Monday, September 17, 2012

Pok Pok Phat Thai

The latest in NY from Thai fare legend Andy Ricker is Pok Pok Phat Thai in the Lower East Side. Phat Thai took over the tiny former Pok Pok Wing spot, and besides the fact that spirits on Yelp are mourning the loss of wings, the first reviews of Phat Thai are mixed. Ricker has said that he hasn't put pad Thai on the menu at any of his other restaurants because he thinks that the dish deserves the same attention and care that it gets on the streets in Thailand. Thus, a whole space and staff are now dedicated to it. A few of us headed down there last week to try it out.

Charlie and I split the Phat Thai Ruam with ground pork and shrimp, the Kuaytiaw Khua Kai and a tamarind drinking vinegar. They don't sell water but there is a free-for-all cooler of pandanus water in the corner. 
When the food came I was surprised how huge the pad Thai was. Served on a banana leaf and garnished with scallions, peanuts and lime, this was a delicious rendition. One of the best I've had in New York. Emily couldn't stop raving about the fresh pieces of scrambled egg scattered throughout, and I thought the tamarind sauce was really nice and the tofu tender. Charlie thought there was too much fish sauce but I disagree. The noodles were perhaps just a bit overcooked and bordering on gummy in my opinion.
The Kuaytiaw Khua Kai, wide rice noodles stir-fried in pork fat with chicken, cuttlefish, egg and green onions served on lettuce was a bit more out there. The portion was much smaller but the noodles had a golden brown crisp and the cuttlefish was tender. We loved this dish, and the drinking vinegar as well.

Dishes here aren't super cheap but the food is certainly worth it. (The pad Thai was $12 but huge.) Don't get drunk before Pok Pok Phat Thai because the tiny store has no bathroom. If you hit it up, let me know what you think!

Pok Pok Phat Thai: 137 Rivington St. between Norfolk and Suffolk. (212) 477-1299 Pok Pok Phat Thai on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monkfish with Tomato Sauce

Monkfish is a milky, meaty delicacy that apparently goes for $15 a pound and is called poor man's lobster. I guess it rings true that I never look at prices when I food shop because when the fishmonger put these tails on the scale I was basically like, "Oh shit, I'm about to spend $20 on fish. I don't even know how to cook fish." But pride stepped in and there was no turning back.
Earlier in the morning Charlie and I had run rampant at the Saturday Farmers' Market. We got sweet peppers and plum tomatoes to make into a sauce. Monkfish with tomato sauce it is.
We added boiling water to a bowl of six plum tomatoes and 5 smaller tomatoes and let them sit for a few minutes to loosen up the skins. I peeled and cored each tomato and Charlie crushed them in the bowl with his hands.

We started the sauce by cooking half a chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic, half of a jalapeno and a chopped sweet red pepper on low heat for about 10 minutes until translucent. We then added the crushed tomatoes, basil, a bay leaf and a bit of red wine and let that all come together for about 20 to 30 minutes. 

To cook the fish, we salted the filets about an hour before cooking to draw some of the excess moisture out. This didn't work. We put the filets on a frying pan on the stove for about two minutes on each side, and lots of water began to release from the meat. We thought we ruined the fish and tensions were running high. We wiped away excess moisture and moved the filets to the oven on 425 degrees for about 6-8 minutes until they had a little color. 
Everything turned out OK! We all came out alive! I think we narrowly missed disaster but you couldn't tell while eating. The fish was meaty, tender and moist and went really well with the sweet sauce. I think a nice red sauce could go with any white fish and I'd probably pick a cheaper one next time so when I inevitably screw it up it won't feel like I lost my life savings (which $20 basically is right now.)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Summer Rolls in Florida

Bet you haven't made your own summer rolls before. Between lounging in the pool and dodging alligators in the nearby lake, Emily, her friends and family and I found time to roll up some fresh ones. We packaged rice noodles, lettuce, mint, coriander, scallions, shrimp or chicken and hoisin sauce into translucent skins moistened in hot water on the stove.
We dipped these in peanut sauce and garlic fish sauce for a fresh starter. They were so easy to put together after a little practice and everyone got to roll their own. We joked that "make your own summer rolls" could be a birthday party theme.

If you find yourself in Orlando, eat at Pio Pio off I Drive. They have locations in New York too. If you're with a few people, get the Matador, a combination of moist rotisserie chicken, fried and sweet plantains, french fries with little hot dogs in them, rice, beans, and a starter salad with a creamy garlic dressing. Ask for avocado on the salad, you'll be glad you did.

Pio-Pio International: 5752 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819. (407) 248-6424
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