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Sripraphai First Timer

I'm taking my parents to dinner at Sripraphai (Dad's BDay) on Saturday afternoon. We are open to all dishes and foods. Additionally, are we not afraid of spice (heat). Can somebody recommend a few dishes that they love at Sripraphai for us to order?
Dan

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  1. Do a search for favorite dishes at Sripraphai and you'll find lots of recommendations. For first timers I would go with:
    A5 Crispy Chinese watercress salad
    A37 Mango salad
    N5 Drunken noodles
    O6 Ground pork with chili and basil
    C13 Whole red snapper with ginger sauce
    C25 Panang Curry.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ow77

      Thank you so much! This stuff looks awesome. And thanks for the item numbering. Either your holding a menu or your a serious regular!

    2. My absolute favorite dish there is the drunken noodles with beef. I order it "very very spicy". And then they smile and nod and confirm, "spicy?" and I say "yes! THAI spicy, please." And it's perfect. Another tip: if you really like your food hot, ignore the picture menu. I am always afraid that if I pay it any attention at all, they will take me for a "chili amateur", so I am careful to pick up the written menu and order from that. They will probably place both on your table when they seat you.
      I have never tried anything there that I didn't like. That said, I have a hard time not ordering the crispy pork with chili and basil. It's just too good. As is the crispy catfish salad (though I only recommend it if you love cilantro- there's plenty of it). The pad thai is good (but I rarely get it there). I'd rather have the green curry with eggplant.
      Don't forget to get yourself a little treat from the fridge on your way out. I once purchased some sweet rice cakes on a lark, and they were fantastic.
      Definitely search these boards for more info, though- there are a ton of recs, and you might want to go in prepared. The menu is quite extensive.

      17 Replies
      1. re: vvvindaloo

        I had my first meal at Srip today and it was excellent. Some issues though. The papaya salad with seafood was incredibly delicious with a great level of spice. A seafood oriented special was delicious and more salty than spicy which seemed intentional, but my drunken noodles were not spicy. I specifically said "very very spicy" and "Thai spicy" and then repeated it in Thai. My food was not spicy. Maybe my taste buds were dead from having very very very spicy (quote on quote to the waitress) jungle curry with prawns from Chao Thai earlier in the day. It was delicious and had good flavor, but it lacked the heat that make drunken noodles drunken noodles.

        1. re: JFores

          wow, chao and srip on the same day!
          i wonder why? i have never had this problem with the drunken noodles- i always emphasize that i want this dish really hot and they always deliver. OTOH, i do find the noodles, beef (my favorite) and sauce so incredibly tasty that even the lack of heat couldn't ruin it.

          1. re: vvvindaloo

            Yeah the flavor was still excellent!

          2. re: JFores

            "but my drunken noodles were not spicy. I specifically said "very very spicy" and "Thai spicy" and then repeated it in Thai. My food was not spicy."

            The dish isn't supposed to be spicy. They never serve it that way.

            1. re: Bob Martinez

              Sorry Bob, got to disagree with you. Drunken noodles are meant to be spicy and we always order ours extra spicy. See link to sri's menu, below. The menu is old but the drunken noodles, N-5, are starred, meaning hot and spicy.

              That said, tho i love the drunken noodles, i wouldn't compare their spiciness to that of the southern curry or even the green mango sauce, say. It's definitely gentler. If you want it spicy spicy, do what i've seen countless thai people do and dump in about a tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes.

              http://www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com/bi...

              1. re: missmasala

                I guess my point is that the spicing level on most of their dishes is usually pretty consistent. Some dishes are fiery hot while others like the drunken noodles just have a pleasant buzz. I sort of like the variation otherwise it's like a Ramones concert - every song is 2 1/2 minutes long and and played fast. The different spicing levels make for a nice contrast.

              2. re: Bob Martinez

                They're called drunken noodles because they're supposed to cause you to drink so much to keep the heat down.

                1. re: JFores

                  JFores: I have had this problem there for some time. I run the risk of just being annoying when I repeat "spicy, please, Thia spicy, and oh yes...please make it very very spicy". They look at me like I am an idiot when I do this, and rightly so. A customer should simply say what they they want once. But then they should deliver it! What to do? I think that the best way to handle this is speak with the nice older woman who runs the place or her son. They understand. However I haven't seen them around recently. Maybe this is what happens when they try to streamline things to enlarge their buisness. I think that when it is left up to waitstaff and cooks you just get what they make on the line.

              3. re: JFores

                JFores,
                how does sri compare to chao thai? been meaning to make it to chao thai for a while but haven't gotten there. any compare and contrast would be appreciated.

                1. re: missmasala

                  I loves me some chao thai! the food is quite pungent there (good heat on the larb, good sour), their crispy pork belly is good (pad prik king), their salads are very good (the bamboo is esp. sour and funky and the others are quite generous). had good isaan sour sausage served w/ various condiments, an excellent soup there (the glass noodle soup), light and delicious. can't remember what else I've had but I've been there a bunch of times and I really like the fresh flavors of the food. the only thing that sri has going for me (and I've been going for years and years) is their sour curry, some of their soft-shell crab stuff, and the mussel pancake.

