My pal Joel has forgotten more about Thai food and culture than I may ever know. A week ago he took a break from the wintry land of Boston to spend a day with me and some other Thai food nerds in Elmhurst eating at as many Thai spots as possible. We hit half a dozen Thai Town favorites, including Plant Love House and Paet Rio.
Joel and I started out bright and early at Sugar Club, where he was keen to breakfast on “toast soldiers” and kha-fai ron, strong coffee with sweetened condensed milk. The owner presented us with two orders of kai kra ta, the Thai equivalent of a Denny’s grand slam, two sunny side up eggs, sweet pork sausage, chopped pork loaf, and ground pork. It came with toast. And for dessert more toast, with sweetened condensed milk and pandan for dessert. All the toast we had that morning was excellent, but none of it was the aforementioned toast soldiers.
A week or so after recovering from our all-day Thai eating binge, I returned to Sugar Club, determined to solve the mystery of the toast soldiers. There are quite a few elaborate toast-based desserts on offer, from honey toast to the chocolate-drizzled, ice cream-laden Romeo toast. Finally I spotted it, simply listed as “toast, 4 pieces, $4,” along with a picture of four rectangular batons of bread.
Ever since I read an article about Thai street food by Naomi Duguid in Lucky Peach I’ve been curious about Thai toast. I knew there would be butter and sugar, but beyond that I wasn’t sure what to expect. Soon my soldiers arrived, marshaled on a wooden battlefield, golden brown, buttered, sprinkled with sugar, and lashed with sweetened condensed milk. Airy and sweet with a crunchiness both sugary and toasty they were amazing, even better dipped into the coffee.
“Kanom pang ping,” the gal behind the café counter said when asked the Thai name of this marvelous, yet simple toast. As someone who’s spent a good amount of time eating in Thailand Joel likes to remind me how lucky I am to live so close to Thai Town. This fact was not lost on me as I finished the last bite of toast before heading out into the wintry New York City street.
Sugar Club, 81-18 Broadway, Elmhurst, 718-865-9018