Dropped by at Sap's on Westgate Saturday afternoon late for a culinary pick-me-up, starting with an appetizer called Khao Tung Na Tang, or Crispy Rice Cakes with Shrimp and Pork Dip (S-A3). You get three crispy, nutty cakes made of puffed jasmine rice and a monkey dish (that's a restaurant term for a little bowl) full of a wonderfully rich thick, saucy dip made from garlic, shallot, cilantro, tamarind paste, coconut milk, chiles, peanuts, fish sauce, palm sugar, shrimp, and ground pork. A great, light starter, and uncommon on American menus.
Off of the specials menu, I ordered Gaeng Prik Pla (S - P45), a very spicy, herbal curry without coconut milk, served with a pound of tilapia. The curry has a red curry base, adding lots of turmeric, makroot leaf, Thai basil, jalapeños, and Thai chiles. It's a perfect match with the fish, with deep rich concentrated flavors and a healthy piquant zing.
To round off the meal, I reverted back to one of the old favorite standbys, Pad See Ew Gai, Noodles with Chicken and Chinese Broccoli with Soy Sauce (S-F3). I opted for my usual sen yai, or wide, flat rice noodles. The dish gets that charred, smoky edge from the wok, and the sauce is so much more than simple "soy sauce". It shows the Chinese influence on Thai cuisine, but like most dishes derived from their northern neighbors, it has a distinctly Thai taste. The sauce has light soy, dark soy, a touch of oyster sauce, and lots of garlic, Chinese broccoli, chicken meat, with egg as a very loose binder. One of the all-time great Thai noodle dishes.
Then a lagniappe appeared in the form of a cup of an amazing wintermelon and duck soup that Sap had been whipping up in the back. The broth is wonderfully rich and ducky, and the texture of the wintermelon is silky and lush. It's also one of the healthiest thing you can eat. He sent me home with a container of wintermelon and mushroom soup that I have yet to crack open, made with chicken stock and wintermelon, and four kinds of mushrooms: enoki, shitake, beech, and straw. Here's a shot of the wintermelon-duck soup:
LOVE this restaurant...go there!
Mick Vann ©