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    sour and pungent works for me. guess i'll have to try it. is it better than zabb? (zabb on a good night, that is. on a good night i think zabb has it all over sri in the yums/salads/apps dept.)

                    1. re: missmasala

                      I can't speak to the salads, but Chao makes my favorite pad kraphao moo in NYC. That with a fried egg and rice is my Thai comfort food if I can truly have one as a farang. Makes me hungry just thinking about it. Definitely worth a visit IMHO. You may experience a wait at prime dinner time. It is not a very big place at all.

                  2. re: missmasala

                    I didn't try any dishes that I order at Chao Thai at Srip (I did eat lunch at Chao Thai after all) but Srip was delicious. I would say they're very close. The papaya salad with seafood at Srip was astoundingly delicious and the drunken noodles were very very solid. Chao Thai has the best Thai curries I've ever had (by a long shot), my favorite laarb, etc. On other hand, I would only order noodles at Srip (aside from some of Chao's noodle soups. They have some very Thai ones with blood cake and such.) Overall they're two different restaurants and I think they have two different strengths. Srip seems more street food/issarn, but then again some of Chao Thai's salads are excellent. I need to try more at Srip.

                    1. re: JFores

                      That's interesting, b/c a lot of posts that I've read in the past suggest that Sri's noodle dishes are its weaker dishes. I'm no expert though.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Srip has pretty boring pad thai, but the drunken noodles are so good that I have dreamt about them. If anything, I'd say that Chao has better curries than Srip does. But that's just MO :)

                        1. re: vvvindaloo

                          Thanks - I'll try the drunken noodles next time!

                      2. re: JFores

                        Sripraphai isn't Issan at all. They are more representative of southern Thai than northern Thai.

                2. I really liked the Panang Curry. And the food as Sripraphai is excellent. But, in terms of just heat, I don't think they make it all that hot. I always ask for it Thai Hot and while it is somewhat hot, it is nothing that crazy. Very good though.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Taylor.Watson

                    I agree. In general, they do not make their dishes all that spicy. For some dishes, it's probably more appropriate to apply heat in moderation, while in other dishes (like my beloved drunken noodles) I really want to feel it! Have you ever noticed that they only give those small kits of chili sauces to certain guests? I have not been able to figure out why. Does it have to do with what they order, or do they request it?

                    1. re: Taylor.Watson

                      People tend to downgrade the panang. I absolutely love it. It has the bite and the consistency, and is super rich and deep in flavor. Maybe it can be a bit oily, but I like that when the spices are right. If they are having an 'on' day, it can be my favorite dish there. Believe or not chowhounders.

                      1. re: NYJewboy

                        I'm with you on that one, I love the Panang curry. My family gets it almost everytime, then we fight about the meat choice, chicken or pork..

                    2. My favorites have become:
                      Roasted Duck Salad
                      Chinese Broccoli with Crispy Pork
                      String Bean and Pork Curry
                      All the whole fish are delicious....
                      In general though, it's hard to go wrong. Also, don't forget to order Coconut Rice with your entrees, it's a little sweet and a little coconutty and goes so well with curries and spicy dishes! Hope you have a fabulous meal!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jdream

                        Count me in for Chinese Broccoli and Crispy Pork ... mmm mmm good. I've only been to Sripraphai once and that was my favorite dish.

                      2. 1. The chinese watercress salad
                        2. Green papaya salad (I ask for it extra spicy)
                        3. Sauteed Pork Leg with Chili and Basil (eat this with the coconut rice and you might just die and go to heaven)
                        4. The sauteed chinese broccoli (I usually get it without the pork because it is sooooo good by itself, lots of garlic!)
                        5. The pad thai although it can be hit or miss. I have had it and it has been ethereal and then I have laso had it be a bit greasy other times.

                        If they don't know you they are always skeptical when you tell them that you like it spicy. You have to really convince them that you can deal with spicy for them to kick up the heat.

                        1. I've been going to Sripraphai for a long long time (fifteen years, I think) and I love it. Here's a link to a thread discussing various dishes. In my latest visits I've used this thread and found some wonderful stuff.

                          www.chowhound.com/topics/444697

                          About spiciness, when I first started going, everyone there was Thai but me (and one other guy who spoke fluent Thai, which I don't) They used to make every dish as it should be made, the same for everyone. But just in case, I used to ask for it "spicy, I LOVE spicy" every time. One day I ordered something and the woman who owns the place (she's still there!) came over and said, "forgive me but you ordered a dish that is not spicy, do you want to change your order to something spicy?"

