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Searching for Aharn Thai

EATTV Jan 18, 2010 02:09 PM

I'm re-searching our Thai restaurants for authentic dishes. Some have Thai menus or can be encouraged to cook things "the way Thai people eat them". I love to travel to Thailand. Thai food for Americans is something different though imo, I'm sure you agree. Recently I ate authentic Thai cuisine at Sripraphai in New York and am encouraged to look deeper. Khao Sarn, Rod Dee, and Duk Bua have their merits but I'd been hearing about Montien's "secret menu" and S&I Thai.

At S&I warm greeting and a small space heater warms the Take Out with 4 tables. Thai Iced Tea was regular. No beer. Tom Yum Goong was a thin broth and a poor version of the national dish. Bangkok rolls were a fine popia tod with extra thick wrappers adding a nice crunch. Sauces were standard. Outstanding Chicken Satay was as you find it in Southeast Asia and had plenty of tumeric and herbal accents. Sum Tam ส้มตำ excelled with small crabs and dried shrimp, spicy hot and the breath of the sea on it. Served with sticky rice to soak up the juice this dish transported me away from the slush outside the small storefront. Roast Pork Noodle soup was aromatic with perfect Chinese roast pork but the wide rice noodle filled broth was thin. Even lots of chilies weren't bring it around. However Larb Ped was also a winner, studded with ground toasted sticky rice and galangal although mint was missing. Duck Choo Chee ordered spicy was neutral and was lacking the Thai veggies that can make it great. My kingdom for some morning glory and pea sized eggplants.

All in all an interesting foray into Boston authentic Thai possibilities. Please let me know your favorites for real deal Thai food in these parts.

S&I To Go
168A Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

  1. StriperGuy Jan 18, 2010 03:48 PM

    Give the cookies at S&I a taste. Truly amazing stuff.

    1. Luther Jan 19, 2010 02:58 AM

      Their duck and pork noodle soups are a bit thin and underwhelming, though I will strongly endorse the chicken soup, which has crushed peanuts and carries quite a bit of body.

      The stir-fried dish (don't know the Thai name) that combines small, bone-in pieces of fried fish, pickled peppercorns and basil contains some rather small Thai eggplants, though I guess they are more key-lime-sized than pea-sized.

      19 Replies
      1. re: Luther
        Nab Feb 23, 2011 04:40 PM

        The dish's Thai name, phàt phèt plaa dùk, can also be found on the Thai menu at Bangkok Blue. Their Thai menu is quite vast - the online version is only in Thai, the in-house version has English descriptions. Nevertheless, they do a fine rendition of this dish, as does Montien, though BB's version lacked the eggplant, and was gratuitous with the bell peppers, but still a dish worth seeking out.

        The Thai menu at Bangkok Blue probably deserves its own thread. It has many Northern-style dishes of interest (in addition to other regional fare - but the folks are from Chiang Mai). They also occasionally source Thai sausages, like sai ua, and may on occasion also procure its more sour and funkier cousin, sai krawk Issan (both also on Montien's menu). Some of my favourite snax. Anyway, you might not otherwise go to Bangkok Blue, but know that there is reason to, beyond the booze license. (phàt phèt plaa dùk, and naam prik ong pictured below)

        Bangkok Blue
        651 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116

        1. re: Nab
          EATTV Feb 23, 2011 04:59 PM

          I love the sai ua at s&i and the sai krawk at the Thai Place which does some nice isaan specialties. If you ever hear about a source for isaan mum let me know. I was astounded to find roti sai Main recently so anything is possible. Sato? Lao kao?

          1. re: Nab
            galangatron Feb 23, 2011 07:38 PM

            they also make a version with pork belly (pad ped moo krob) that's available on the thai menu

            1. re: Nab
              galangatron Feb 23, 2011 07:38 PM

              they have nam prik ong on the thai menu at bangkok blue?

              1. re: Nab
                Nab May 22, 2011 04:29 PM

                Chipping away at the Thai menu at Bangkok Blue. It ain't cheap, but might be the best dining option on the whole strip. There are ups and downs, but I am finding the salads to be a particular core strength. I was told there is a "salad lady" who is only in on certain days, so I always ask if she's there before I order. She takes the flavours to the extreme edge, while maintaining an essential balance.

                Yum pla dook foo (crispy fried catfish flakes with green mango) is but one excellent example. I wear a towel on my head while I eat this.

