This Week in Thai Food: Death by Spicy

After a five-week trip through KazakhstanSouth Korea, and Japan, I am finally back in Thailand after a six-month absence. The first thing to decide on after you book a hotel in Bangkok is where to eat. And eat we did, piling on the Thai food and swallowing fire to the point of clutching the edge of the table and shuddering. I wondered seriously if one could die of an overconsumption of capsaicin, the active napalm in chili peppers. (Not likely except in freak occurrences such as breathing it in as an asthmatic or something.) But suddenly going from the comparatively bland Japanese food to the make-you-sweat Thai cuisine can be hard on the guts so I followed my usual spicy-food-protection-plan.

But here’s a photo roundup of the parade of Thai food this first week back in Thailand.

First stop is almost always Soi 22, the 3-wall restaurant known as “Cook” by locals along this street, but there is no sign on the facade. I haven’t been there for a long time but the moment I walk in he nods to his wife at the wok who says “the same?” while going to the fridge for a couple glass bottles of Coke and two tin cups of ice. And, as usual, I get a double portion of meat. My go to dish, my comfort food: khao krapow moo sap kai dao (rice, fried holy basil, ground pork, fried egg). Always nice and spicy, always delicious. His hours are erratic, their days off determined by some sort of aligning of stars and planets, and there’s no phone. So always a hike from Phrom Phong Station and ending in disappointment about 10% of the time.

Thai curries. A class of their own. I like them all, generally. But I like the ones with peanuts in them such as this massaman chicken curry (massaman gai) at Front Park Restaurant in a strip mall at 3081/16 Piyarom Sport Club, Sukhumvit Road.

It took some getting used to but fried soft shell crab is great. Shell and all.

No week in Thailand is complete without the awesome tom yung kung, spicy sour shrimp soup. Guaranteed to put me into spice shock and as addictive as meth but without the paranoid delusions and such.

Here’s a less common one. This from Lao Lao, a Chinese-Thai Restaurant not far from Ara Station across from Villa Market. Take raw shrimp and drizzle them with lime juice, spicy chilies, and garlic.

A notable exception in the Thai food week is a trip to In the Mood for Love sushi restaurant in Sukhumvit Soi 36. They do the super creative rolls that traditionally the Japanese aren’t so keen on but Westerners seem to have whole-heartedly embraced. The menu changes a bit over time so there is always something new — as well as something I habitually get — on the menu. Here’s a roll that has no rice, but includes tuna, avocado, cream cheese, and spicy somethin’ somethin’, wrapped in nori (seaweed paper) and lightly fried in tempura batter for a moment. Love this place. Not cheap though, unlike most Thai food.

One evening we headed down the Chao Phraya River on a free ferry to Asiatique a new riverside lifestyle center converted from a warehouse zone. More seafood for us while being serenaded by an acoustic Thai trio singing John Denver songs and other unlikely tunes. What are you looking at, sea bass? Don’t judge me. I can FEEL you judging me.

Crab in yellow curry. What more needs to be said?

What squid? I didn’t eat any squid. Maybe the waiter forgot to bring it.

Malls for me are not typically where I’d look for great food. However, in Thailand for some fancy meals you can find some famous eateries in the shopping centers. Laem Cha-roen is a famous seaside restaurant that opened a branch in Bangkok and now has 4 locations. This new one in Siam Paragon is just OK. (Again, pricey) But I love them for their deep-fried whole fish in sweet fish sauce or spicy lime sauce with cilantro, as well as CRAB! I tore most of this up while fellow diners looked on in horror.

This is gaeng som, a spicy soup with bits of heart of palm as well as marble-sized fish eggs (catfish, I was told)

A popular dish, hoi tod, mussels fried in batter, is also typically tasty. Laem Cha-roen gets a C+ for this one though.

Kuay tiew tom yam is a soup a bit similar to tom yam kung but it has ground pork, pork balls, a hard-boiled egg, and rice noodles. I kept digging into my wife’s bowl.

I’ve been joking that this week is Thai National Seafood Week. But we’ve eaten absurd amounts of it this week and actually left for a famous seafood region for a couple days along the sea at Hua Hin.

Yes, more crab. I’ve eaten kilos of it this week. This was MUCH fresher than Laem Cha-roen, bigger, and served seaside.

Another curry with some peanuts in it, here’s panang curry with shrimp.

Fermented pork, ribs in, deep-fried. The slightly sour meat is another one of my favorites. Many Thai will crunch away on the cartilage as well.

Crab fried rice, always a hit.

The crowning moment of the week in seafood was a strange experience for me. Driving back to Bangkok from Hua Hin we called ahead to Cha-am beach and placed a seafood order. They’d cook it all and have it waiting for us in plastic grocery bags at Stand #8 on the sea side of the road. So we loaded about 8 kilos of seafood into the trunk in the hot sun and drove two more hours home to spread it all out on the table. That’s about 3 kilos of crab, 2 kilos of shrimp, a kilo (or more) of clams, and a deep-fried sea bass. All for about 2000 baht, roughly $66 USD. Crazy delicious and we ate it for two days.

This one is for the reader’s (gawker’s?) benefit. The perfect Thai dessert – mango and sticky rice. I’ve only ever had it three times in Thailand which is how many times it took me to determine, by process of elimination, that it is the mango that makes my eyes swell nearly shut. I am allergic so I can only watch in envy. Horrible, I know. But it could be worse. I could be allergic to seafood!

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