                          Another time I ordered jungle curry and an old man, a Thai, came over and shook my hand. I asked why and he said "I shake your hand because you are going to eat that" It was the hottest dish I've had in my life! I ate every bit.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Brian S

                            Brian,
                            I believe it was one of your posts from a couple of years ago that inspired me to go for the first time, and Sripraphai has been my "gold standard" for NY-area Thai ever since. Your comment re: having ordered a non-spicy dish touches on the point I was trying to make above, which is that not every dish is meant to cause perspiration and that sometimes, ordering everything "Thai spicy" in an effort to appear experienced can make one look *less* knowledgeable :)
                            BTW, I also have you to thank for Coatzingo- some of the best tacos on the east coast!

                          2. Went to Sripraphai last weekend and was somewhat disappointed. We'd last been there pre-renovations so it'd been awhile. At that time, we had to go to a deli to buy beer to bring into the restaurant. What I remembered was food that was ordered moderately hot, but was so hot my nose ran and my bald head sweated with every delicious mouthful. This time moderately hot, was mild at best...Another example of Asian cooking giving way to accomodate American palates.

                            This time we ordered two app's and two mains. We were one for four. First app was BBQ chicken wings; No distinguishing taste, used the garnishes of peanuts (whole), sliced ginger and lettuse, to give it some taste, texture. Next, was BBQ Beef with spicy sauce, which had chili, mint, shallots and cilantro. My wife did not like the cut of beef but I found this to be a really tasty dish...some good heat also.

                            For mains, we had Pad thai. I usually don't like this dish, finding it too sweet with mushy noodles. The best I can say about this version was that it wasn't as sweet as at most Thai places. The best, best thing about it was I got my wife to agree to give up ordering it anywhere. The last dish was Jungle curry. I read Brian S.'s comment above but this dish was full of bamboo shoots and just had no kick; really disappointed

                            So, there it is...The old grey mare ain't what she used to be...The one good thing was that this week I went back to my Hot, Sour, Salty Sweet cookbook by Alfgord and Dugid and have been rediscovering some of their dishes. Have made, on different nites, Luscious Chile-oil Tofu, Stir-fried fish with ginger, and VN shrimp and pork stir-fry. BUT while I have many of nec ingredients on hand, I'm unable to cook many dishes B/C I can't find others in my area. I live in central Nassau county. Can anyone suggest where to find SEA fresh ingred's w/o going into Queens? ( I'm also going to post on tri-state later) . Thanks of the help PS I know about the Hempstead place so I'm looking for addiitional places

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: toby1355

                              "I went back to my Hot, Sour, Salty Sweet cookbook by Alfgord and Dugid"

                              I have to agree that I LOVE this cookbook. Great recipes, great pictures, great stories. The Laotian seafood soup is one of my faves.

                              1. re: toby1355

                                sorry you had such a disappointing experience. i just had another great dinner at Sri. shredded green mango salad and pork curry with stringbeans. heat level was perfect for both dishes. i have very rarely had an "off" meal there. so as far as i and my friends are concerned, we think the old gray mare is doing quite well, thank you very much.

                                1. re: mshpook

                                  Dear mshpook,

                                  Your reply raises a couple of interesting questions. You write that "the heat level was perfect". i'd be curious as to how hot you ordered your food. My point was that once upon a time when you ordered medium hot it was really hot and close, if not exactly, authentic. Let's remember that the Chow hunt is for the authentic. That's what all the hubbub about the Flushing malls is all about, for example. And while I understand, economically why places tone down the authenticity, I lament it at the same time. Thanks for listening

                                  1. re: toby1355

                                    I like my food "Thai spicy" and when I order that way it is quite authentic. My nose runs, my head sweats, my cheeks get all rosy, and while that does not paint a pretty picture, it is all part of the having the heat level combined with the vibrant, deep flavors that Sri is so good at putting together. I have also gone to Sri with folks who cannot tolerate the same level of heat that I can and have ordered their food medium spicy. It is still at a heat level that works for the spicy dishes and enough to not disappoint me.
                                    While I have had an occassional meal at Sri that was not what I had hoped for, in general I am rarely disappointed.

                                    1. re: mshpook

                                      There is no bigger fan of Sri then me, it is my regular Friday shabbat meal. I call in my order from the road and pick it up to eat at home. Recently though I have changed my approach and wait to order at the restaurant because it is the only way to insure proper heat levels.They recognise me as a semi regular and take me seriously when I look them in the eye and ask for it "Thai spicy". Sometimes I throw in a little Thai and say Pet Pet or Pet Ron. Usually they smile so I don't know if the Thai words help or they think I'm a nut. Whatever they think though, I get it hot.

                                      1. re: stuartlafonda

                                        stuartlafonda, what do you usually order for takeout? does it travel well? i have been to sri many times, but have always eaten at the restaurant.

                                        1. re: mshpook

                                          The only thing I wont 't order to go that I eat at the restaurant is the fried soft shell crab, it just does not hold up. My usual order is a curry, panang or red. I like the shrimp with sator bean although they always give me another type of green bean, perhaps because sator is known as stink bean. I always get a noodle dish, most times the drunken noodles. The northern curry with noodles and spare rib has been a recent favorite.I have also beome a fan of the chicken curry puffs and I buy them in the four pack from the refrigerator and warm them up at home, they are not spicy and the kids love them.

