Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sap's -- As Fine as it Ever Was

Sap’s Thai – As Fine as It Ever Was

A couple of weeks ago Art and I had a meeting about a new cookbook we are pitching to our agent and needed to combine that meeting with nutrification. Nothing nutrifies as good as Sap’s Fine Thai Cuisine does. In our quest to eat the entire menu (a little at a time, not all at once), we decided to order the amazing squid, beef gaeng pa, masaman curry with pork, and tom yum gai with vermicelli noodles.

Amazing Squid (S-P28) is a seafood version of the Amazing Green Beans dish, and has a sauce that’s spicy and salty, with an umami nutty richness from fermented bean paste. It has a very unique and addictive flavor and matches perfectly with the just-blanched tender squid and the crunchiness of the green beans. I love this dish, not matter what protein is paired with it.

Gaeng Pa (S-P26) is a “jungle curry”, a very old traditional dish from Northern Thailand. Traditionally it is made with no coconut milk, since they don’t grow up there, and the protein used in the dish was typically wild boar or water buffalo. Today it is more likely pork, or in this case, beef. The heat level is up there, from a combination of green Thai chiles, white peppercorns, and some fresh green peppercorns, and the holy basil in the dish only serves to accentuate and increase the effect of the spiciness. It is more soup-like than one would expect, meant to be eaten with rice. Excellent dish.  

Masaman curry (S-P13) is another ancient Thai dish, influenced by the Muslims in the far south of Thailand.  Depending on the source you want to believe, it originated either in 16th century Ayutthaya, brought in by Persian traders, and morphed into a Thai dish over time. It’s more likely the dish came in from the south, using Indian spices picked up by Arab traders on their way to Malaysia and Indonesia. It’s flavored with coconut milk and peanut, and has a very rich sauce that resembles red curry (but has much more refined dried spice nuance). I love it with pork, but I’m not Muslim.

Guay teaw tom yum gai (S-NS8) is one that we always get with rice instead, but ordered here with vermicelli noodles. However you eat it, Sap’s does a magnificent job with this dish, balancing just the right amount of fish sauce with the lime, all based on a rich chicken stock, and loading up on the lemongrass and makroot.

Word up, Sap’s is better than Mam’s. Sap manages his Westgate restaurant hands-on, and knows and appreciates all of his regulars. The food is authentic, consistent, and excellent, and he doesn’t take any shortcuts. Here’s another unapologetic zinger, Sap’s is better than Titaya’s, which is closed now anyway. You want first rate Thai food, you want to go to Sap’s. I’ve eaten Thai food all over Thailand, at non-farang restaurants, and Sap’s is the real deal.

Mick Vann ©

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