                Bangkok Blue
                651 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116

                1. re: Nab
                  EATTV May 23, 2011 06:16 AM


                  My car is in the shop or I'd pick you up and we'd be on their doorstep. I've dined at BKKBlue in the past but this dish is my favorite. I recently got a recipe for it from "BKK Street Food" by Tom Vandenberghe. He's a flying Dutchman who has been orchestrating Thai gastro tours for dinners from Holland and Belgium. (The two extremes; one eating to live and the latter vice versa.) Luther is of course right that something is shifting at S&I. Aharn Thai itself is constantly changing and adapting. Places that are consistent for decades or generations are tough to find here. Thais are a hive minded culture that has served them well as the only undominated people of SE Asia. I would be wicked homesick for Siam if I was kon Thai. I'm not Thai and I'm often homesick for their home. I seriously want to hop from Sripraphai to Arun to Lotus of Siam to Pok Pok and then to BKK, Chiangmai, and bury me in Phuket.

                  If you can clue me to the Yum Lady's days it would be huge although I'm quite happy to darken their dining room door for a week to size them up. A recent visit to Brown Sugar to go deep on their phone book of a menu was completely disappointing.

                  Thanx for this tip. Rain is on the menu, an eggo in the toaster, jasmine tea in the cup and joss burning. Perhaps the mechanic will finish my car before lunch.

                  Brown Sugar Cafe
                  129 Jersey St, Boston, MA

                  1. re: EATTV
                    Nab May 23, 2011 05:34 PM

                    EAT -

                    I'm not sure what the Yum Lady's schedule is, but I have a hunch that she's off on Sundays & Mondays, IIRC.

                    Luther is reminding me below that there's work to be done with another good-looking Thai menu to be found at Pad Thai Cafe. Stop in at around 2am on a Saturday and you'll be back on Soi Cowboy in no time. ;)

                    1. re: Nab
                      EATTV May 23, 2011 06:11 PM

                      I may try to get to BKK Blue tomorrow. That catfish is calling. Listen:....

                      Pad Thai Cafe? Any favorites? Specialities you know? Am I missing the wickedly delicious Moo Krob there? 2am?

                      Is there any food on Soi Cowboy? I remember a giant barrow of Pad Thai wheeling by one way late night near Soi Cowboy. I was famished but a chef traveling with me stopped me from eating it, probably saving me great internal distress. I never have had the dreaded Bangkok Belly but I eat where the Thais eat and follow some simple rules. Avoid the peeled stuff, beer and soda are safe, careful with ice and what's cooked in front of you is safest.

                      1. re: EATTV
                        Nab May 23, 2011 06:48 PM

                        Sorry EAT, I don't know where the food's at, but the scene outside Little Stevie's at 2am might be mildly reminiscent of certain aspects of Soi Cowboy.

                        I haven't yet been to Pad Thai Cafe, but I am sure they're serious about an 11pm closing time. Here's their Thai menu:


                        1. re: EATTV
                          galangatron May 31, 2011 09:17 PM

                          the khao kha moo (braised pork leg) at pad thai cafe. total comfort food

                          1. re: galangatron
                            Nab Jun 12, 2011 07:13 AM

                            Yum pla duk foo was even better overall than Bangkok Blue's even though it was less fiery, one can easily ratchet up the heat. Nam prik kapi, accompanied by mackerel and tempura veggies (which retained their crisp via delivery), brought the funk but was a touch on the runnier side, I like a thicker grittier mortar & pestle texture, and I'll probably ask for raw veggies next time too. How's the nam prik kapi at S&I ? Khao soi is rich and will coat your stomach for an entire season of hibernation. You won't find wan whitemeat in this version, rather, wing drumsticks and wingettes take it over the top. Generous with the accoutrements, particularly pickled greens which I always want more of. Salad dressing, often an afterthought in American cuisine, is a good bar to measure the merits of a Thai kitchen, and I'll be plowing through the menu at Pad Thai Cafe further as a result. And it's the little things, like chicken wings, that easily excite me.

                        2. re: Nab
                          Luther May 23, 2011 06:33 PM

                          The 11pm closing time on their website is not serious?

                          1. re: Luther
                            VintageMolly May 31, 2011 02:19 PM

                            Do you have to ask for the Thai menu specifically? What are the best picks?

                            Went for lunch with a friend today, and didn't get anything looking like the Thai menu. I ordered a dish that I had an excellent rendition of at Rod Dee last week, and found this version mediocre by comparison. I'm hoping it was just because I wasn't ordering off the Thai menu. Teach me the secret handshake, please!

                            1. re: VintageMolly
                              galangatron May 31, 2011 09:19 PM

                              at bangkok blue? you have to ask for the thai menu

                              1. re: galangatron
                                VintageMolly Jun 1, 2011 06:35 AM

                                Thank you! I'll try again soon.