                                          1. re: stuartlafonda

                                            Thanks. I really love the whole fried fish, but I am pretty sure that won't travel very well. I might try ordering some of the salads, curries and noodle dishes to go.

                                        2. re: stuartlafonda

                                          What does pet ron mean? Very spicy? I'm going to try that!

                                          1. re: NYJewboy

                                            never heard of pet ron.

                                            try pet pet or pet maak.

                                            both mean very spicy. (I think!)

                                            or just say "thai spicy" in english.

                                            1. re: missmasala

                                              I was a Thai lingust by trade at one time about a million years ago. If you want it spicey ask for it to be 'phed phed'. You need to say the 'h' because that word is aspirated. 'Ron' means hot in the sense of temperature so should not be used if you are asking for a certain spice level. 'Phed Maak" should also work well. "Maak' just means 'lots.'

                                              1. re: ThaiNut

                                                Thanks for the help, the guy that takes the money rarely smiles, now I know why he does so when I "speak" Thai. BTW, here was one of my sources.
                                                http://english-thai-dictionary.com/in...&

                                                1. re: stuartlafonda

                                                  Stu,
                                                  I just took a look at that on-line dictionary that you referred too. I plugged in the word 'spicy' and it came up with several options including the 'Pet-Ron'. I had major problems with that so I called in my Thai wife who agreed that the use of 'ron' for spicy is totally inappropriate.

                                                  The spelling of 'Pet' is also wrong. First, it is an aspirated syllable so has an 'h'. Second, it ends in a sound that is closer to a 'd' than a 't'. It should be transliterated as 'Phed' and pronounced with a low tone. I note that that web site is produced in Sweden. Maybe there are actually no Thais at all involved in it. There is an official system to transliterate Thai to English that was produced many years ago by the Royal Institute, a Thai Government organization. The problem is that no one pays any attention to it and most Thais will transliterate Thai to English any way they feel like it.

                                                2. re: ThaiNut

                                                  I was going to write it "ped ped" but you're right, "phed phed" is closer. Often, in thailand, I hear people say "phed maak maak."

                                                  quite frankly, i think even if people say "pet pet" the servers at sri will know what they are trying to say.

                                    2. re: toby1355

                                      sorry you had a disappointing meal at sri. a couple of points I want to make:

                                      1) back in the good old pre-renov days at sri, no one asked you how you liked your food. the spicy dishes were made spicy and the mild dishes were made mild. So just the fact that they ask now is not good.

                                      2) two of the four things you ordered aren't meant to be made spicy, the pad thai and the chicken wings. (actually, I'm not sure about the chicken wings as I've never had them, but I'm pretty sure they are not) and, if you do a search, you'll see that it's universally agreed that the pad thai at sri sucks. so if you go back, don't order it. try to get a mix of dishes that are meant to be mild (pad see yew or fried tofu, say) and dishes that are meant to be spicy (a yum and a curry, say) then ask for the spicy dishes to be made "thai spicy."
                                      3) sri has off nights. I've had more than one mediocre meal there (mediocre there is still better than most NYC thai food, tho). So I urge you to go back, armed with some recommended dishes and try again.
                                      4) if the concept of the jungle curry appealed to you, try the pork with string beans or the southern curry.

                                      1. re: missmasala

                                        My husband and I are longtime customers of Sri, when we were one of the few non-Thai patrons eating there on a regular weekly basis. We were initially asked how we wanted our food, but once we were known and recognized by the waitstaff, they just knew how we ordered our food, which was Medium-Thai spicy for me, and mild for my husband. In all the years we've gone there, we've never had a problem, and when we've had new servers over the years, we just told them how we wanted it, but often we see the owner who recognizes us, and a few of the longtime servers there, and they know what we like. If anything, over the years, things have come a bit more on the spicy side not towards the milder side. Okay for me, but sometimes my husband drinks his ice tea in seconds flat if that's the case.

                                        Anyway, the only problem I've noticed is inconsistency in overall dish quality in terms of oilyness, or other issues--portions, etc...which generally occur on the busy weekends...which is a time I try my best to avoid.

                                        I agree about the consistency of Spicy and Tasty, and you simply cannot beat their $6 lunch special, I'll be there tommorow, and make a stop by Cannelle bakery afterwards-----------Queens is great, huh?

                                    3. Thais love spicy, but it's a mistake to think that the hallmark of a good Thai dish is a high degree of spiciness, what some posters have been referring to as "Thai spicy." There is no "Thai spicy," just individual preferences. Not all Thai people sweat to their food. Subtle variations in saltiness, sweetness and sourness are often obfuscated by extreme heat. For most dishes, medium heat should be sufficient to bring out the merits of the dish.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: yna2

                                        I have been told that pet ron means hot/spicy. I have found that asking for it thai spicy gives me plenty of heat and and what you describe as the other appropriate flavor profiles,salty sweet and/or sour. When it is not hot it also seems to lack the other elements as well and is just flat and bland tasting. Thai spicy works for me.

