Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Last PreOp Meal at Sap's 5.15.2012

Homeboy Art and I decided to visit Sap's one last time before I have to get my left knee replaced, so yesterday we went in to sample a couple of items off of the new menu additions. When I went in Sap's sis Prawnee was there, and offered me a taste of her Nam Prik Gapi, a dipping sauce made with fermented shrimp paste made from tiny tidal krill and sea salt. The sauce also has garlic, shallot, chiles, palm sugar, lime, and a little fish sauce. This is old-school Thai cuisine, perhaps a bit too funky for most American appetites. You normally eat this with a bit of Thai omelet, platuu (small mackerel, usually fried or smoked), crudites of cucumber and Thai "apple" eggplant (the small, round green and white striped ones), and bunches of neem tree tips and blossoms (yod sadao), which are amazingly bitter. This is pure comfort food for any Thai native, so we ordered a Thai omelet to go with her nam prik gapi, and the combination of flavors was superb. It took me back to Thailand with just one bite.

Next came Red Curry with Pineapple (S-P5, Gaeng Kua Supparod), except that we got it with pork instead of the usual shrimp. Many restaurants pair this with duck meat, but pork is a really good match for the spice and sweetness, and when you add a little heat and just a kiss of fish sauce, the taste of the curry explodes, while the pineapple lurks quietly but assertively in the background. Fantastic.

Next up, the new ribs dish,S-P53, Cie Khrong Moo Ob.  I said before that these were the best ribs I have ever eaten that weren't barbecued, and I heartily stand by that statement. The riblets are swimming in a dark, aromatic sauce that is perfectly balanced, made from onions, tomatoes, garlic, black pepper, and palm sugar. Sounds simple, tastes incredibly complex.

We finished up with S-A12, Gai Yang Sum Tom. Sap marinates the legs and wings in a mix of cilantro root, garlic, turmeric, and a host of other things and grills the chicken. It gets served with a lettuce salad, son tom shredded papaya salad, a monkey dish of sweet chile garlic sauce, and a packet of sticky rice. This is some tasty grilled chicken...very tasty.

Okay, after that delicious meal, I'm ready for some knee surgery and torturous rehab. Bring it on!

Mick Vann ©

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Asia Cafe Sunday 5.13.2012

Originally I was going to Ivy's Deli for some soup dumplings and maybe some fish skin dumplings after visiting Mom for Mother's Day. Lo and behold, it was an empty shell, with no forwarding note. I have since found out that they moved to a strip center behind the Ikea in Round Rock. BUT, since I was there already, I hobbled into Asia Cafe for a couple of my faves. Chicken with Beech Mushrooms has an amazingly rich chicken flavor, which pairs perfectly with the nutty flavor of the beech mushrooms, Hypsizygus tessellatus. They are commonly called Shimeji, and come in brown and white versions.Think of them as thicker, meatier, crunchier enoki mushrooms. The dish is also loaded with slices of fresh garlic. A great chicken stir fry, made even better with some of Asia Cafe's chile paste with Sichuan peppercorns.

Dish number two was an old standby, Shredded Pork with Dry Tofu. I'm a sucker for this dish, and they do a great version of it. The pork is tender and sweet, the dry spiced tofu is meaty and nutty. Throw in some sliced garlic and scallion, a dab of soy sauce, and copious amounts of chile paste with Sichuan peppercorn and you've got yourself some big flavor. The thing about Asia Cafe is that you don't have to get a super spicy's all good. Get something with no menu peppers and then you can spice it up as much as you like!

Mick Vann ©

Sap's Last Friday, 5.10.2012

Stopped by Sap’s on the way home last Friday afternoon and grabbed the shrimp version of one of my favorite salads, the Yum Tua Kieow Goong, otherwise known as the Green Bean Salad with Shrimp (S-S5). The plate always has thin slices of hard-boiled egg arranged to one side, and is usually made with shrimp or shredded chicken meat tossed with the beans. The shrimp or chicken is lightly simmered with lemongrass, lime, and honey, while the wonderfully balanced and deceptively spicy dressing is made from tamarind, palm sugar, roasted shredded coconut meat, fish sauce, peanuts, and a bit of roasted chile paste. The dish is garnished with coconut cream, fried shallot, and whole fried red chiles. If you have never had this dish, it should definitely be on your short list of Thai salads to eat. It has rapidly become a favorite of serious Sap’s regulars. 

