From Mee Krob to Brassiere Eggs: My Food Highlights 2012


THE BOOBIEST: KHAI JIAO PU, KRUA APSORN, BANGKOK

thai omelet
You’ve seen khai condo or “condo eggs” (above). Now you’re looking at, um, “bra eggs” (khai yok song ไข่ยกทรง). And “bra” here is short for — that’s right — brassiere. (Had this photo shown two of these eggy orbs side by side, you might get a better idea of why these things are called “bra eggs.”) These are half orb-shaped omelets created through a special frying and shaping trick resulting in an omelet that’s softer on the inside, thicker, … boobier.

Krua Apsorn (ครัวอัปสร) in Bangkok makes one heck of a bra omelet. They don’t call their bra eggs, ‘bra eggs,’ though, so don’t go there and ask for a plate of bra omelet (although, between us, if it looks like a bra, walks like a bra, and quacks like a bra, it is a bra). Do, however, look for crab omelet (khai jiao pu ไข่เจียวปู) on their menu. Order a plate of rice and something else spicier, such as their famous southern sour curry of lotus shoots (แกงเหลืองไหลบัว), to go with it and you’ve got a great meal.

If I remember correctly, the bra eggs served at Krua Apsorn, according to my estimation, are cup B. All eggs. What you see is what you get. Okay, fine, there’s some fresh crabmeat stuffing; they stuff their bras. But other than that, there’s no padding or push-up underwire or anything like that. The only embellishment is a little bowl of Thai sriracha (“Thai sriracha” — ugh, so redundant …) on the side.

I’ll show you how to make these bra eggs later in 2013. You pick a cup size; I’ll show you the way.

THE SALTIEST: HOMEMADE SALTED DUCK EGGS

salted duck eggs
If you follow me on Facebook, you’re probably sick to death of hearing about how much I love these salted duck eggs and how the quality of imported salted duck eggs in Chicago is nowhere near where it should be. What can I say? Complaining is useless. DIY is the only way.

DIY in this case means days of spending my life with duck eggs. But it was worth it. Look at these salted eggs I made. They’re pretty and delicious, if I do say so myself.

THE MOST EVIL: FRIED SUN-DRIED FISH WITH SPICY SHIMEIJI MUSHROOM SALAD, KALPAPRUEK, BANGKOK

wild mushroom salad
Has this happened to you? You visit a restaurant that you’ve been to many, many times over the years. This time you vow you’ll order something different, because every single time of the many, many times over the years, you always order the same darned thing. You sit down. You study the menu. You find something kind of interesting on the menu — something new — that you want to order. The server approaches your table with a notepad. Your resolve is iron-clad. This time you will NOT order the same thing. Then, for reasons that probably won’t become clear without years of psychoanalysis, you hear yourself order the same thing you’ve always ordered. Once the server leaves the table, instead of letting out a weary groan or doing a *headdesk*, you actually anticipate the arrival of that same thing with glee.

That’s the story of me, Kalpapruek (กัลปพฤกษ์), and its meal combo of rice, fried sun-dried fish, and spicy, tart, smoky shimeiji mushroom salad. This happens every time I’m in Bangkok. Not just in 2012. Every time.

This meal combo has had me firmly in its talon — this evil, evil meal of rice, fish, and mushrooms.

THE BEST CURRY: SOUTHERN CURRY OF FRESH THAI MACKERELS, OR TOR KOR MARKET, BANGKOK

thai fish curry
Or Tor Kor Market has become a bit touristy in recent years, but it’s still as dear to me as always. In fact, every time I go there, I find something new which I like. Or Tor Kor is not just about fresh produce stands; it’s got some excellent take-home food vendors as well. Case in point: this rice-curry shop (a metonymic term as it offers more than just rice and curries) right next to the eating area. I fell hard for its turmeric-heavy southern-style fish curry. If you ever visit Or Tor Kor, you should try this.

THE BEST VEGETARIAN FOOD: VARIOUS THAI DISHES, ARAWY, BANGKOK

vegetarian restaurant bangkok
One Sunday afternoon, my best friend T, T’s girlfriend K, and I foolishly traveled to the Giant Swing (Sao Ching-Cha) area from our respective homes (which are nowhere near that area) to K’s favorite Thai restaurant, Chote Chitr, only to find that it was closed that day. So we walked all the way to one of the branches of Krua Apsorn, another traditional Thai restaurant, on Din So Road. Not until we were standing right across the street from it did we realize that Krua Apsorn was also closed on Sundays.

Famished, we just walked into a place we, a bunch of non-vegetarians, had never thought of walking into: Arawy (pronounced “a-roi”) Vegetarian Food, located across the street from Krua Apsorn. It proved to be a good decision.