                                      2. A suggestion for you and then a couple of general comments.

                                        The "Sweet Sausage w/cucumber, onion, chili & lime" is a perpetual favorite of mine. (A31 on the menu.) The sausage itself is mild but there are some medium zippy hot peppers mixed in to keep this dish spicy but not punishingly so. The dish is rarely mentioned and deserves a lot more attention.

                                        The general comment is directed at the advice you're getting about spicing levels. I've beet to Sri between 30 to 40 times and I have never, N-E-V-E-R, had a problem getting things spicy. Spicy is the standard, not the exception. You don't have to flash any secret signs or utter perfectly accented Thai phrases. They just give it to you.

                                        What they will do is to ask you how spicy you want it. Tell them "medium." Yes, I know lots of people say "Thai spicy" but I'd start at medium and save Thai Spicy for another trip once you know how really damned hot "medium" at Sri can be. At medium some of the food will make your scalp sweat but you'll still be able to taste the food. The balance of flavors will be maintained. That's what you're there for, not to stage a contest to see who's macho enough to be crowned The Hot Pepper King.

                                        That said, I also recommend getting a couple of dishes that aren't billed as spicy to round out the meal. It makes for a nice balance of flavors.

                                        I also 2nd vvvindaloo's comment about the differences in spicing levels between Thai dishes. Not every dish is *intended* to be spicy.

                                        16 Replies
                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                          Bob, as much as I repect your opinions and contributions to the board, on this one you are flat out wrong. I am hardly alone in my complaint that the the heat level on dishes that are supposed to be hot is often lacking. It is not a matter of being a "hot pepper king", it is matter of being served food with the appropriate spice level. I have had more then a few meals that lacked heat and, as I wrote, a full balance of flavor. My observation is that when they dumb down the heat they also dumb down the overall complexity seeming to assume that the customer wants bland food. Toby1355 pointed out that food was ordered as it was years ago but was served with less heat. If you order your food medium your chance of getting it "damned hot" as you describe it are virtually nil.

                                          Please don't belittle advise offered merely to help others enjoy their meal and which for me has been successful. Nasty commentary has recently plagued this board, please add to the discussion without degrading the contributions of others. So I throw a couple of Thai words at them, for that you belittle and mock me?

                                          1. re: stuartlafonda

                                            I would also like to add that, in thai dishes meant to be spicy, the spiciness is part of the balance. if you say "medium" or want it any other way than how they make in thailand, you are throwing off the balance of the dish. that's why i can't eat thai curry at 99% of the restaurants in the US. They don't make the curry spicy enough to balance out the sweetness and then it's just too sweet.
                                            So asking for things "thai spicy" is not a macho thing. It's a genuine desire to get food made the way it should be made, so that the balance of flavors will be right.

                                            1. re: stuartlafonda

                                              All I can say is that in 40 trips to Sri I haven't had one problem getting things spiced properly. Not one. Maybe I'm really really lucky but I don't think so.

                                              People *love* to talk about how places are going downhill and comments about the declining spicing level at Sri have been making the rounds for years. In my experience, that's not the case. Sure, the spicing level of a given dish can vary a bit from visit to visit but I've seen to vary the other way. A dish that was medium spicy one visit can be blazing on a 2nd. Kitchens are like that.

                                              My own tolerance for spicing is pretty high. I'm a regular at Szechuan Gourmet, Spicy & Tasty, and most recently the excellent Grand Sichuan House in Bay Ridge.

                                              While it's certainly true that many ethnic restaurants in America dumb things down for Caucasians, they don't *all* do it. Sri is a prime example of one that doesn't and we can add those Chinese places I mentioned above to the list.

                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                Of the other places you mentioned the only one I go to on even an occasional basis is S&T. I find them to be consistent in what they serve from visit to visit, that is one of the many reasons I like the place. I'm no expert in Szechuan cuisine but it does not appear that they are "dumbing down" the spice levels. I like the fact that Sri has expanded, the small crowded space they had in the old days was the least enjoyable part of the experience. For those that enjoyed that environment and like their food hot and spicy I recommend Minangasli in Elmhurst. I really like the place as it is very tasty, cheap and offers good size portions. Bob, what do you think of Minangasli?

                                                1. re: stuartlafonda

                                                  I plan to visit Minangasli soon after reading so many positive reports. I've written down four dishes: Ayam Goreng Sambal Ijo (fried chicken smothered with green chile paste), Ayam Balado (fried chicken), Rendang & Combo Satay.

                                                  1. re: Mike V

                                                    at minangasli, get the jackfruit curry dishes, and also any of the dishes with the rice cubes.

                                                  2. re: stuartlafonda

                                                    "Of the other places you mentioned the only one I go to on even an occasional basis is S&T."

