Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Willhite's B-B-Q, Creedmoor, 3.24.2012

Wilhite’s B-B-Q
4903 FM 1327@FM 1625,  Creedmoor; 243-2703
Wed & Thu: 10:30-3:30, Fri: 10:30- 9, Sat: 10:30-3:30

For many of its 50 years it was a little barbecue shack sitting on the corner of the intersection of two lonely farm to market roads, then the TDI dump and Gardenville were built, FM 1327 became the shortcut to 183 going south, the new gas station-store was constructed, and Wilhite’s relocated to the east end of the complex. Robert Wilhite, hizzoner of Creedmoor, started working in that shack that his daddy started in 1962, learning at his father’s side. The pit is made of rock with a steel liner, and it creates its smoky magic using post oak, like most of the joints in the CenTex BBQ Belt.

A driving note for ATX'ers: If you want to avoid IH 35, head south on 183 towards Lockhart; you’ll see Pilot’s Knob, the old volcano off to the right, then go through the FM 812 intersection, past the Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo Arena on the right, and  FM 1625 angles off to the right. Go 5 miles and you’ll be at Creedmoor. If you're coming from way up north, Creedmoor is just north of the 130.

We went in around 1:15 last Saturday to find a line, which we promptly joined. After suffering through listening to one of the most complicated orders ever given for a simple chopped beef BBQ sandwich, by the young woman directly in front of us, we finally reached the counter. We both went for the Super Plate (3 meat, 2 sides) for $9. Portions are huge, and value is high.

My plate had 2 ribs, a link of sausage, and three slices of brisket, coupled with a mound of spud salad, beans, and the requisite white bread, dill pickle slices, and sweet onion. The ribs had great flavor and were very can see the smoke ring in the photo. They could have used maybe another 30 minutes in the pit, as they were a tiny touch on the bite-resistant side. NOT tough by any stretch, but just a little resistant when you bite. Too many places today cook them until they are mush...much rather have a little resistance than a rib that falls apart with the first nibble. Sausage is Meyers', from Elgin. Meyers' used to be the preferred Elgin sausage until they dumbed it down for the plebeian taste and the mass market. It still has one of the better, read coarser, grinds of the commercial links out there, but they cut back on the fat percentage and the spice. To get closer to what Meyers' USED to be, check out the sausage coming out of Texas Sausage, over on E. 12th. Sausage history aside, it was a nice, smoky, beefy link, with a snappy casing. The brisket is well-smoked, meltingly tender, and nicely spiced. Being kept in a steam table to keep it hot causes some of the caramelized bark to degrade, but all BBQ joints can't pull straight from the pit to the slicing table. It is delicious brisket, and for the price, a real bargain.The sauce is excellent; a complimentary blend of richness, depth, spice, and well-balanced twixt sweet and sour.

We also got a half chicken ($4.50, although it was the last one, and wasn't quite a full half, so they knocked a little off of the price). It was smoky and moist, with crispy skin...pretty much all that could be asked of a barbecued chicken.

Will I go back?...hell yes. I also want to check out the catfish fry on Friday nights....a tradition that dates back to the Friday = fish days, and a practice that's common among barbecue restaurants all over the state. Willhite's is definitely worth the visit.

Robert also caters everyday of the week BTW.......

Mick Vann ©     


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sunday at Sap's 3.25.2012

Stopped in Sunday afternoon for the requisite Thai food fix at Sap's and settled on 4 dishes for the dining companion and I. Som tam, or shredded green papaya salad, is known as tam bak hung in Isaan, where the dish originated within Thailand. Som tam is very similar to the Lao salad tam mak hung and the Cambodian salad bok l’hong so those are thought to be its origins. Papaya was brought from Latin America to the Philippines by the Spanish in 1550, and spread into Thailand from Laos and Cambodia in the northeast, by way of Vietnam, and from Malaysia in the south. In present day Thailand, papaya grows wild, everywhere. The “tam” in som tam means “to crush” or “to pound”-- a verb that is most commonly used when a mortar and a pestle are involved. Som means “sour”, so the word combination som tam refers to something sour that is pounded in the mortar. It is listed at number 46 on the World's 50 Most Delicious Foods complied by CNN Go in 2011.

