what: jok, a savory Thai rice dish
where: Baan Sawan, 2135 Devine St., 803-252-8992
Chef Alex du Monde at Baan Sawan gets you. His take on Thai jok, which he describes as “a comfort food, a late-night snack, or a hangover cure, like chicken bog,” is on the menu this week and it’s exactly what you want. He’s serving it as an appetizer special, but maybe go ahead and order two and call it a meal.
Jok is a savory rice porridge, similar to Chinese congee. This one is served with catfish instead of pork, and the rice is cooked with duck stock, ginger, garlic, and what du Monde refers to as “et cetera.” I suppose some secrets must be kept, and I’m glad. Because if I knew how to make this, I’d quit life to stay home and eat it all day in my bed, preferably while watching all the Law and Orders ever made. I’d even garnish it with chopped herbs, charred lime, and chili-lime finishing salt, just like his.
For legions of regulars, Baan Sawan is more than a restaurant. It’s a refuge, a place we go to feel at home, but with better food and wine. You never know who you might see there, but it’ll definitely be someone you like. I met one of my best friends there. (Hi, Christine!) You can go solo when you aren’t in the mood to be alone, but if you’re feeling quiet? You can still go. No one will get in your face and insist that you smile. And your meal will be satisfying as hell and wildly unpretentious. Jok is everything great about Baan, served in one beautiful dish.
Baan Sawan is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, 5:30 to 9 p.m. They don’t take reservations.