Pok Pok, Portland

I was in Portland, Oregon over the weekend for the JET Alumni Association Regional Technology Conference.  On Sunday, after the Conference ended, I went with LL to check out Portland’s much acclaimed Pok Pok Thai restaurant.   The restaurant is a bit off the beaten path, but definitely worth the trip.  It’s built to resemble  a Southeast Asian pub shack (which is a little cold for Portland, but they had space heaters).  The Suntory whiskey I had with the meal helped warm me up too.  Despite the shiver, I have to say that this was some of the best Thai food I have ever had outside of Thailand.  No generic pad thai or “traffic light” (red, yellow, green) curries here.  Only intensely flavorful dishes meant for sharing, featuring hand pressed coconut milk and the freshest of herbs.

This is what we had:

Yam Samun Phrai ($9.00)

Special Northern Thai herbal salad with ginger, carrot, parsnip, betel leaf, basil, lime leaf, sawtooth, fried shallots, cashews, peanuts, sesame seeds, dry shrimp, ground pork and Thai chilies in a coconut milk dressing.

I’ve never had anything like this before, but it kind of reminded me of a Japanese kinpira on acid. A definite party going on in my mouth. A taste revelation.

Coconut Rice ($2.50)
Definitely necessary to counteract the atomic Thai chilies masquerading as scallions in the salad

Sii Khrong Muu Yaang ($11 – not pictured)

Carlton Farms baby back ribs marinated in whisky, soy, honey, ginger and Thai spices. slow grilled over charcoal and served with 2 spicy dipping sauces.

I’m not usually a ribs person, but these were very well executed. They kind of reminded me of jerky or Cantonese char siu, in a good way.

Khao Soi Kai ($11.50)

Northern Thai mild curry noodle soup made with our secret curry paste recipe, natural chicken on the bone and house-pressed fresh coconut milk. Served with pickled mustard greens, shallots, crispy yellow noodles and roasted chili paste. Chiang Mai specialty, with Burmese origins.

My favorite Thai noodle soup! It’s not on many Thai restaurant menus in the US, but it should be. Pok Pok’s khao soi is rustic, with big chunks of chicken on the bone, falling apart tender, and a perfectly balanced coconut broth. I wish there were a little bit more broth though, ’cause I downed every drop.

Sankhaya Fak Thong ($6.50)

Steamed Kabocha pumpkin, filled with coconut-palm sugar custard scented with pandanus leaf.

The kind of expected this to be warm, or at least room temperature, but it came cold. Still really good though. I think maybe just a dash of salt would have offset some of the sweetness and made the flavor of the kabocha really pop, but that would be gilding the lily. BTW, the desert portion was more than enough for 2 people to share.

Pok Pok
3226 se division, pdx : 503 232 1387

Thai Green Curry from scratch

Day 3 of 4-in-4Cook something I’ve never made before

Thai Green Curry

I love Thai food, and especially Thai curry.  I’ve made Thai green curry plenty of times before, but I have always used store-bought curry paste, so for today’s project, I decided to make my own green curry paste from scratch.  There are some (slightly) obscure ingredients involved, so besides Whole Foods, I also had to hit up the Thai Grocery in Chinatown to get supplies like shrimp paste, Thai basil, lime leaves, and palm sugar.

Thai Green Curry

I don’t have exact measurements for you to follow along at home, but there are plenty of exact recipes for Thai green curry paste on the Internets, so just do the Google.  I made my curry paste based on ingredient lists I found online and just improvised my own version.

Thai Green Curry

First, roast some cumin, coriander, and black pepper in a dry frying pan until fragrant, then grind in a large mortar and pestle.

Thai Green Curry

Next, cut up the curry paste ingredients (below) and then bash them all up in a mortar and pestle.

  • Green chilies
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Lemongrass
  • Galangal and/or ginger
  • Lime zest, juice, and leaves
  • Cilantro
  • Shrimp paste

The paste will be a lot chunkier and more fibrous than the stuff you buy in the store, so put a few tablespoons of the paste in a blender with a can of coconut milk and blended it, then strained the mixture through a strainer before cooking.  Heat the curry and coconut milk in a pot until bubbly and fragrant, then add vegetables and proteins and simmer until done.  You might also want to add half a can to a can worth of water to dilute the curry to your liking at this point..  Season to taste with fish sauce, palm sugar, and/or sliced fresh green chilies.  Add a handful of Thai basil leaves and cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice in the last couple minutes of cooking.  Serve with jasmine rice.

I made two variations of green curry.  The shrimp and scallops cooked up very quickly, but the cod-potato-eggplant version took a bit longer for the vegetables to get tender, then I added the cod towards the end of cooking.

Green Curry with Shrimp and Scallops
Thai Green Curry

Green Curry with Cod, Tofu, Eggplant and Potatoes
Thai Green Curry

(Mostly) Brooklyn Weekend and Klong


Above: Flower bouquet from Rachel and Elizabeth’s housewarming brunch in Brooklyn. More pictures on Flickr.

On Saturday, Kris and I headed out to Brooklyn for Rachel and Elizabeth’s housewarming brunch. It was nice to get out of the Manhattan and hang out on a perfect summer day with some cool cats on a tree-shaded deck while sipping mimosas and bloody marys and noshing on chocolate pancakes and assorted Turkish delicacies. See more pictures on Flickr.

Sunday, we returned to Brooklyn, this time on foot, via the Brooklyn Bridge, to go hang out in a bookstore/gallery in DUMBO. After exploring the neighborhood a bit, we returned to Manhattan by walking across to Manhattan Bridge.

That night, we had dinner at a Thai restaurant on St. Marks Place in the East Village called Klong. What does “Klong” mean in Thai anyway? Perhaps it is onomatopoeia for the factory-like industrial din of the restaurant’s Asian po-mo interior 😉 Luckily, we were able to escape the noise by moving to a table located on the small outdoor terrace. The dishes are reasonably priced and generously portioned. We had a some lightly battered fried calamari and some green papaya salad as starters, a bargain at 5 and 6 dollars respectively. Then for our main course, we shared an order of soft-shell crabs in garlic sauce, and the Klong pad thai, a “royal” Thai variation of the famous Bangkok street-stall noodle dish, which came with thinner rice noodles, mixed seafood, and wrapped in a thin egg omelette.

We had some unexpected dinner entertainment from the table next to us. Not that we were eavesdropping or anything, but the girl was just talking very very loud. It turned out that she was a plus-sized model having dinner with her protegée. Some of the quotes were priceless, but I guess you really had to have been there to understand the context. I can’t wait until the Samson H2 portable audio recorder comes out – I want to get one to carry around and record “on the street” podcasts in New York.

Anyway, back to the review of Klong: Our waitress was very nice and very attentive, and they certainly don’t skimp on spice. It’s certainly doesn’t measure up with the food in Thailand, but for New York, it’s good, reliable Thai – if you can stand the hubbub of the interior, or snag a coveted outdoor table in warm weather.