There were no ersatz meats. Nor were there greasy stir-fried noodles pretending to be health food just because they’re meatless. There were lots of tofu-based dishes, though, and lots of vegetable dishes. I still don’t know whether hunger had anything to do with it, but we absolutely loved what we had there. In the picture above, you see tofu hor mok (RTGS: ho mok). Right behind it on the left is tofu pad ka-phrao and, on the right, tofu laab. All the way in the back is a mixed vegetable stew. Everything was devoured.

Next time I go there, it will be because I want to go there, not because the other places are closed.

THE OLDEST: KHANOM FARANG KUDICHIN: PORTUGUESE-INFLUENCED THAI CAKES, BANGKOK

khanom farang
The way many food items in Bangkok are marketed as “ancient” (boran โบราณ) these days is laughably precious and affected at best and outright deceptive at worst. I think the term “ancient food” is still not clearly defined (how old is “ancient”?), and it doesn’t help that some food writers are throwing it around willy-nilly. I’m not going to get into that now. But let’s just say, if you want “ancient” food, then you want these cakes which have been made according to the Portuguese tradition in Thailand for more than 200 years. Now that is ancient.

I’ll write a post on these cakes and the old community by the Chao Phraya river where they’re made in a few weeks.

THE BEST: STIR-FRIED LONG BEANS WITH SHRIMP PASTE AND CRISPY DRIED SHRIMP, CHAN POCHANA, CHANTHABURI

long bean stir fry
It’s funny how many great dishes were discovered this year when I was with T and K. Could be because we were hanging out quite a bit this past year and good things often happen when we’re together. This dish was one of those good things.

On the way to K’s newly-acquired mangosteen orchard, we stopped for lunch at Chan Pochana (จันทรโภชนา) which is a renowned restaurant in Chanthaburi, serving regional dishes which you can’t find elsewhere in the country. K had been raving about a local dish, a hearty sweet-and-sour pork stew made with the leaves of a local plant (kaeng mu bai cha-muang แกงหมูใบชะมวง), so, right away, she knew what to order. I ordered a spicy pork stir-fry with young cardamom stems, another local specialty which I had been wanting to try. T, on the other hand, went there with nothing in mind. He was fidgeting with the menu for a while before deciding on this strange-sounding dish of stir-fried long beans with dried shrimp and shrimp paste. Why this particular menu item appealed to him, we still can’t figure out.

But, man, oh, man. This turned out to be the best thing on the table. In fact, I am declaring this dish right here the best thing I ate in 2012.

I’m going to try to replicate this dish and share the recipe with you here in 2013.

THE BOOZIEST: THAI BLACK STICKY RICE WINE, BANG PLA MA, SUPHANBURI

thai sticky rice wine
Steamed black/purple sticky rice (the kind used to make black sticky rice pudding with coconut cream) is fermented with a local strain of yeast to achieve this refreshing nectar that’s also very pretty to look at. This sticky rice wine or sa-toh (สาโท RTGS: satho) isn’t widely available in Thailand; you kind of have to look for it in the right places. In fact, it’s pretty unlikely that someone like me who doesn’t drink much alcohol would stumble upon this gem. But I did. And I think I’m in love. Served ice-cold, this is better than all the wine coolers I’ve had.

THE MOST NOSTALGIC (#1): AYUTTHAYA-STYLE BOAT NOODLES, RAAN LUNG, BANGKOK

thai boat noodles
Schlepping my rear end all the way to Khruea Wan Temple (วัดเครือวัลย์) on the Thonburi side of Bangkok is like killing two birds with one stone. Wait. Is it like killing two birds with one stone? Did I mess up an English saying again? Never mind. What I mean is that not only do I get to visit an old, beautiful temple that is closely connected to my family, I also get to enjoy really, really good boat noodles, made in the tradition of Ayutthaya province (one of the best places to have boat noodles) at Raan Lung (ร้านลุง), a stall right across the street from the temple.

Go early (yes, have boat noodles for breakfast!) or mid-afternoon, if you want to beat the crowd. Otherwise, be prepared to wait for a long time for a table. If you don’t know Thai, be sure to have someone who does with you. This is because their ordering system has you write down what you want on a piece of paper and hand it directly to the cook. Try to change this system and you’ll find out in no time that 1. you can’t and 2. you’re not getting any noodles that day.

Did I mention they also have really good pork satay ?

THE MOST NOSTALGIC (#2): PORK-LIVER-SQUID PAD THAI, PRATHUMTHIP PAD THAI, BANGKOK

pad thai
I alluded to this pad thai place in an earlier post on Thai tea ice cream and coconut ice cream at Tipparos without naming it. Now you know.