It's the most popular salad in Thailand and was a regional culinary transplant imported from Isaan to the Central region, brought in with the flood of workers from the poorer Northeastern quadrant of the country who migrated to the cities in search of jobs. It is a simple but delicious dish that is quickly prepared to-order, requires few ingredients, and a minimum monetary investment for a street vendor to produce. The dish has taken Thailand by storm over the last 50 years or so, and regional styles have developed as the dish spread. Bangkok, as the gastronomic focus point of the country, tends to adopt all styles with time, but the Central version generally uses small dried shrimp (goong haeng) as the protein.

Isaan and Northern versions tend to instead use the small, dark, pickled land crabs (shell and all) called buu (poo) kern, and instead of using fish sauce (naam plaa), they prefer the much more assertive naam plaa raa (paa daek in Lao or Isaan), a thicker, chunkier sauce made from salted and dried freshwater fish that is fermented with rice and aged for 9 months or more. Also used in the north and northeast to replace fish sauce is naam puu (buu), small, dark terrestrial field crabs pounded into a paste, mixed with water, and cooked into a thick, black, sticky liquid.
Coastal regions tend to use very fresh raw crab meat, with or without the shell; having to pick bits of shell out of your mouth is very common. The crab is ‘raw’, but actually undergoes a small degree of chemical “cooking” from the acid of the lime juice, similar to a ceviche. Along the coastal regions it is also common to see seafood (talay) som tam salads, made from a mixture of several types of seafood, or from a single species, such as shrimp, squid, oysters, fish, etc.
The base vegetable for a som tam is usually shredded green or unripe papaya, which grows wild throughout the country. The way a som tam maker shreds the papaya is a work of art: holding the fruit vertically in the left hand with a towel, she will make a very rapid series of shallow parallel cuts into the fruit using a knife that resembles a small, razor-sharp machete (daap) held in the right hand. She then holds the fruit over her large wooden mortar and ‘shaves’ thin strips of perfectly uniform julienned green papaya into the work bowl of the mortar. It happens in the blink of the eye, and looks amazingly dangerous. The green papaya can be substituted with pomelo, green mango or ‘sour’ (sweet-tart) mango, green cabbage, tart apples from China, deep-fried edible leaves or flowers, or any number of different vegetables or semi-tart fruits. Most street vendor versions stick with the green papaya.
 Other than the salty-fish component, additional ingredients are fairly consistent. Shallot is always used as an aromatic. Lime juice or tamarind liquid is used for the sour element of the dressing; sometimes used in combination together, or used in combination with other citrus, such as tangerine juice. Sour is balanced with cane, palm, or coconut sugar, again, sometimes in combination for balance or color.  Cherry tomatoes, peanuts, and pieces of long bean are fairly consistently added. The heat comes from hot chiles, usually phrik kee nuu, the tiny nuclear-hot green chiles favored by Thais.
When you’re on the street you can locate a som tam vendor by the “pok-pok” sound of their mortar and pestle as they pound the ingredients to lightly soften them.  The mortar for a vendor is usually a concave, partially hollowed-out section of standing waist-high log, with a pestle made of sugar plum or tamarind wood. It is the resonating sound of pestle hitting on log that makes the echoing “pok-pok”. In the home kitchen, the salad mortar might be made of fired clay, or could even be carved granite.

A som tam vendor might ask you in sign language how many chiles you prefer when they are making the salad by saying ‘phrik’ (chile) in an inquisitive tone and holding up fingers (2 to 4 phrik kee nuu might be acceptable, while macho chile freaks can use as many as 10 to 15 per som tam serving). Be warned, som tam salads can be some of the hottest dishes you will eat in Thailand. I ate a particularly spicy version with raw crab and 9 chiles at a beachside restaurant in Bang Saen that instantly caused my brow to sweat, my nose to start running, and my taste buds to ignite as I began to hiccup (and I love very spicy food). It was so good, however, that a second plate was almost immediately ordered. To almost instantly relieve an overdose of chile burn, I recommend a tall glass of Thai ice tea; the dairy fat from the condensed milk on the top coats and removes the oils of the chile’s capsaicin.
The version served at Sap’s is known as Som Tam Thai, the version from the Central region, made with papaya, lime juice, Thai green chiles, palm sugar, fish sauce, garlic, tomato, served with lettuce on the side, and topped with peanuts and fried dried shrimp. This version is not as spicy as the typical versions made by cooks from Isaan, which can be amazingly hot, unbearably hot for the average foreigner.

Dish two was Prik Khing Catfish, a semi-spicy, sweetish, and earthy-herbal dry curry with sugar snap peas, shredded makroot leaf, palm sugar, all tossed with chunks of fried catfish. I love this dish, and love Phrik Khing curries of any kind. The curry paste used has garlic, shallots, galangal, lemongrass, makroot, shrimp paste, cilantro root, and dried red chiles.

