December 16, 2017

Days of burning tongue day 1: Ice, Ice, baby

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I'm back in Bangkok for a long weekend, eating my way around town again (so what else is new?)... Having not had breakfast and only shitty airplane food for lunch, I was pretty hungry when we checked into the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok.  It's been more than a decade since I last stayed at the grande dame of Bangkok, and I absolutely love the classic colonial style of the place.  As we were having dinner relatively early, I decided to stave off the hunger pangs by nibbling on a few longans () that the hotel had provided us in our room.

A little more than an hour after we left the hotel on foot to take the BTS from Saphan Taksin Station, we arrived at Baan Ice Restaurant (ร้านบ้านไอซ์) in Thong Lo.  The people who run this chain were responsible for gathering the street food vendors for Gaggan's after party back in February, and I have heard numerous recommendations from trusted friends.  It was natural, then, that it should be on my hit list for this trip.  And the branch on Thong Lo (Sukhumvit Soi 55) seems to be the one where we should visit... or so I thought.  It was a little more out of the way for us, but as it turned out, more convenient for our old friend Vincent Thierry.

Thankfully our Thai friend was able to join us, and we left the ordering entirely up to her and The Great One - although Hello Kitty and I did behave like food Nazis and strictly limited the first round of orders to 6 dishes.

Hong pork (หมูฮ้อง) - how can one say "no" to braised fatty pork?  Soft and wobbly after braising for a whole day, I love the sweet and savory flavors here.

Grandpa's kao yam (ข้าวยำคุณปู่) - 12 ingredients mixed together with rice, including lemongrass, winged beans, string beans, pomelo, and kaffir lime leaves. 

No surprise that the mixture was very, very fragrant after chewing.

Southern market fish cakes (ทอดมันตลาดใต้) - these were some of the most delicious Thai fish cakes I have ever had.  The texture was soft on the inside yet remained crispy on the outside without being soggy.  Just beautiful.

River snails curry with acacia pennata and wild betel leaves (แกงคั่วหอยขมชะอมชะพลู) - The Great One remembered the delicious river snail curry we had at Gaggan's after party, so she decided to order this.  Very nice, indeed... but damn spicy!

Deep fried silver sillago with turmeric (ปลาทรายทอดขมิ้น) - these were so, soooo good!  I love sillago when it's served in Japanese cuisine (often as tempura), and I was pretty surprised to see it here.  Who doesn't like crunchy, deep-fried fish, especially when served with a pile of deep-fried shallots?

Stir fried crab meat with yellow chillies (เนื้อปูผัดพริกเหลือง) - this was a lot more spicy than I had expected.  The chunks of crab meat were good, but those finely diced yellow chilies were deadly.

Crab roe chilli paste (น้ำพริกไข่ปู) - nam prik (น้ำพริก) made with crab meat and tomalley, and served with lots of vegetables like white eggplant, okra, loofah, string beans, cucumber, bitter gourd... etc.
Stir fried satau beans in shrimp paste with crispy pork (ผัดสะตอกะปิหมูกรอบ) - DAMN!  This was fucking good!  The slices of pork belly came with really crunchy crackling before being covered with tasty shrimp paste.  And those stinky petai beans were good, too... And yes, this was VERY spicy.

At this point the chef came out to greet us, as The Great One had run into some people last night who had told the chef about our visit.  This was when we started getting dishes from the kitchen that the chef wanted us to taste...

Australian beef green curry with bird eye chilli (แกงเนื้อพริกขี้หนูสวน) - very decent beef and not tough and chewy like most beef curries we've tasted.

Special fried minced pork (หมูก้อนทอด) - WOW.  Another amazing dish of deep-fried stuff... this time it was minced pork that included pork collar.  Soooo flavorful.  The pile of deep-fried goodies on the side don't hurt, either...

Stir fried crab meat with bird chilli (เนื้อปูขลุกขลิกพริกขี้หนูสวน) - at first glance you'd think that this plate of crab meat would be less spicy than the one we had earlier.  You'd be wrong.  But the crab was still sweet and delicious.

Crispy shrimp heads with salt (หัวกุ้งขาวทอดเกลือกรอบ) - the final dish that the chef wanted us to try, because this isn't available everyday (at least according to the menu).  SO.FUCKING.GOOD.  Amazingly, Hello Kitty decided to nibble on one.  Just picked one up of her own free will.  Then had a second one.  For someone who NEVER eats shrimp heads, that should tell you something.

I was completely stuffed.  And my tongue started burning about halfway through dinner, and nothing seemed to be able to put out that fire.  I ended up ordering 3 ice-cold drinks made with local herbs, and for a while even that didn't do the trick.  We were very, very happy with the food tonight, but next time I would probably need to request that the kitchen dial down the heat.

I had to run out a little earlier as I had made plans to meet my friend B and her husband, who are on their annual holiday from Switzerland.  It's been almost 4 years since I last saw her in Taiwan, and as we couldn't meet up for dinner, we ended up having a drink on the Riverside Terrace at the Mandarin Oriental. 

This was a very good night... good food plus catching up with two sets of old friends. 

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