                                                    Too bad. Those are the best Szechuanese restaurants in the city. Throw Wu Liang Ye into the mix and give an honorable mention to the GSI mini chain. Of course that type of food might not be your favorite but they deserve to be mentioned in any discussion of highly spiced food.

                                                    Outside of those places you're going to have an incredibly difficult time finding well spiced Chinese food. That's what I mean about dumbed down. Those places I mentioned are the exception although I'm pleased to see that the list has been growing nicely over the last few years.

                                                    I don't get over to Queens as often as I used to and when I do the pull from Sri is really hard to resist. Mets games and dayss at the US Open are automatic visits to S&T and Little Pepper.

                                                    Obviously I'm missing something good by not trying Minangasli. I'll put it on the list.

                                                  3. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    Bob,

                                                    how do you ask for your food at Sri?

                                                    My point was that, when first started going there, they never asked how spicy I wanted my yum or my larb or my curry, just as they never asked how I wanted my pad see yew. There were spicy dishes and non-spicy dishes.
                                                    Now they ask, so i say that I want them how they would be made in thailand, or pet pet, or whatever.
                                                    You may never have had a problem, but I have had problems sometimes with things not being as spicy as I like to eat them or have had them in thailand. And perhaps someone says "medium spicy" because they hear that the food at sri is blazing but then their food isn't spicy enough.
                                                    To me, the problem is that now they ask, when before they didn't (at least they never asked me before.) which means that they are adjusting the spicing for western palates. Which doesn't mean that sri isn't good. It's still a very excellent place.
                                                    And FWIW, much as I love Szechuan food, the heat levels in the dishes I've had at szechuan places around town (including spicy and tasty) don't come near the heat levels of the food I eat on a regular basis in thailand.
                                                    I agree that sometimes the "spicy" issue is thrown down as some sort of macho thing. And I'm the first to say something about people who want all their Indian food to be spicy hot. But in this instance, I do think there's more to it. Those little green bird chilis add more than just heat. they add an integral flavor and balance to dishes, and if the kitchen skimps on them, something is lost, just as if the kitchen puts in too many for someone who insists on hot hot hot, they might overwhelm the dish. What I want is the dish made how most thais would eat it.

                                                    1. re: missmasala

                                                      I suspect they ask the "how spicy" question to avoid surprising newbies. As far as my request for medium heat goes, it's what works for me. I certainly take your point that those green bird chilis add flavor but too many of them and the heat overwhelms the rest of the dish.

                                                      I guess what I'm getting at is that people need to find their own comfort level with this stuff. When offering advice to a first time visitor to Sri who I've never met and who's also taking his parents I would hesitate to tell them to order everything as hot as possible. They might think they know what they're getting into but there's a very real risk that they'll wind up with stuff that causes them to spit flames. They'll be left picking at plates of food because they can't eat more than a couple of forkfuls without drinking a glass of water and waiting 5 minutes for the heat to die down. Lets not even get into the effect this can have on the digestive tract.

                                                      Let them start off at medium and see how they do. They may find that level, which on average is at the high end of comparable Szechuanese food, works really well. If not, there's always the next time. Nobody can go to Sri just once.

                                                      A general strategy in getting the proper spicing level at the better Szechuanese places is to become a regular. The servers become familiar with your tastes and remember that you can handle the hot stuff. If you're visiting for the first time and the server tells you that something is really spicy, smile and say "that's great!" That's worked for me for years.

                                                      At Sri it's far easier. They assume you're there for the real stuff. That's what their reputation is based on. Of course if you look completely inexperienced and display all kinds of trepidation as you're placing the order they might not take you at your word. Other than that getting things hot shouldn't be a problem. After all, it's their default spicing level.

                                                      1. re: missmasala

                                                        «To me, the problem is that now they ask, when before they didn't (at least they never asked me before.) which means that they are adjusting the spicing for western palates.»
                                                        We (Anglos) were always asked about spice level in the pre-renovation days. On our first visit, concerned about being overwhelmed with heat, we made the mistake of asking for "American Spicy" and were very disappointed. It was "Thai spicy" from then on. But I'm not sure that it's just the westerners that they are concerned about. Twice we were seated next to groups of young hip Thais (YTUPPIES?) who were discussing with concern the spice level and specifically asked the waitresses to tone it down for their food.

                                                        1. re: bobjbkln

                                                          I may not look anglo, but i definitely don't look thai, and I don't remember being asked how i wanted things in the old days. Maybe it was because we always used to order the watercress salad app when it wasn't on the menu, only in thai on the wall (someone told us about it.) or maybe I'm remembering wrong.

                                                          That's funny about the young thais. I don't think I've ever been asked how hot I want something in thailand, except at really touristy beach restaurants that cater to swedes.

                                                          1. re: missmasala

                                                            I spend several months each year in Chiang Mai, Thailand (I'm in CM now) and I am occasionally asked how spicy I'd like my dish, even in non-touristy restaurants. Usually however, I'm just warned that a dish I've ordered is very spicy.