Dish three was Pud Khing Moo, a stir fry of pork with ginger, scallion, onion, shredded cloud ear mushrooms, straw mushrooms, and a sauce with fermented bean sauce, a little soy, and fish sauce. It is incredibly balanced, only slightly spicy, and the pork and ginger are very convincing culinary pals.

Dish four was Gaeng Liang Gai, a southern Thai dish long considered a health rejuvenator, and full of flavor, vitamins, and minerals. It is spiced with white peppercorn and very spicy. The soup is made with fish sauce and shrimp paste, garlic, onion, kabocha squash, zucchini, thai basil, dried mushrooms, chicken stock, and chicken meat.Over there it would always have sponge gourd (buap), small Thai pumpkin (fak thong), and ivy gourd leaves (bai tum lung). That same small pumpkin is the one in Thailand that they stuff with coconut custard to make a luscious dessert.

Broken record, I know....but another delicious Thai meal at Sap's.

Mick Vann ©

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

ATX's Best Fish Sandwich!

Happened across a deelightful fish sandwich the other day, at, ...dramatic drum roll......of all places, Culver's. Culver's is a chain from Wisconsin, that was started in 1984. They are the harbinger of the ButterBurger, and frozen custard, both dairy-related items. And why not? Wisconsin has a bazillion dairy cows, and a long history of cheese and milk-oriented culinary items, so it all fits.

This particular sandwich is made with WALLEYE, a fish that I had often heard of, but had never eaten until I got one here. It's a freshwater fish that grows north of here, in cooler waters, and is probably the number one preferred game fish of northern anglers.The taste is sweet and delicate, with a white flesh and a fine, flaky texture. Their web site says that it is Canadian walleye, and after a little web snooping, I discovered that walleye are farmed in Canada. Pity....I had visions of hundreds of shivering Wisco cheesehead ice fisherman slogged on brandy, hovering over holes in lake ice, pulling them up one-by-one. Not to be. Culver's only offers it seasonally, so don't wait too long to try it. They also have an Icelandic cod sandwich that looks equally spectacular....haven't tried that one yet, but if the walleye is any indication, the cod is probably just as good.

You get a steamed hoagie roll slathered in tartar sauce, crisp chopped lettuce, and a filet of walleye that's about 8-inches long, fried in a very light tempura-like batter. There's a good 3 to 4-inches of filet hanging out each side. I order it with tomato and red onion added, but get it like you want it. All of this for the princely sum of $5.59, a bargain for the quality and quantity. It's up there on a vaulted plain with the famed Nemo's Nemesis codfish sandwich that used to be sold by Austin's Mad Dog and Beans, back in the 70's.

Sitting in the packet are fried cheese curds ($3.39), the Wisco version of the fried mozzarella stick. They are a pleasing little fried snack, crispy on the outside, melty along the exterior, warm and squeaky in the center; golden brown nondescript whitish cheese that's seduces you to eat one more, again and again.

ATX Culver's: Wm Cannon just east of Brodie, north side of Cannon, and  NE corner of W. Braker and Kramer.

PS: for a great fish taco, check out Taco Joint at 30th and San Jac.

Mick Vann ©

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday at Sap's: 3.18.2012

Sunday afternoon I stopped off at Sap's on Westgate on the way home, to strap on the Thai feedbag. I had a hankering for a couple of dishes, Tiger Cry, the Isaan grilled beef dish, and Lard Nah, the classic noodle vendor dish.

Lard Nah (Lat Na, Rat Na, Radna, Ladna) -- S-F7
This is an extremely popular street dish in Thailand, eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s another one of those classic Thai-adopted and changed Chinese noodle dishes that we love so well. The classic way to serve it is with sen yai (wide) rice noodles; and it can come with any meat or protein (here with pork, my favorite). “Rad” in Thai means “to pour” and “na” means “face”; appropriate here since the noodles are cooked first, and then the sauce is quickly made in the wok and poured over the noodles. The sauce, made of black soy, garlic, fermented yellow bean paste, fish sauce, oyster sauce, Maggi, and white pepper, should be
very thick, and the dish is accented with kai lan (Chinese broccoli) slices, which add both a slightly sharp flavor and crisp texture to counterpoint the soft noodles in the rich gravy. Like most Thai noodle dishes, it usually gets customized by the diner, with some ground white pepper, fish sauce, sugar, chiles in vinegar, and a shake of crushed dried red chile. A delicious Thai noodle dish that flies under the radar of many Westerners………..

