Tag Archives: Thai

Pok Pok, Portland

9 Feb

3226 Southeast Division Street
Portland, Oregon
97202

T: 503 232 1387
www.pokpokpdx.com

A lot has been written about Pok Pok. No seriously, a lot. If you have not heard anything about Pok Pok, I encourage you to watch the video below on Andy Ricker, the man who started it all. I love Andy’s enthusiasm, dedication, and the fact that he doesn’t try to Westernize his food. One of my pet peeves is establishments doing a disservice to the foods and cultures that they are representing by dumbing down the flavours to appease Western taste buds. Pok Pok doesn’t do that.

After hearing about Pok Pok for years, I finally had my chance to visit when I was in Portland last May with some friends. It didn’t live up to my lofty expectations. We hadn’t made a reservation and, with the wait for a table being over 2 hours long, I did what any desperate foodie would do and ordered take-out and stood on the street to eat it. Don’t do this. You will not experience Pok Pok the way that it should be experienced. To really enjoy Pok Pok, you need to get a group of friends together, order many different dishes, sample a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and wash it all down with some cocktails or beers.

After a rocky first start at Pok Pok, I am now a convert. I was back in Portland in December with my family and I dragged them across the city to give Pok Pok another try. Thankfully, this time I wasn’t left disappointed. Now I get it. The dishes were interesting and the flavours were bold and fresh – that winning combination of sour, salty, spicy, and sweet. I couldn’t even tell you which dish I liked the most because I liked them all, but for very different reasons.

Hoi Thawt (crispy broken crepe with steamed mussels, eggs, garlic, chives)

 Da Chom’s Laap Meuang (spicy hand-minced pork “salad”)

Muu Satay (grilled pork loin skewers marinated in coconut milk and turmeric).

Sai Ua Samun Phrai (Chiang Mai sausage with herbs, served with pork rinds and spicy green chile dip)

Kung Op Wun Sen (prawns with pork belly and bean thread noodles)

The famous Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings

Be adventurous when visiting Pok Pok – yes, the menu can be overwhelming but try not to be intimidated. Ask the server what they recommend, order some of the favourites (the chicken wings are worth the hype), or just take a risk and try something new. I recommend sampling all of the garnishes, sauces, and spices that come with the dishes – they are there for a reason and will elevate the dish.

You must reserve if you are going with a large group (they will accept reservations for groups of 5 or more), otherwise be prepared to wait. This place is BUSY! If you do end up having to wait, you can put your name on the list and then head down the street to Whiskey Soda Lounge (also owned by Andy Ricker) to have some drinks whilst you wait. If you can’t get in to the original location, there are other Pok Pok establishments around Portland (and New York and LA). I can’t wait to go back to Pok Pok!

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Photo Visit – Maenam – January 2013

4 Feb

1938 West 4th Ave
Vancouver, BC
V6J 1M5

T: 604 730 5579
www.maenam.ca

Brief Description: A popular Kitsilano-based restaurant that offers well-executed, modern Thai food. Maenam is friendly on the wallet, without sacrificing quality or ambiance.

I know that this makes me sound like a HUGE grump but I’m not a fan of Dine Out Vancouver. Yes, I understand that it gives a huge injection of cash to local restaurants when they so desperately need it (just after the Christmas rush) but I think it typically doesn’t portray a restaurant in the best light. When you have that many seats turning over in a night, I think service becomes strained and the kitchen loses its passion when it is cooking the same dishes every night for two weeks straight. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I normally avoid restaurants that are participating in Dine Out until it ends. However, there was a night last week where I just didn’t want to cook. I was feeling a bit blue and the thought of having to go through the whole process of making dinner just seemed too difficult. B was in the same boat so the decision was made to go out for dinner.

It had been a while since we were last at Maenam and as we entered the restaurant we realized that they were participating in Dine Out. Our initial reaction was disappointment but we were able to get a table and, as we love the food so much at Maenam, we decided to see what they could showcase by ordering the Dine Out menu. It was incredible value at $28 per person for one starter, one salad, one curry, and one stir fry to share between two people, followed by a dessert each. Perhaps my mind could be changed about Dine Out…

Our favourite salad, the grilled Thai sausage and crispy rice salad, was unavailable whilst Dine Out was on which pushed us to try something new. We started with the mussels with Thai aromatics and nahm jim sauce, which I didn’t get a photo of, but were steamed mussels with a light broth of lemongrass, bird’s eye chilies, and Thai basil. The nahm jim sauce added even more delicious heat, with a hint of sweetness. It appears that our favourite salad now has some competition. The rest of our meal unfolded like this:

Salad to share: Banana Blossom SaladStir Fry to share: Pork Belly Stir FryCurry to share: Green Curry of Halibut CheeksPassion Fruit TrioDark Chocolate Pot de Crème

All of the dishes were really quite impressive. The banana blossom salad was unlike anything that I’ve eaten before. The banana blossoms themselves were quite husky and crunchy which gave a really interesting texture to the dish, whereas the fresh mint and coriander, gave bold flavours. What can I say about Maenam’s curries? I love the curries here and the halibut green curry packs quite a punch but is one of my favourites. The pork belly salad was a must-order for B – for me, the flavours were good but I’m always a little put off by the obvious fat marbling of the pork belly (yes, shoot me now). Dessert-wise I had heard a lot of good things about the chocolate pot de crème, so I had to try that but I was kicking myself because the tangy passion fruit trio was, in my opinion, a better choice. The chocolate pot was delicious, but I had a hard time enjoying the tangy tamarind ice cream.

Final Thoughts: Overall, we loved the food at Maenam (we always have) and this menu really gave us a chance to try some different dishes. Maybe, just maybe, Dine Out isn’t so bad after all.

Maenam on Urbanspoon

Photo Visit – Maenam – October 2012

31 Oct

1938 West 4th Ave
Vancouver, BC
V6J 1M5

T: 604 730 5579
www.maenam.ca

Brief Description: A popular Kitsilano-based restaurant that offers well-executed, modern Thai food. Maenam is friendly on the wallet, without sacrificing quality or ambiance.

I’m quite certain that I would fail to be classified as what is considered a “traditional” housewife (i.e. someone who has dinner on the table every night, someone who cleans). I despise cleaning and, whilst I really do love to cook, I will often be persuaded (quite easily in fact) to take off the apron and head out for dinner.

Evidence of this was just last night when B twisted my rubber arm to go out for dinner, when really we should have had dinner at home. Instead, it was off to one of our favourite local restaurants, Maenam, for a spot of mod-Thai. We tried two new dishes and we also ordered our favourite dish on the menu, the grilled Thai sausage and crispy rice salad. Nom nom!!

Grilled Thai sausage and crispy rice salad – $11

Crispy fried oysters with nahm jim sauce – $12

Stir fried Paradise valley baby back pork ribs – $18

Typically I love everything that Maenam does. The oysters were fabulous (be careful, they are hot) and the sausage salad was as wonderfully balanced as I’ve come to expect, however, I didn’t really enjoy the ribs. It could be that they are pork (I prefer beef ribs) but they just didn’t do it for me.

I love Maenam! I’m always looking for an excuse to return. And, on some nights, I don’t even need an excuse.

Photo Visit – Maenam – July 2012

31 Jul

1938 West 4th Ave
Vancouver, BC
V6J 1M5

T: 604 730 5579
www.maenam.ca

Brief Description: A popular Kitsilano-based restaurant that offers well-executed, modern Thai food. Maenam is friendly on the wallet, without sacrificing quality or ambiance.

I realized, with some horror, that I haven’t done a photo visit post on Maenam for quite some time. With even more horror, I realized that almost all of my previous posts contained pictures that I’d taken with my old camera, likely contributing to me doing Maenam a disservice (sorry about that Maenam!). Even though I haven’t been doing regular photo updates, I still frequent Maenam and think very highly of it.

I almost feel as though Maenam should be classified as mod-Thai as the flavours are very traditional but they do a modern take on classic dishes. Whilst the restaurant could use a lick of paint to revitalize it, it still appears to be bopping along quite nicely and is usually full during the evening rush, particularly on weekends. Lunch times are a bit quieter, but with a $25 tasting menu, I don’t know why. The tasting menu represents good value for money as $25 per person gets you get one starter, one salad, one curry, and a stir fry, to share between the table.

Grilled Thai Sausage and Crispy Rice Salad – $10

Maenam have recently changed one of their dishes, the grilled Thai sausage, for the better. The grilled fermented Thai sausage is now served with crispy rice puffs, shavings of lemongrass, fried shallots, and coriander. With different textures (crunchy, chewy, crispy) and Thai flavours (sour, salty, sweet,) this dish represents a well-balanced tribute to Thailand. I love it and can’t get enough, especially at only $10 a serving.

Roti and Peanut Sauce – $6

I can’t pass up servings of flaky roti, especially when paired with chunky peanut sauce ($6). A definite must-order.