                          2. re: Nab
                            EATTV May 31, 2011 03:19 PM

                            Thank you so much for steering me back to Bangkok Blue. Khun Yao was on the Yum station today and you were quite correct... it was fabulous. Fragrant, crunchy, nutty, sour sweet and sublime: ยำปลาดุกฟู, deep fried catfish salad.

                            An OK Kuay Teow followed but I really liked their simple Thai language menu. A visit to the kitchen during Bangkok Blue's not too busy lunch was very congenial and another chance to advance my beginners Thai and intermediate English.

                            Bangkok Blue
                            651 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116

                            1. re: EATTV
                              galangatron May 31, 2011 09:20 PM

                              if you like yum pla duk foo then you should try the larb pla duk foo at montien

                              1. re: galangatron
                                Nab Jun 1, 2011 04:23 AM

                                Indeed ! In the same vein of crispy-fish-clouds, Montien's yum ka por pla (fish maw salad) is also excellent.

                                G-tron or others, have you found a good gaeng hang lei (Northern style curry) around town ?

                                (larb pla duk foo below)

                    2. re: Luther
                      EATTV Feb 23, 2011 04:53 PM

                      I have since been back to s&i many times. I have begun to decode tthe Thai menu and am especially fond of the kuay tiaow moo with a kitchen sink of tripe, fish ball, blood cake, moo rob fried porked belly and pak boong. This big bowl is a total experience made perfect with the chilies and a bit of sugar.

                    3. galangatron Feb 23, 2011 07:36 PM

                      mmm. i love the larb ped at s&i thai

                      1. galangatron Feb 23, 2011 07:45 PM

                        pak boong is "out of season" and probably won't be available at thai and cambodian restaurants until the spring or summer. and it's almost impossible to find pea eggplants at any restaurant. the only place i've ever seen them is at the se asian markets in revere and lowell

                        1. g
                          gourmaniac Feb 24, 2011 05:11 AM

                          Glad you like S&I. i think it 's the best we have here. Montien's Thai menu is OK but nothing mind blowing. I go there for a lot of work lunches and it's not my choice. Nice to hear about Bangkok Blue, which I would not have thought to go to.

                          Bangkok Blue
                          651 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116

                          1. e
                            emannths May 23, 2011 06:24 AM

                            Have you folks tried Pad Thai Cafe? I'm not really in a position to evaluate the execution, but the concept of a lot of their menu seems to reflect much more of a Thai-style of construction. Nothing fancy (it's mostly rice-plate things), but it seems like a good portion of their menu is unadulterated is rather unadulterated. Am I fooling myself?

                            And whenever I order ka prao extra spicy, it actually comes out extra spicy, which is nice.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: emannths
                              Luther May 23, 2011 08:00 AM

                              I havent been but I know they have a Thai menu that's pretty thorough. I'd be curious to see if the quality is up there with S&I

                            2. yumyum Jun 1, 2011 08:24 AM

                              Revisited S&I Thai last night and was amused to find the new picture menu which has several dozen dishes with titles and prices (no descriptions). The font on the titles is a little hard to decipher (I'm just looking at it again) so for example there is a hard boiled egg dish that might read as "Khoi Look Ker-ay" or "Khoi Look Ker-oy" or maybe neither. The other menu has the food in categories but doesn't really correlate to the picture menu. This results in a lot of flip-flopping between the two menus to figure out what is what. Then there is the specials board written in Thai and a few specials written in English. You kind of end up feeling that there is something really extraordinary there but you wont know unless you stumble upon it by closing your eyes and throwing a dart at the pictures. I'm sure Thai aficionados will do better than me but it was pretty confounding for this Farang.

                              Still we managed to end up with a nice pork larb with sticky rice (not spicy enough), whole fish with basil and chili, and a special clam dish with the same basil chili sauce but a brighter punch of fish sauce. S&I appeals to me as they swing to the sour end of the spectrum -- still balanced but not as sweet as other Thai places in town.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: yumyum
                                Luther Jun 1, 2011 11:22 AM

                                There's a new picture menu? How is it different from the old picture menu?

                                1. re: Luther
                                  yumyum Jun 1, 2011 11:56 AM

                                  I have no idea, I've not seen the old picture menu. The one I have next to me is a tri-fold, with pix and crazy fonts.

                                  1. re: yumyum
                                    galangatron Jun 1, 2011 12:13 PM

                                    that sounds like the old picture menu

                                    the hard boiled egg dish is khai look koey (son-in-law eggs). deep-fried hard boiled eggs topped with crispy fried shallots and sweet and sour sauce

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