I grew up eating at Pad Thai Prathumthip (ผัดไทยประทุมทิพย์), and I’d always loved it. My favorite cousin and I still talk about this place fondly every time we get together, even though neither one of us goes there very often these days for our lives no longer revolve around that part of town. But out of curiosity to see whether the place is still “the best pad thai place in the entire universe,” I visited Prathumthip and ordered exactly what my cousin and I always ordered: pad thai with pork, pork liver, and squid.

You see, this is — or at least used to be — what sets Prathumthip apart from others: these unusual meat combos not commonly associated with pad thai (in addition to everything else they do right over there).  The dish, especially during the time when I was a little kid, is traditionally made with no meat other than the little dried shrimp. And if any meat is added, it’s almost always fresh prawns. The kind of beef and chicken pad thai you get in the US? Unheard of. (That is, unless you go to a place where they make pad thai for tourists.) But at Prathumthip, apparently, they had intentionally broken the rules a long, long time ago with their various surf ‘n turf versions of pad thai.

Is it still the best pad thai in the universe? Well, it’s still very, very good. I like my pad thai on the non-greasy, dry-ish side, so I like the way they do it at Prathumthip. The seasoning is also as great as I remember it. But would I go out of my way for this? Probably not, unless my cousin comes with me for a walk down memory lane.

THE MOST REFRESHING: FRESH RIPE PAPAYA WITH A SQUEEZE OF LIME

fresh papaya
I’ve always liked papaya, but I’d never realized until earlier this year how much better I feel by starting my day with fresh ripe papaya. I didn’t used to like eating nothing but fruit for breakfast as I’d get dizzy and hungry by mid-morning. But for some reason, fresh ripe papaya seems to keep me satisfied well into the afternoon. It tastes good and it makes me feel good. I should have done this long time ago.

Could it be the enzyme papain? Vitamin A? I don’t know. All I know is that this has given me an idea: I should try having som tam for breakfast. It’s a fruit salad, after all.

THE MOST ADDICTIVE: SUN-DRIED BANANAS, PHITSANULOK

dried bananas
These sun-dried burro bananas are so good that I don’t trust myself around them. I can eat these all day. In fact, I have been using these bananas to motivate myself to work more diligently on the book which I’m writing. I bought a bag of them, voluntarily surrendered it to a friend, and had him feed me one plain sun-dried banana for every 100 words I write and one chocolate-covered sun-dried banana for every 200 words. I’ve been very productive, because I’m the type of person that would do anything for dried bananas.

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten in 2012?

29 Responses to From Mee Krob to Brassiere Eggs: My Food Highlights 2012

  1. spicytofu December 29, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Where can I find sun dried burro banana chips and thai black sticky rice wine? They do look very mouth watering good! I have not seen these at my nearby asian grocery store, or maybe they are not stocked. I look forward to reading about the Portuguese tradition in Thailand. I had no idea there was Portuguese influence in Thailand to begin with, let alone a these so called ancient cakes.

    • Leela January 1, 2013 at 1:13 am #

      spicytofu, the only place I’ve seen sun-dried burro bananas is the snack shops in Thai Town, L.A. Never seen black sticky rice wine anywhere in the US. Sad, I know.

  2. spicytofu December 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    BTW, the best thing we’ve eaten this year is something sweet and simply: a persimmon galette.

  3. John Schuler December 30, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    INRE-Khoa Soi Islam

    I’m in Chiang Mai and ate the khoa soi chicken at this restaurant about 2 weeks ago. The curry broth was quite neutral in flavor, it seemed to me. I will have to go back and try the khoa soi beef. They do have a good supply of condiments at the table to add some heat to their dishes.

    If I may ask a question? I’m on a khoa soi kick now and have been eating it for breakfast about 5 days a week. I walk every morning and have found a bunch of hole in the wall establishments on my route serving good bowls of it for 35baht. Do you know anything about the calorie count on this dish?

    Love this website.

    • Leela January 1, 2013 at 1:12 am #

      John, thank you.

      Yes, khao soi at khao soi islam is on the milder side which is not to say it’s bland — just not as strong on dried spices as some others. But I love the type of flat noodles they use as well as the Shan-style sweeter, less acrid pickled mustard greens that is their signature touch. Having said that, khao soi broth is not supposed to be spicy like typical Thai curries — kind of like how massaman curry is different from red or green curry; it comes from a different cooking tradition whereas warm dried spices are more prominent than fresh, sharp, fiery fresh herbs.

