Kanom jeen ngaew features pork blood, pork ribs, and ground pork.
Elmhurst’s Little Bangkok is so robust that it can support everything from boat noodle popups to dessert cafes. The latest entrant is Lamoon, the hood’s sole specialist in Chiang Mai cuisine, from Chef Arada Moonroj who learned to shop at local markets and pick lemongrass and kaffir lime from her mother and grandmother back home in Northern Thailand. A profound dislike for the use of MSG in New York City’s Thai restaurants led her to teach herself how to cook by watching Youtube videos.
After cooking for friends she decided to open Lamoon, which is both a play on her last name and a Thai word that is perhaps best translated as subtle, or better yet, soigné. It took over the old Ploy Thai space about two weeks ago and features a decor that combines a feminine sensibility with Thai street art.
As in Chiang Mai, there is a heavy emphasis on pork, from the signature sai ua sausage ($12) studded with bits of ear and flavored with lemongrass, kaffir and other herbs to tum kanoon, a fiery mound of stewed young jackfruit singing with the flavors of chili and kaffir lime, and enriched with pork belly.
Kang hung ley, a deeply rich brown and deeply warming curry also features pork belly, this time stewed for three hours and flavored with a Thai style masala imported from Mae Hong Son on the Burmese border. It’s traditionally served at weddings and funerals.
If the heat of kang hung ley is like sitting by a comfortable fire then that of kanom jeem ngeaw ($12)—a ruddy soup of pork ribs, pork blood, ground pork, and vermicelli noodles—is like stoking a furnace, a delicious porky furnace. The combination of the smoky roasted chilies and rich pork calls to mind a Thai nduja. Khao soi chicken ($12), the only main that doesn’t pay tribute to the pig, is also excellent, with a sweetness derived not from sugar, but slow cooked onions that have been blended into the rich coconut curry.
Chef Lamoon loves pork so much that her menu also features her Mom’s larb neua ($10), a combination of ground pork, liver, and belly seasoned with 10 herbs, including kaffir lime, lemongrass chili, and Indian long pepper. It packs a lot of chili heat, but is great with sticky rice and the accompanying basket of herbs and veggies, including crunchy napa cabbage. This past weekend she served abb ong oor ($9), creamy pork brain in a banana leaf seasoned with turmeric,chili, lemon grass, kaffir lime, garlic, and shallot. It’s steamed and then grilled resulting in a melting texture and not a whiff of funk. Now if that’s not the very definition of soigné Thai cooking, I don’t know what is.
Lamoon, 81-40 Broadway, Elmhurst, 917-745-1168