Andy Ricker, the force behind the bicoastal Pok Pok empire, is leading a Thai street food demonstration and tasting at 3 p.m. Saturday. We quizzed him on his daily diet while he was traveling in Thailand last month.
(It) was Makha Bucha Day, a Buddhist holiday, so a lot of places that sell booze and/or meat were closed. That sometimes limits the number of good eating options as a lot of Thai-owned joints are closed. Luckily, there are several Muslim-owned restaurants that do not observe this day, for obvious reasons; like Jews not observing Christmas.
So along with my friend/collaborator, Austin Bush, and our mutual friend, Patrick Winn, I went to eat khao soi at Khao Soi Islam in the ancient Night Bazaar area of Chiang Mai. I have been going to this family-run place since my first visit to Chiang Mai in 1992, and it's history goes back much further than that, about 50 years altogether.
We had the following: each a bowl of the beef khao soi (ed. note: Ricker describes the noodle soup in his cookbook as "probably the most famous of all Northern Thai dishes") one plate of khao mok kai (Thai-Muslim chicken biryani) (ed. note: biryani is spiced rice, typically served dry) and khao mok phae (lamb biryani), plus a bowl of paa paa soi, a forerunner of khao soi with noodles made from brown rice stirred until very starchy, and cooked into a cake, then sliced roughly into noodle shapes with the same coconuty broth used for khao soi.
Next stop was afternoon coffee at Akha Ama, owned by my buddy, Lee Ayu Chuepa, a talented young man who is out to change the way Thais look at coffee. Needless to say the brew at his shop is excellent and they sell a really good banana chocolate muffin. I happen to be shooting a video this week in Chiang Mai with a prominent media personality from the USA, and our stop this night was my favorite khao kha muu stall at Chang Pheuak Market, just outside the moat of the old city.
We had the eponymous pork leg stewed in a master sauce containing soy, rock sugar, and a proprietory blend of herbs and aromatics (and purportedly Milo, the malt drink powder!) with a perfectly boiled egg and some pickled mustard greens, served with a vinegary chile sauce by the cowboy hat-wearing vendor, a second generation purveyor of this Chinese-Thai favorite. Unctuous, meaty, savory and utterly satisfying, this version is rightfully famous.