Intro to Southern Thai Food

January 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

southern thai food

Kathy is almost weepy with bliss.

Phuket Town on Thong Lor could almost be a hidden treasure in the East Village of NYC: it’s tiny, with no more than ten tables; it’s a bright and kitschly-decorated place, with a giant mural of Phuket’s old city, and lots of old Chinese bric a brac on the walls. It’s almost always packed and you have to wait a few minutes for a table to free up, and in the meantime, you constantly study other people’s tables, wondering what they ordered that looks so good.

It might be kind of masochistic of me, but I love restaurants where you have to make a reservation, or where there is a requisite 20-40 minute wait, especially when they’re un-fancy places with long lines of connoisseurs, or at least people who will not tolerate a ho-hum meal and will travel, plan in advance and/or wait to eat a memorable one.

On Tuesday, I had a fantastic reunion at this fantastic southern Thai restaurant.  I’ll confess from the get-go that fermented shrimp paste (kapi) is a taste I have yet to acquire, much to my shame and chagrin.  And much of southern Thai food involves this ingredient in vast amounts.  On this night, though, we were able to successfully avoid shrimp paste without sacrificing variety and deliciousness.

pak mieng khai

Pad pak mieng sai khai

Pak mieng is a slightly bitter regional leafy green from southern Asia, and as far as I know, it doesn’t have a common English name. It’s not, however, to be confused with mieng kham, a leaf roll-up kind of Thai dish.  Our pad pak mieng was stir fried with eggs that mellowed out the bitterness, and topped with dried shrimp and crispy fried-dried onions.

kai thod kamin (fried chicken with cumin)

Kai thod kamin

The other southern variation on a Thai classic is fried chicken, except they do it with cumin and serve it with black sticky rice to soak up the grease, except there’s very little grease because they’re so well fried.  Crunchy on the outside with the moisture locked in.

Massaman curry with roti

Kaeng Massaman Roti

A Thai-Muslim curry, this beef version has a lot of Indian flavors like cloves and onion. I also like the chunks of potato whose relative blandness counter the meat nicely.

khai chiaw poo (omelet with crabmeat)

Khai Chiaw Poo

Apparently, the first time I ate this fluffy, delicious Thai omelet with crabmeat, I adoringly referred to it as “a princess’s bosom”.

Hor mok (fish curry souffle)
Hor Mok

It may look a bit goopy and the custard-like texture isn’t for everyone, but this Thai fish curry souffle contains distilled flavors of everything we love about Thai curry: kaffir lime leaves, curry paste, coconut cream, fish, et cetera. They wrap it up in a banana leaf and steam it within an inch of its life.

All in all, Phuket Town is a fantastic, not to mention super affordable, gem, and I would line up to eat there on a weekly basis.

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