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!! (more…)
Half the fun of Plant Love House’s pad thai is mixing the ingredients together.
“You ordered pad thai!!??” one of the chef’s daughters at Plant Love House exclaimed last night. “That’s not like you,” she countered when asked why she reacted with such shock. She’s rights, it’s not like me at all. I can probably count the number of times I’ve ordered the dish. The last time was over two years ago at Andy Ricker’s now shuttered Pok Pok Phat Thai. I like to think of it as the sweet and sour pork of Thai cuisine. It’s a “real dish” in Thai cuisine—just as sweet and sour pork is in China’s Dongbei region—that’s been Americanized.
I’ve eaten my way through most of the items, including the lovely noodle soups, on the menu at this family run joint in Elmhurst’s Thai Town, and have enjoyed most everything I tried from the specials board. So when I saw pad thai listed as a special I had a hunch it would be pretty good. (more…)
Andy Ricker, the driving force behind the Pok Pok empire.
Whenever I ball up sticky rice and dip it into the liquid pooled in the bottom of my papaya salad, the waitress usually asks whether I’ve been to Thailand. My response: “No, just Queens.” Unlike me Andy Ricker, the Portland-based chef behind the Pok Pok empire has been to both. He first got into Thai food by traveling Thailand in the 1980s. His Pok Pok Ny is one of the few reasons that I will trek to Brooklyn. He was kind enough to answer Seven Questions.
How often do you eat Thai food? Every day when I am at work, every day when I am in Thailand and seldom otherwise.
Have you ever eaten Thai silkworms? I found them to be terrible, mealy and musty! Yeah, I have tasted most of the grubs and insects that Thais eat. Those things are subsistence foods that some people have gotten used to and developed a taste for, but are not and should not be taken for a dish found commonly on the Thai table. Red ant eggs and bee larvae are a different story though: delicious!
We’re in agreement on those red ant eggs. I’ll have to add bee larvae to the list. Tell me, where’d you learn to use chopsticks? I learned to eat with chopsticks at a very young age. My mom and stepdad used to take me to Chinese restaurants, and they showed me how. (more…)
Andy Ricker’s phat Thai is served on a banana leaf.
Spaghetti and meatballs is a dish I never order in a diner, because it is always terrible. Same goes for pad Thai, not that I’ve ever seen it served in a diner. It’s just that I’ve never had a good version of the dish so I never order it. Or at least I never did until I paid a visit to Pok Pok Phat Thai. Andy Ricker’s Lower East Side noodle house changed my opinion of the dish. In the phat Thai thamadaa ($8), rice noodles are fried in pork fat with tamarind, fish sauce, palm sugar, peanuts, dried shrimp, dried tofu, egg, garlic chives, bean sprouts, and chili powder. Thai spicy does not exist at this noodle joint. Per a sign on the wall “all dishes are prepared so that the seasoning can be adjusted to your taste (prung roht). Please use the condiments khruang prung…” And use them I did doctoring up the flat noodles with fish sauce and ground chili. Slurping the pork fat slicked fry-up as a mix of Thai covers of 1970s hits, including “25or 6 to 4” and “Boogie Nights”played was pure bliss.