                                                            1. re: el jefe

                                                              Interesting - thanks for posting this. I notice that the whole authenticity argument, too, as it relates to Thai cooking, tends to center around spice levels, when there are so many other elements/ingridients - nam pla, lemongrass, galangal, etc. - at play.

                                                              Another aspect to this argument is that, I would imagine that not all Thais - both in Thailand and abroad - have the same tastes. I would invite feedback on this, but are we to assume that Thailand, or any other country, is one of homogenous tastes? Nor would I assume that all restaurants in Thailand prepare their dishes the exact same way (good thing, too). Therefore, what, exactly, is "Thai spicy" anyway? Who or what determines that? It seems like we can't get a consensus in Queens, let alone the in the source country itself.
                                                              P.

                                                              1. re: Polecat

                                                                there are other elements at play in thai cooking, but I often find that it's the spiciness that gets toned down or left out the most. Some places will make things with galangal, lemongrass, etc (tho they do often tone down the nam pla, using less) but leave out the spicy element that balances things out.
                                                                A good example is thai dishes that are made with the medium chili peppers (not the bird chilis) such as the drunken noodles at sri. In not-so-good thai restaurants, they might replace those chilis with green peppers, which to me completely ruins the dish.

                                                                And of course not all thais have the same tastes. No country is homogenous, but i would be willing to generalize and say that thai cuisune in general has many spicy dishes and is a spicy cuisine, in the same way I would be willing to generalize that french or italian cuisine is not spicy.
                                                                When I lived in Rome I used to have a Roman friend who didn't like garlic, basil, parsley, wine, or coffee, and I used to joke with him that he wasn't really Roman. Of course there are Romans who don't like those things, but in general all those things were an intergral part of Roman cuisine.
                                                                In broad terms, i think certain things can define certain cuisines, and I think that spicy is one of the things that defines thai cuisine, in my experience, which is not to say that all thai dishes are spicy.

                                                                1. re: missmasala

                                                                  "...that thai cuisune in general has many spicy dishes and is a spicy cuisine..."

                                                                  Absolutely. But, again, what defines "thai spicy" in relation to the whole authenticity argument? Perhaps this is a topic for another thread entirely, but, do they even use the term, "thai spicy" in Thailand?

                                                                  I have, out of sheer curiosity, asked for my food to be prepared "thai spicy" in two venues, Sripraphai and Chao Thai. At the former, I have been given heat, no doubt, but the type of heat that works alongside other elements, and in some cases, sneaks up on you. It enhances the flavor and texture of the dish, without dominating. The heat, depending on the dish, might even be the star attraction, but it's never the solo attraction. The one time I ordered something "thai spicy" at Chao, however, I was literally in pain. At an otherwise wonderful restaurant, the dish I had - a frog dish off of the specials menu - was perhaps the most unpleasant dining experience I've had in years, like swallowing hot coals. I came away from that experience remembering the heat, and only the heat. Now, I allow for the possibility that I might just have ordered the wrong dish at the wrong time cooked by the wrong person - what the hey, I like to take chances. But, if what I got at Chao was, indeed, "thai spicy", then maybe "thai spicy" is just not for me, irrespective of the authenticity debate.

                                                                  Until I do an extended tour of Thailand, however, I can only speculate, and defer to the wisdom and experience of others.
                                                                  P.

                                                                  1. re: Polecat

                                                                    Perhaps I am being too pedantic here, but what I mean when I say Thai Spicy is the heat level that a Thai would get in Thailand if s/he asked for (or otherwise expected) their food to be prepared very spicy. If in Thailand one asks for their food medium (or mild) spicy, I guess I would call that Thai medium spicy, but that might confuse some servers (although perhaps not the clever ones at Sri).

                                                2. I really like their sour curry (shrimp and veg in a deeply flavored sour curry), their fried soft-shell crabs (app. size) and also their mussel pancake. order another curry, maybe some greens+pork, maybe another app or two and you should be good to go. plenty of great recs so far. I don't usually like the catfish salad because I find the chunks too hard; the fried cress salad is good though and the old green papaya standby is always on point.

                                                  1. regarding discussing "heat" with servers...

                                                    http://gothamist.com/2008/02/12/a_tas...

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: Widmark

                                                      Quote from Gothamist: "As they say in Thailand, the food was grom glom, or spot on in terms of the blending of spices and flavors"

                                                      Aahhh so there's a word for it. Grom glom is exactly what I always want.

                                                      1. re: Brian S

                                                        It might be best to forget the Thai 'Grom Glom' compliment as it means that the food was only in the fair-good range. I suspect that that critic was being honest since it is extremely rare to find a stateside Thai restaurant that compares to the food quality you'd get in Bangkok. And their earlier visit to the place had already established that the place was nothing to rave about. If you want to say that the food was really good use the following:
                                                        1. If you are a male - Aa-Haan A-Roy Maak Khrab
                                                        2. If you are a female - Aa-Haan A-Roy Maak Kha
                                                        Note that the honorifics at the end depend on your own sex, not the sex of the person you are talking to. Curious, but that's the way Thai's do it.

