June 8, 2010

Thai Food #2

In this post I thought I would talk about restaurants in Thailand, and a couple of dishes that I've had there but never found here in the U.S.

Every visit I've made to Thailand, there has been one restaurant meal that has been indescribably delicious. Actually, there are usually many, many meals that are indescribably delicious, but there's always one that stands out. A couple of times, it has been a meal at the Seafood Market on Sukhumvit Soi 24 in Bangkok, which is a big, cavernous restaurant where you first shop for your seafood and then give it to your servers and tell them how you want it prepared. Bangkok chowhounds dismiss Seafood Market as touristy and overpriced (which it is) but it does make the best version of curried crab I've ever had, which is what I go there for. I hear there are even better versions in Singapore and Malaysia, but I haven't had them.

Usually, though, the standout meal is in a place outside of Bangkok. We take a lot of road trips during our visits, which means a lot of eating out in roadside and small-town restaurants. These are usually the highlights of my eating experience. It never ceases to amaze me how a small roadside restaurant can whip out the seemingly endless supply of complex, super-spiced, highly flavored dishes that my SIL orders. Sometimes I'll peruse the menu and put in a request, but more often I leave myself in her capable hands.

During one visit, the standout was a meal on the water in the town of Sri Racha. (This is not the home of the wonderful red sauce in the green rooster bottle. The sauce originated in California—not sure why it's called sriracha sauce.)  This setting sounds nicer than it is, as Sri Racha is a sprawling industrial city and the restaurant was a rickety affair set out on stilts over some fetid, polluted water. But the meal was excellent. The standout dish was a plate of deviled red curry crab packed into the crab shells and broiled. I've never had anything like it since. In fact, I've never found this dish on another Thai menu inside or outside of Thailand.

Last summer there were actually two standout meals (well, really three, but two were in the same restaurant). The first was in the this restaurant:

This restaurant's setting looks much nicer in this picture than it actually was. The restaurant itself was situated behind a factory and the water was a murky strange color. I think this meal stood out for me because I had low expectations and then was blown away. I can't remember what exactly we had, and Mr. Coffee didn't take pics—damn him!—, but it was all fresh, spicy, and totally yummy.

Unfortunately, the picture at the top of this post was not from that restaurant. It was from this restaurant,
a strange, kitschy place with a sort of wild west meets aliens theme. Also on the water. (See a trend here?)

Though I didn't find this restaurant outstanding, we did order a couple of new dishes there, ones I've never seen on Thai menus here.
This was minced crispy duck, mixed with red curry, lime leaves, and some pickled green peppercorns. (Not sure that's what they were, but that's what they seemed like.) It sounds better than it actually was. I was really excited when it came to the table and happy when I had the first spoonful, and then things went downhill from there. So intense and perfumey, it was almost like a condiment.

These were delicious and I wish I remembered what they were called. They were some kind of red curry, lime leaf, and chili flavored pancake.
(See a theme here? My SIL makes fun of how much I like red curry. I'm almost alone in this, as most of my family, Mr. Coffee included, doesn't like red-curry or coconut-milk flavored things)
The pancake wedges get eaten with the cucumber sauce in the middle, which is the same cucumber sauce that comes with Thai fish cakes and shrimp cakes. These are sort of in the same vein as the cakes, but without the seafood, a boon for the Vegetarian, who shares my love of red curry. I would totally order these again if I could find them on a menu.

Next post: Thai seafood. And then I promise I'll stop, as it's probably annoying to read about a bunch of food you can't get here.

BTW—I'll be at the Brooklyn Blogfest tonight. I'm looking forward to meeting some other Brooklyn bloggers.