      As for the calorie count, I can only guess since recipes and portion sizes vary so much accuracy isn’t remotely possible. The broth is pretty much made out of spices (no calories for the most part) and diluted coconut milk, so a cup of it is about 150 calories. A cup of egg noodles is about 220. Then we have fried egg noodles on top, so that’s about 100 extra, give and take. The calories of the side pickles are negligible, so are those of the condiment, except for the chili oil. So all of those things plus the meat (one skin-on chicken drumstick is a little more than 100 calories). You do the math.

  4. Mireille December 30, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    Happy 2013 to you Leela! I love this post and can’t wait to try some of the recipes when you post them in the coming year.
    The best thing I have eaten in 2012 is a classic French dish but then inspired with Vietnamese ingredients, so no Thai unfortunately… and it is Vietnamese duck braised in spiced orange juice, the recipe is from Rick Stein and it is addictive and so yummy!! Try it one day you will love it!!
    Greetings from South Africa xx

  5. simon @ SoyRiceFire.com December 30, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Every item on the list is so interesting! I’m drying to try the Thai black sticky rice wine. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to find it in NYC…

  6. BoiseNoise December 30, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    Did you put up a post earlier about how you made your salted duck eggs? (Not that I’d probably attempt that as a DIY project; I was just curious about the process!)

    • Leela January 2, 2013 at 8:10 am #

      BoiseNoise – Not yet. I was about to a few weeks back, then realized my experiment wasn’t complete. It’ll be up soon.

      • BoiseNoise January 2, 2013 at 9:31 am #

        Great . . . I’m looking forward to reading about it! :)

  7. Jenny December 31, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Happy new year Leela, I just love your blog and have been addicted to Thai food for years, as I live in country (rice growing) area Australia I grow my own limes, lemongrass, chillies, Ginger, basil and have a huge veggie garden. Nothing is more satisfying than gathering fresh produce and mortar n pestling a spicy Thai past.
    Thanks for your inspiration I look forward to your book. I check out as many Thai restaurants here and would love to have a go at stuffing zucchini flowers with prawn and crab do you have a good recipie?
    Ps love your mixed mushrooms and green peppercorns I recommend all your followers to try it though I add more water to thin it down a bit.
    Cheers

  8. spikygreengobbermontser January 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Good to see you back i kept checking in only to be greeted by the same picture of Obama’s som tam.You think he would of eaten it by now!

    • Leela January 1, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

      For your inconvenience, subscribe via email (at the bottom) or via RSS (icon on the top right corner). That way you get notified whenever a new post is published. :)

  9. Davidd January 2, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    I love the egg omelet “condo” !

    (And, of course, the deep-fried, crunchy herbs all over the place…)

  10. Dan January 2, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Leela, what’s the translucent white thing on top of mee krob?

    • Leela January 2, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      Those are thinly sliced pieces of pickled garlic, except this is solo garlic (aka pearl garlic) — one big clove instead of many in the each head.

  11. JL January 13, 2013 at 2:30 am #

    Ironically, the best Thai cuisine dish of the year for me may have been one that I didn’t actually eat myself. While visiting Koh Phi Phi last year, my girlfriend ordered a whole fried fresh fish (don’t know the variety, but do the geography to zero in), crusted with herbs, served over khao suay (steamed rice). Distinctly not part of my diet, but the unassuming presentation at a simple roadside resto was enough to make this vegetarian consider crossing over… What can I say — I’m a sucker for fresh, authentic Thai recipes regardless of variety!

    • runningtab January 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

      It was just such a fish that changed my life. On Koh Samui, pre-airport days. I’d not touched seafood of any sort for decades, consequence of an ill-timed experience with an oyster at age 10. That fish turned me around. Had to walk through the surf to get to this one-table, beachside, no-walls place. (No place on earth can match the best Thai beaches.) Watched son bring the fish out of the water, watched mama fry it up, top it with fresh chili, etc. Sensational. Which meant, of course, that I ordered whole chili-fried fish countless times in countless restaurants – and never came close to that one. But I will someday …

  12. Paola (Italian chef) January 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    Graet recipes & fantastic pics…compliments. thanks!

  13. Jay ทิดดำ Riley January 20, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    จานที่ใช้ดอกไม้สวยมากครับ

  14. Claire March 1, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Thank you so so so much for sharing with us. I am leaving sunday for a two weeks trip to Thailand (a first for us !!) and I am absolutely overthrilled. I preciously noted all your advices, thanks again.

  15. gaelee April 19, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    ร้านลุงมีเมนูหรือเปล่า

  16. Simone June 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Leela! Will you include any of these dishes in your cookbook that is coming out? I am such a big fan so hurry up and get it published ;)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] ordered a plate of rice, a boob of crabmeat-filled omelet, and a bowl of sand smelt jungle curry all of which came in just a few minutes. I scarfed it all […]

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