Seua Rong Hai: Tiger Cry -- S-P48
Tiger Cry is an Isaan dish of sliced, marinated grilled meat accompanied by a spicy nam phrik dipping sauce. It can be eaten as a salad or as an entrée, and is very popular as a snack eaten to accompany drinks. When you see this dish offered by Thai restaurants in the States cooked as a stir-fry, you can be assured that it is not an authentic preparation. In less chile-tolerant America, this old traditional dish has taken on a new meaning as being a “dish so hot that it makes even a tiger cry,” but that is far from the original translation of the dish in Thailand, where seua means “tiger” and rong hai meanscrying”.
Originally, the dish was made using only meat from water buffalo that had gotten too old to continue working the fields. A water buffalo is too valuable as a farm work animal, especially in the rice paddies, to be raised for food; they are only eaten after having lost their ability to contribute. In Thailand it was known as “tiger cry” because the meat of the older water buffalo was so tough and hard to chew that it made even a tiger cry. Although water buffalo meat is still eaten in Thailand, especially in poorer outlying districts, the growth of the Thai beef cattle industry, and the import of beef from Australia, the U.S., and South America has made high quality affordable beef available nationwide. Thankfully the tiger cry cooked at Sap’s is a misnomer; it is remarkably tender, and spicy, but not intolerably so.
Sap’s kitchen uses high quality sirloin steak, marinated simply in garlic, soy, and fish sauce. The beef is grilled to medium rare, briefly rested, and sliced thinly against the grain, yielding delicious and smoky fork-tender steak strips. These slices are wrapped in romaine lettuce leaves and red onion, and dipped into a thin nam phrik sauce of lime, fish sauce, chile, scallion, and cilantro, thickened slightly with nutty ground roasted rice, with just a touch of sugar to give a little balance to the citrus. The sticky rice is eaten with the fingers, shaping it into little footballs, to soak up the meat juices. The flavor of tiger cry is extraordinary and it's one of the best meat dishes on the menu.

Once again, an excellent meal at Sap's.

Mick Vann ©

Burgers in Buda

Saturday me and Art were having a writing meeting for the title we are working on (Starting and Running a Restaurant, that's due out next year) when hunger pangs struck. Negotiations began, dealing mainly with who had eaten what the most recently. By a process of elimination, we arrived at burgers as the obvious choice, and with SXSW going on in ATX, heading to Buda seemed like the perfect option.

The Buda Grocery and Grill makes a spectacular hamburger, pictured here my mile-high double bacon cheese burger (with two layers of 4 slices each of thickish bacon). It's a double fister, and there'll be a puddle of juice in the bottom of the basket when you finish, not to mention what's running down your forearms. How much you ask? $6.29. A pittance for the massive size and the excellent taste. Order it with a side of frings, like I did. Admittedly, they are frozen, but of high quality and cooked perfectly. Budaburgers ROCK! The building dates from 1913,  the staff is friendly as hell, and the food well worth the trip there..

Mick Vann ©

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sap's Sunday Report, 3.11.2012

Dropped by Sap's Fine Thai Cuisine yesterday for a late afternoon repast and Sap brought by a small bowl of the staff meal they were making in the back: Gaeng Daeng Kai, or as it is referred to by most Thais, Gaeng Kai: chicken pieces with red curry and coconut milk and bamboo shoots. These bamboo shoots are fresh, packed in water. They look like large pointy domes before they are vertically sectioned, and the texture is tender, the taste sweet and earthy. Working there must certainly have it's benefits if you get to eat like that every day. Delicious.