                                                        1. re: ThaiNut

                                                          i know how to say "aroi maak" but what does aa-haan mean?

                                                          1. re: missmasala

                                                            I'm going to be heading out to NYC from London - is this place worth hunting down? I'll be staying in Jersey (Is this New Jersey?) which I'm told is about 20 mins from Soho and midtown. My NYC geography isn't great.

                                                            1. re: Nii

                                                              Yes it's worth hunting down, but getting from New Jersey to Queens is frustrating (live in the latter, family in the former), because there's this very crowded island called Manhattan between the two. Depending on where you are in NJ, you'll either take the holland tunnel to manhattan, take the williamsburg bridge to the BQE and take the 65th place exit, or if you're further north, take the George Washington to the triborough bridge to the BQE in the other direction, or if you're further south, take the Goethels bridge to Staten Island then the Verazanno bridge the the BQE. In any case, you'll probably get lost somewhere.

                                                              But yeah, it's worth it.

                                                            2. re: missmasala

                                                              aa-haan = food. Seems redundant. If you just say "aroi maak" they'll certainly understand.

                                                              1. re: el jefe

                                                                I don't really think at Srip it makes a difference if you ask in English or Thai, frankly, most of the servers there speak English, so, asking in Thai when it's obviously not a language one speaks, and only knows a few words, just seems silly to me, especially when they speak English. I can understand needing to know the words in a place if you were traveling in Thailand perhaps, or another place where the servers barely speak English, but at Srip, it's pretty English friendly..so, if you just say Thai Spicy, they'll understand you want it spicy, if you say Medium, they understand that's in between, Mild and Thai Spicy. Again, I have never had a problem, and it's generally always consistent...

                                                              2. re: missmasala

                                                                MissMasala,
                                                                Sorry for the delayed response. I just got back from 10 days in Costa Rica where the food was a real disappointment.
                                                                Anywho... aa-haan means 'food'. The 'aa' syllable is pronounced like the first 'a' in 'aware' and the 'haan' syllable with a rising tone.

                                                        2. I think all this spice debate has freaked out lilwalter; would be nice to hear how his meal went (and whether his parents liked it or not. you out there?

                                                          1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjMrAe...

                                                            Speaks for itself! Sexy....

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: wshami18

                                                              Was at Srip today for lunch, excellent as usual...and the spicing factor, perfect. Just wanted to make everyone aware, that they now have a seperate menu for vegetarian options. Since this is a question that comes up often, good to see they have found a quick solution for it.

                                                              We had chicken satay, (it's perfect, it should get more kudos here), shrimp with green curry bamboo shoots and coconut milk, squid with chili basil, and iced tea with milk.....all great.

                                                              Video link above is good, not sure where that chicken curry is on the menu, though,-can't find it....

                                                              Has anyone had the tilapia at Srip --what's the best rendition of it?

                                                              And by the way, their bathrooms are spotless, what a pleasure!

                                                              1. re: janie

                                                                They actually have had a vegetarian menu for the last few years, but they've replaced it with a much more thorough, expanded version recently.

                                                            2. If you go before 4, you can order the beef noodle soup (I prefer the light broth). This will be non spicy but comes with 4 condiments that can be used to increase the heat to your taste and flavor. The condiments aer sugar, sweet spicy vinegar, fish sauce with lime juice and cut up thai peppers and ground up dried hot pepper. This was one of my favorites when I lived in Thailand.

                                                              1. my must-eat list includes:
                                                                -crispy chinese watercress salad
                                                                -green mango salad
                                                                -bbq pork with garlic, chili, and lemon juice (it's a cold dish and very spicy -- was amazing the first few times we got it, but not as great the last time -- but i'll keep trying!)
                                                                -tom yum shrimp soup
                                                                -drunken noodles (with pork or chicken)
                                                                -green curry with chicken, with a side of coconut rice (a revelation -- i never liked green curry before sripraphai!)
                                                                -whole fried fish with ginger sauce
                                                                -thai iced coffee to quench the fire!
                                                                -and these tubular cookies sold in a clear plastic case at the front for the ride home...

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: hungry_united

                                                                  From the current specials yellow coconut curry with chicken and potato
                                                                  For the natto epoise tempier tolerant could try hot sour curry with preserved bamboo shoots

                                                                2. Many people complain about Sri's noodle dishes, and often they are right. Today I really wanted it, so I got the drunken noodles. If made well this dish is sublime. They ACTUALLY even made very very spicy (as I ordered it). It was delicate, powerful, and cooked perfectly. One of the criticisms is that they overcook the noodles. Today at 3:00pm they most certainly did not. They even gave me a side of the picked chiles which was great with it. I'm getting that dish again.