At first glance Auttharos, the brand spanking new Thai spot that replaced Zabb Elee in Jackson Heights looks much like its predecessor. After all the menu’s appetizers include Esan sausage and the joint keeps much the same late night hours as the once Michelin-starred Zabb.
Things start to get interesting in Auttharos’ roster of papaya salads. There are more than a dozen permutations of som tam, from the fairly farang friendly—dried shrimp and peanuts—to the funkier and fishier —pickled crab and pickled fish. The really interesting stuff appears at the end of the list: cucumber salad with boiled egg; long bean salad with pickled fish; corn salad with salted egg, and strawberry salad with salted egg. Let’s let that last one sink in: strawberry salad with salted egg!!
As fate would have it I tried this dish a couple of weeks ago right around the time of the Strawberry Moon., which also took place around the summer solstice. As with most papaya salads it included a mass of vegetation mixed with long beans, dried shrimp, lime, tomato, and birdseye chili rising out of a lake of bracing liquor. Slices of plump red strawberries, and salted egg stood in for the papaya.
Sweet, fishy, salty and possessed of an assertive heat, Auttharos’ fruit salad was lovely. Not exactly a som tam I’d ever have expected to dredge my sticky rice through, but lovely nonetheless.
“Wow this is really good,” I said to the waiter. “So do you make this back home in Thailand?” “Yes, we make it.”
Somehow I didn’t quite believe the waiter or perhaps he misunderstood the question, so I reached out to Chef Andy Ricker for a little clarity. He assured me that it must be Auttoharos’ own recipe, a marriage of fruit salad som tum phonlamai, and salted egg salad or tum khai khem. “Easy to see how this came about,” the man behind Pok Pok pointed out. However it came about I’m glad Auttoharos brought it to Queens just in time for summer.
Auttharos, 71-28 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, 718-426-7992