Yum Ahp-pel Kiew:
Green Apple Salad:  S--P6
Apples, green apples, and Asian pears are found in Thailand and are very popular; they are often shipped down the Mekong from Southern China, or brought in by air or boat from points north. Low-chill apples are being experimented with as a crop in the northern mountainous areas of Thailand, but generally apples are an imported fruit. Go along the Mekong River not too far outside Chiang Saen, near the Golden Triangle, and there is a huge riverside market of almost nothing but cases of apples from China...for a quarter mile or so, apples.  The sweet tart flavor of green apples is somewhat similar to the taste of Thailand’s fantastic green mangoes; both have crisp, juicy flesh with a balance of sweetness and tartness, but the green mango benefits from having a definite mango taste component. Typical Thai green mangoes (ma-muang is mango) that are commonly eaten in salad-like preparations are: keow savoey: oblong dark green fruit with white flesh, the ripe fruit and flesh are pale white, with a sweet and juicy taste; rat, rad, rhino, (“rhinoceros”):  slightly more sour, with a tantalizing hint of sweetness; falan (“thunder”): not as sweet, commonly eaten with nam pla wan: a savory chile dip prepared by blending roasted chiles, palm sugar, and fish sauce heated to a caramel-like consistency;  lin ngo hou (“Cobra Tongue”) a sharper, almost bitter taste balanced with sweetness. Any of these fruits are also commonly eaten out-of-hand as a snack with prik kab kleua, a dry sea salt and palm sugar dip seasoned with crushed fire-roasted chile.
Legend suggests that King Chulalangkorn invented apple and dried shrimp salad while sailing to Europe aboard his yacht Maha Chakri in 1897; there were apples onboard but no green mangoes. Since green mangoes are largely unavailable in the produce markets of the Continental United States, green apples make the ideal substitute. The version served at Sap’s is complex in flavor, yet deceptively simple. Thin slices of fresh green apple are tossed with large dices of ripe tomato, chopped roasted peanut, and a few fried dried shrimp. The dressing is superb: hints of fish sauce, subtle overtones of palm sugar and the balance of lime, a subtle touch of garlic, the kiss of smoky chile, all creating an exciting, and cool taste with a crisp texture which matches perfectly with the more complex flavors of the typical Thai meal.   

Ordered with was Kai Jaew Moo – S-P35
It's an omelet with ground pork and cilantro, served with a sauce of fish sauce, garlic, and Thai chiles. Might sound pedestrian, but it makes an ideal meal companion to the rest of the group.

The star of the show was Nuer Ob (Nuea Ohp), S -- P46
"Ohp" in Thai means baked or perfumed, both of which apply in this case. Technically the beef isn't baked, but it would sit in a pot on the edge of the cooking fire all day, very slowly braising and getting spoon tender. The perfumed part refers to the aroma of the dish, with a dark rich sauce of onion, tomato, black pepper, palm sugar, soy, and fish sauce, served with a sweet-sour green chile and garlic sauce on the side.Succulent, rich, and decadent. Another great meal at Sap's.......


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Burger and Frings at Sputnik

Went to Sputnik for lunch on Monday to review their burgers for a Chronicle thing (coming soon BTW), and as a spoiler, loved the stuff I had. Went with the Altered Beast burger ($7, I added a patty for another buck) and it was worth every penny. Localy-baked brioche bun, 80-20 Angus patty, loaded with grilled onion, extra cheese, chopped pickles, and topped with romaine, tomato. It's their version of In-and-Out's Double Animal Style. Fries are double-fried, crisp, and tasty, and their o-rings are like oniony pillows made with sweet thick slices enveloped in a Fireman's #4 and chipotle beer batter. Watch for the upcoming review...

1300 east 6th St.

Mick Vann ©

Taco Joint, next to São Paulo's on SanJac

Zipped by Taco Joint near the UT campus on Saturday to try it out, after RL of Scrumptious Chef mentioned they had top quality tortillas. It is owned by the folks next door at São Paulo's, the Brazilian-Mexican restaurant that's been there for years. Ordered a few tacos each to give it a go, and when she asked "what kind of tortillas?", I said you decide what's best. Had the fish taco, top, tilapia grilled rather than fried, and it came out on a freshly-made, thin flour tortilla...a sizable mess of fish, topped with shredded cabbage and cotija cheese, onions, and cilantro. For $3.50, we decided that it was well worth the expense.It's a really good taco.

Taco two was their pork carnitas unit, for the same price. Price-wise this puts them in the realm of Torchy's and Tacodeli, which isn't necessarily a good thing, and I'd call them fairly comparable in size. The carnitas had fairly good flavor, and the toppings were the same as the fish.

Unit three was their Wholly Mole, chicken in mole sauce, topped again with the cabbage, cotija, onion, cilantro. The chicken is moist and tender, and the mole could have had a bit more complexity to it, but it was fine. Same price, same toppings.

Art got an El Porko, which was spozed to be shredded pork, but sure looked to us like the carnitas in drag. Their salsa selection includes a light green avocado serrano, a white chipotle, and a red casera. We also tried a sweetish carrot-habanero that was the hottest of the lot. Word up: the salsas need some fiddling, and ALL of them need more chiles and more zip. If I am in the area, I would definitely go back for fish tacos, add the carrot-habanero salsa to them, and be a happy camper.