Followed that with Guay Teaw Gai Toon (S-NS6), otherwise known as one of Rob Balon’s favorite chicken noodle soups in town. It comes with your choice of rice stick or flat rice noodles, and features a very rich chicken stock touched with five-spice. It’s got mung bean sprouts, straw mushrooms, onion, braised greens, scallion, cilantro, and a little bit of Chinese celery as a garnish, and topped with a big pile of thin-sliced chicken breast. Healthy, light but filling, it really is one of the best chicken noodle soups in Austin.


Sap’s has also gotten their new website up and running,
Check it out as it becomes more complete. Rumor is the new menu additions have been a huge success.

Mick Vann ©

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sap's New Menu Additions! 5.10.2112

 So Art and I needed a meet to chat about the books (finishing one, starting another), and the logical choice was at Sap’s Fine Thai Cuisine on Westgate. It’s close to his house and on my way home from work.  We had heard rumblings of new menu items and Sap has hinted that one was going to be unveiled. It turned out to be his sister Prawnee’s amazing mee krob boran. “Boran” means old school, or traditional, and this version of mee krob fits the bill. I have been eating this same mee  krob for a number of years now, always telling Sap that if he went home to Thailand, to be sure and bring back some of his sister’s mee krob. Usually when you get mee krob at a Thai restaurant over here here, it is soaked in syrupy red sauce, like a sticky mountain. This one, on the new specials menu as S-A11, is bursting with flavor from a light syrup made with tamarind and pickled garlic, with very lightly coated crunchy noodles, and crunchy bits of fried dry tofu, and fried dried shrimp for that hint of the sea. Superlative.

We followed that with Num Tok Nuea (S-S3), that Isaan-influenced salad loaded with salty-sour flavor, accented with a kiss of mint and cilantro, and scallion. It’s robust, spicy, and satisfying.

We had to get some Tom Kha Gai soup (S-P11). Sap’s makes the best tom kha soup in town. They don’t scrimp on coconut milk, so it has the richness it requires. It is spicy and tart, rich and luscious, and you can really taste the galangal, like you’re supposed to (“kha” means galangal).

We wanted a noodle, so we opted for an old fave, Guay Teaw Gua Moo (S-F11). It comes with ground pork when I order it, and has that perfect taste from the wok-charred sen yai flat noodles, sprouts, egg, pickled radish, and soy-based sauce. It also comes with a salad, and a sweet sauce for a topping. Then we add a dab of fish sauce with minced Thai chile and lime. Perfect.

Then we ordered a curry, one that had been off the radar and the menu for a while, Keow Wan Pla Grai (S-P27), or green curry with fish balls (balls made of fresh fish paste, not fish testicles). It is rich and spicy like a green curry is want to be, and the fish balls melt in your mouth, with a perfect texture. Delish, and another power-packed meal at Sap’s.

For Sap’s fans, here’s a preview of the NEW MENU ITEMS. (My comments are in parenthesis, mick) I'm not sure when they are appearing, but look for them soon. 

S-A11    Mee Krob Boran
Crispy rice noodle cooked in sweet tangy tamarind & palm sugar sauce with small fried tofu & fried dried shrimp. (The best mee krob I’ve ever none)
S-A12   Gai Yang Som Tum
Papaya salad served w/ Thai BBQ chicken wings and drumsticks (2 wings/2 drumsticks) and sticky rice. (I’ve had this at Thai Day before…fantastic version of grilled chicken!)
S-P52     Kai Pa-Loh
Thai traditional homemade food, a chunk of tender pork and fried tofu with boiled egg cooked in a light brown five spice soup. (Sometimes called parlow, this is rich and silky, and the pork melts in your mouth.)
S-P53     Cie Khrong Moo Ob
Slowly cooked pork spare ribs in Sap’s special sauce w/ yellow onions, tomatoes, black pepper and palm sugar served with rice and spicy chili & garlic sauce (Quite simply some of the best ribs I have ever eaten that weren’t barbecued.For fans of ribs, nirvana.)
S-D5       Real Thai coconut ice cream
S-D6       Thai Roasted Peanut Ice Cream
S-D7       Strawberry Sorbet
S-D8       Pineapple Sorbet
(The ice creams and sorbets are wonderful. They are using an Emery Thompson batch freezer to make them, which is the best batch freezer machine on the market. This company designed the first batch freezer ever, back in the 1890's, and they produce them in the good ole US of A. It's the only infinite torque, variable speed, adjustable over-run machine on the market, and it makes highly superior ice cream, gelato, and sorbet. The recipes are tested, and the product is homemade and spot-on).
S-D9       Thai Coconut Crème Brulee
(This coconut crème brulee rocks my world. I got to taste some at a party last month, and everyone loved it. Silky, smooth, coconutty, and rich.)

Mick Vann ©