Prawn Pad Thai – $15

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I honestly believe that pad Thai should NOT be made with ketchup, it really should be made with tamarind paste otherwise the subtle flavours of the dish are completely over-powered by the sweet ketchup. Maenam, thankfully, makes their pad Thai with tamarind paste so the flavours are well-balanced and they included a side of chili flakes so that you increase the heat, if needed.

I’ve been neglecting Maenam a bit lately as I’ve been distracted with all the newbies that have been popping up, but I really shouldn’t have. Maenam has been a consistent player for years, and remains strong.

Photo Visit – Sawasdee Thai Restaurant – July 2012

13 Jul

4250 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V5V 3P9

T: 604 876 4030
www.sawasdeethairestaurant.com

Brief Description: One of only a few authentic Thai restaurants that I’ve discovered in the city. Tucked up on Main street and 27th street, this family-owned restaurant serves up tasty Thai dishes at affordable prices.

I almost want to blow off my “visit three times before reviewing” rule with Sawasdee. Spoiler alert!! So far, I’m really impressed with the food and the service at this friendly restaurant. I was there again this past weekend and even though I could have been extremely content re-ordering exactly what I ordered on my first visit (stuffed chicken wings, panang curry and pad Thai), we opted to order completely new dishes so we could get a better idea of what is on offer at Sawasdee.

Cho Muang – $8.95

I have never seen, let alone tried, the cho muang before. Cho muang is intricate flower-shaped chicken and spice dumplings. I couldn’t help wonder how they managed to shape these so delicately and so true-to-form.

Garlic Beef – $11.50

My favourite dish for the night was the garlic beef. The meat was thinly coated in a sweet/savoury sauce, almost like a marinade, and the dish paired well with the coconut rice that we ordered as a side. The rice had kept its texture well and wasn’t a sloppy mess like other rice sides that I’ve had in the city.

Red Curry with Prawns – $13.95

The red curry with prawns was quite good but without the servers asking about what level of heat you would like, I keep forgetting to order it hotter than their standard curry. Personally, I like a bit of kick to my curries and their regular curry just isn’t hot enough for me. My one suggestion to the servers, who have been extremely friendly, would be to prompt diners for their heat preference.

My final visit is likely going to be very soon, so stay tuned if I haven’t already spoiled the ending…

First Glance – Sawasdee Thai Restaurant – June 2012

20 Jun

4250 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V5V 3P9

T: 604 876 4030
www.sawasdeethairestaurant.com

I started this blog over three years ago as a way of sharing my food experiences with people that are interested in food and, more specifically, the Vancouver food scene. Whilst I have learnt a lot about the local food scene, it is constantly morphing and evolving, and one person cannot try every new, as well as every old, place in the city. Trust me, I’m trying. Obviously I enjoy sharing my knowledge with friends and my readers, but I also truly value getting recommendations and I often follow-up on suggestions that are given to me. (If you have any, don’t be shy! Send ‘em my way!)

Knowing how desperate I have been for authentic Thai food since my return from Thailand in January, a good friend mentioned that she regularly visits Sawsadee on Main Street (at 27th). I made it a priority to visit over the weekend and with the first taste of the Panang Chicken and the first forkful of Pad Thai, I knew that I had been directed to some of the best Thai food in the city (Maenam being the only other notable mention). This is the exact reason why I love getting referrals!

The Pad Thai was not the typical North American take on the dish that I’ve found in countless restaurants in the city – instead it was made with tamarind paste, rather than with overly sweet tomato sauce (although that is an option). The tamarind paste version was exactly like some of the Pad Thai that I sampled in Thailand. More please!

Panang Chicken is my favourite Thai dish, although red and green curries are also strong contenders. The Panang Chicken at Sawasdee was the right level of thickness, with a slight hint of sweetness, and it wasn’t over-garnished with a ton of not-necessary vegetables. You can choose different levels of heat and, unfortunately, I forgot to specify so next time I will be ordering it with some spice as I prefer my curries with more heat than their standard version offered.

I did find that the stuffed chicken wings (one of my favourite market snacks) stuffing was lacking in flavour and I did find a few small pieces of bone in my wings so I will likely give these a miss next time. That’s a shame as I don’t find them on menus in Vancouver often.

This was only my first visit to Sawasdee but I’m already planning a return trip with my sister so I hope to do a full post soon!

What is your favourite Thai restaurant in the city?