They also serve breakfast tacos, which we didn't try. Overall, I'll go here for the fish, and stick to my top taqueria list, get fantastic tacos, and save some jack: Taco Rico, Rosita's al Pastor, Taco More, Fruta Feliz, La Michoacana (Stassney's my "local" LaMich), and Mi Ranchito II:.

Taco Joint
2807 San Jacinto

Mick Vann ©     

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where all the gott-dang spoons is?

Above: The aftermath of a Thai dinner.....

The Thais eat predominately with a spoon, and it is the most logical tool to use for eating anything. The side can be used to cut through all but the toughest of meats. It corrals peas and beans with ease. Using the fork as a pusher, you can bulldoze even the most ungainly of foods onto a spoon. There are no sharp tines to stick you in the pie hole like with a fork, and if you should eat with your knife (like some uncouth miscreant), no serrations to cut lips. Chopsticks don't contain foods very well, unless it's noodles. But if you really admit it, a spoon works better for noodles, and it's the ONLY utensil to use for soups, stews, ice cream, banana pudding, chile con carne, chicken fried steak gravy, and all the rest.

This brings us to the real problem. I have seen spoons disappearing from restaurant table set ups with much, much greater frequency of late. More and more often I find myself having to ask for a spoon when I go out and eat anywhere other than an Asian restaurant. It's gotten so bad that I immediately stake my claim on the salsa spoon at Mexican restaurants the second the chips arrive, and THOSE spoons are even disappearing.

Are we living in a world gone mad? What happened in our culinary culture to cause one of the most vital of eating tools to be so carelessly tossed aside? It can't be cost...spoons usually cost less than forks and knives. It could just be bad breeding, or total disregard for Emily Post, or the general decline of society, with a younger generation of half-wits gaining control of the bussing of tables and the wrapping of silverware set ups.

Whatever it is, KNOCK IT OFF! Put some damn spoons on the table, like you're spozed to!

Mick Vann ©

Feast Report from Sap's, 3.4.2012

Met my buddy Art at Sap's on Westgate for a late afternoon Sunday chowdown. We opted for the Tom Khlong Talay, the seafood-rich version of the pumped-up and robust soup. Tom khlong is similar to tom yum, except deeper and richer, with many of the aromatics (galangal, thick slices of garlic, Thai chiles) being fire-roasted. It's spicy as hell, tart, and complex. Done with shrimps, cross-hatched squid, and surimi.

We were treated to a sample of the pork, tofu, and hard-boiled egg palao (parlow) that the staff would eat the next day, in a rich broth of pork stock, soy, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorn...think of it as a porky Thai version of 5-spice broth. It definitely shows Thai adaptation of a Chinese-influenced dish. It needed to cook for hours more, to really concentrate the broth and let that flavor soak deep into the eggs, but it was fantastic in its infant stages. The pork was very tender and the tofu melted in the mouth.

A beef num tok salad was superb. Num tok (which means 'waterfall') is an Isaan salad that is tart and assertively spicy, with mint and scallion out front. Texture comes from roasted rice powder, which also thickens the dressing. Love this dish....

You can't go wrong with pork satay, marinated slices of pork that are threaded and grilled, then served with toast points, a luscious spicy peanut sauce, and ajat (sweet cucumber and shallot pickle). I never turn down a stick of grilled pig.

Pad kee mao gai, or drunken noodles with chicken, was on our table as well. In Thai, ‘pad’ means to stir-fry, and ‘kee mao’ means someone who likes to drink to excess. ‘Kee’ literally means ‘shit’, and adding ‘kee’ in front of any verb means it’s a bad habit. ‘Mao’ means drunk. So, a ‘Kee Mao’ (literally "shit drunk") is someone who has a bad habit of (over)drinking. Some say the dish is great for curing hangovers, while others say it is what's craved at the tail end of a night of drinking. Regardless, it is another Chinese-influenced dish, brought to Thailand by way of Laos. It features lots of garlic and roasted chile paste, with soy and fish sauces, and Thai basil.

Art had already ordered the Gaeng Phrik Moo: Southern Thai-style red curry amplified with jalapeños, shredded makroot, turmeric, and Thai basil. Love this curry, love very spicy things!

...waddled outta there stuffed to the gills, and very content. Again.

Mick Vann ©