Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Salad and Shoots at Sap's 9.23.2012
On the way back from visiting mom at the nursing home on Sunday a fierce hunger came over me as I neared the turnoff from Mopac to 360; Sap’s Fine Thai Cuisine was close and I needed a Thai food fix. I could almost smell it, and some Homer-like drool was starting to drip. It was hot that afternoon, and a crisp, cool, tingly, spicy salad sounded great to me, so I opted for Sap’s Num Tok Gai , S-S3.
Thought to be an offshoot of the ancient Isaan salad called laab, num tok (nahm dtok) literally means “water fall” a reference to the beads of internal moisture that form on the edges of the single piece of meat as it cooks over a live fire, which serve as the visual clue for the cook to turn the piece of meat. Another version of the name refers to the fact that traditionally, some blood was always mixed with the meat to embellish the dressing and boost the flavor of the dish. It originated in Isaan, was adopted with relish in the North, and has now spread throughout Thailand. The dressing is pungently spicy, sour, and salty, with just a pinch of sugar to soften the bite. It is generally cooked with beef, although pork, venison, or chicken can be substituted. The meat is cooked to medium rare, and sliced thinly against the grain, and then minced. Once minced, the meat is tossed with sliced shallot, cilantro, mint, sawtooth herb (if available), spicy-limey dressing, and roasted and finely-ground roasted rice (khao nao) which adds texture and helps the dressing cling to the other ingredients. Mint is the predominant herb used and it pairs well with the sour flavors of the lime. Normally in the homeland, a wedge of green cabbage is served alongside as an edible scoop. Num tok is popular as a dish eaten with drinks, as a salad, or as a side dish. Sap’s version is tart, spicy, minty, and especially refreshing; light, yet filling in the summertime. It is served with leaf lettuce and red onion rings, and I love eating it, no matter what the weather is doing.
I also went for another old standby, S-P32, Pad Ped Nor Mai, which is the same sauce as S-P28 and S-P31, what the menu calls “Amazing” sauce. I get S-P32 with ground pork, which pairs well with the sauce and with the bamboo shoots that are the dominating ingredient of the dish. The sauce is a heady and spicy mix of garlic, shallots, fish sauce, Thai chiles, a touch of lime and sugar; sounds kinda plain but the flavor is incredibly complex. The dish is accented by chunks of jalapeño chile and lots of sweet basil; the aroma coming off the bowl blows you away. The taste is over the top, especially when paired with some nutty fragrant jasmine rice.
On the way out I always try to check out the rose bloom bowl by the front door, where rose flowers float on the surface of a bowl, something you see frequently in Thailand as a decoration. Sunday was a good day for the blooms, and the food; as usual.
......bowl of blooms floating in water, Hua Hin, Thailand.
...bowl of plumeria blossoms on the beach, Hua Hin, Thailand
Mick Vann ©