Sawasdee Thai on Urbanspoon

Thailand

19 Feb

If you follow my blog regularly you will know that I recently returned from a trip to Thailand. My sister and I travelled together and we had an amazing time with many highlights, including a Thai cooking class, snorkeling, island time, and exploring numerous temples. It may be hard to believe but I do do other things on my trips besides eat, although I can see why you have your doubts! But this ain’t a travel blog…this is a food blog. So here are some of my food highlights from my first (but not last) trip to Thailand.

One of the first, and probably the most important things, that I noticed about authentic Thai food was the flavours. Thai food relies on a balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy flavours (generally speaking most dishes incorporate an element of each flavour). If you want to add more of any of these flavours, you can use the condiment jars that are delivered to your table when your meals are served. The picture above is an example of the four flavours that you can choose from. I got addicted to adding the fresh chilli and fish sauce to everything, particularly fried rice.

The street food was absolutely captivating and I found myself struggling to keep an eye on all of the mind-boggling food on display whilst trying to maneuver through the crowds.

Bugs!

Common sense (and a paralyzing fear of spending days in the bathroom) kept me from trying anything that had been sitting out but we did eat at hole-in-the-wall places, which I really enjoyed. The dishes were not only incredibly tasty but they were also dirt cheap (every food-lovers dream!).

Panang Chicken Curry – $6 CAD

Fried rice – $1.30 CAD

Chicken Noodle Soup – $1.10 CAD

Throughout Thailand we encountered “pancake” stands. The pancakes are not the pancakes we are familiar with as they are more like a fried crepe. A small ball of dough is kneaded and rolled out into a thin consistency and then fried using a hot wok-like pan. The fried and crispy pancake is then filled with either a sweet topping, like Nutella or banana, or a savoury filling, like cheese and tomato.

Our first sample was the above pancake which was filled with banana and then finished with condensed milk and a sprinkle of salt. Delicious! And it cost us less than a dollar. Another night we had a light dinner of beer and a cheese and tomato pancake on the beach – a light and extremely cheap dinner.

My two favourite meals of the whole trip were actually from the same place, L. Maladee on the island of Ko Lanta.

The Panang chicken curry (above) was thick and fragrant with the perfect level of spice. It was hands-down one of the best curries that I’ve eaten…ever. Oh, and it cost me only $3 CAD (!!). I was so impressed that I asked the manager how I could re-create this dish at home and she told me it was all to do with the coconut milk. She said most coconut milk in Western countries was just too runny to get the right consistency. I am now on the lookout for a thick, authentic Thai coconut milk.

That same evening we returned to L. Maladee for our evening meal and I was almost going to order the Panang curry again, this time with fresh, fat prawns that had been caught that day. However, I let the manager talk me into ordering their house curry (below) and what a smart decision that was! It was quite spicy and there was a level of complex flavours within the paste that just made this curry unforgettable. I will dream of this curry forever.

Have you seen the Hangover 2? I watched it just before I flew to Thailand and I was in awe of a scene in the film where they are at a restaurant on the top of a skyscraper, looking out over Bangkok. Needless to say, it went on my list of “things to do”. My sister and I found ourselves at the base of State Tower at 10 minutes to 6pm and decided that despite our disheveled appearance that we’d try to get in. We took the elevator to the 63rd floor and managed to be some of the first few patrons in the line for the 6pm opening of Sky Bar.

The view was absolutely spectacular and being so high up, the cool air was a relief from the sticky heat at street-level. Drinks are not cheap (I think our cocktail was about $20 but the glasses of champagne were more than a whole bottle back at home!) yet it was such a unique experience that I’d pay it again.

One observation that I made about eating in Thailand was that the service for the most part is pretty crap. That’s fine with me – I don’t travel for things to be the same as at home but I was just surprised of the lack of organization at some of the places we ate at. Some places had incredible food and would have made more money if the service was stronger but often we couldn’t find a server to order that extra beer or to pay the bill. Another observation that came as no surprise was that the cost of food went up and the quality went down the further we moved into the touristy areas (the islands). I found the prices in Bangkok to be much, much cheaper than that of the islands and the quality generally seemed to be better.

Thailand has a charm that seems to have people returning time and time again. The allure has not been lost on me and it is likely that I will also return. How could I not when I have vivid memories of sitting bare-foot in an open-air restaurant, sticky with sweat but cooled by a tropical breeze, slurping on a banana smoothie whilst my tongue is tingling from the curry that I’ve just devoured? These memories are the reason that I travel. Besides, I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface on the food scene…