?), was the original owner. He reckons his father started the restaurant up during the early years of WWII, and little, including the positively medieval kitchen, appears to have changed since then. He now runs the place with his daughter.
Undoubtedly due to his father's influence, the man told us that the style of pig brain tom yam he makes is the Chinese style (Thai-style pig brain tom yam is available just across the street, he explained). In fact his signature dish doesn't only contain pig brains; there are bits of liver, tubular lengths of intestine and pork balls (no, not pork testicles, meatballs), among other meaty bits I wasn't able to identify. The dark brown bits you see are, if I remember correctly, battered deep-fried chunks of taro, which were particularly tasty.
He told us that most people eat the soup with a bowl of rice, dipping the meats in a tiny side dish of spicy dipping sauce first, then eating it with the rice. His dipping sauce was in fact delicious, and was made from tiny pickled chilies ground up with salt.
The verdict? Not bad, but not amazing. As pictured above, the broth appears thick and cloudy, but wasn't as rich as it looks. And I'm more put off by intestines than brain, which to be honest was actually very similar in flavour and texture to soft tofu. I'm thinking of using it as a tofu substitute for vegan recipes.
Tom Yam Samong Muu 11 Phraeng Phuthon 086 772 1600 9am-4pm Mon-Sat