One of my coworkers set up dinner for a bunch of us at an authentic Thai restaurant and our Thai coworker was joining. A sure sign of something good things to come. He knows my go-to for Thai food – Pad See Ewe – lovely wide rice noodles coupled with a few veggies and some chicken with the most important attribute – a 0 on the pepper scale. As a prelude to ordering, I did say that I could probably only manage 2 peppers but order what you want and I can wash it down with beer.
Its worth mentioning that Japanese food is not spicy which suits me very well. Chinese, Korean, and Thai have a lot of spice in their food but the Japanese do not. So on menus in the other restaurants, there is a pepper scale that accompanies each dish. In many Japanese restaurants, there is crushed red pepper or hot pepper oil on the table so you can add it to your ramen or mild dish.
The first dish was a rice salad with peanuts, chili peppers, red onions, chewy pork skin, raw pork sausage, puffed rice, lime, and cilantro. The lettuce cups were cabbage. If you’re a health nut, that’s a better way to do it. It was one of the best salads I’ve ever had – texture of the crunchy peanuts and puffed rice, the freshness of the lime and cilantro and the flavor of the sausage. It was a party in my mouth.
They warned me this next dish would be hot – Som Tam Green Papaya Salad. Served in a heart-shaped dish, I took a little because I can’t resist green beans. I picked out the hot peppers or so I thought. It was quite tasty but a few minutes later, it wasn’t my lips or tongue that I seared. It was the UNDERSIDE OF MY TONGUE. It was similar to the kind of pain you feel when you rub your eyes after eating crabs covered in Old Bay or getting icy hot somewhere it shouldn’t be. I tried sloshing Thai beer all over my mouth but it just wouldn’t go away.
There were several other dishes that came out – a beautiful whole cod with a lime sauce, a grilled whole fish with spicy sauce (I passed still burning from above), squid salad, fried chicken drumsticks which far surpass anything you can find in a wing place in the US.
The piece de resistance was chicken dish that required a 2 day advanced order. Jasmine rice with fried onions and a marinated chicken with quail eggs. Flavors of the jasmine (really smell is why it’s so fantastic) was a nice cooling feeling and I was a bit relieved with the milk-toast level of spice. They served a side dish of chili sauce which I sampled a small amount.
The chicken dish was paired with this was a wonderful chicken soup. The big chunks were a cross between a cucumber and a squash called bitter melon or a gourd. The chicken was chicken knuckles and other parts. Post dinner google calls it Tom Mara.