Market at Night
Feast. Raw beef. Pork satay skewers. Pork toro (fatty hog collar). Fried pig tail. Sai krock isaan (fermented pork sausage). Coconut rice. Nam prik ong (fried pork rinds). Kao soi (pork ragout). Pad kee mao (drunken noodles with short ribs). God, that was a alot of food.
I’ll start with commentary on the much-feared raw beef dish, which spicy, hot, and fleshy. I know many people are a bit “eek” and “urg” about things like raw beef, but it’s perfectly safe to eat (just make sure it’s a legitimate restaurant). Even if there were any sorts of bacteria, the combination of raw onion, salt, garlic, and chilies probably provided a caustic, salty, spicy environment that violently staunched the growth of bacteria anyway. The concoction wouldn’t do much in the department of your breath, but your taste buds would be quite delighted. Overall, the dish was solid, spicy, and most likely very nutritious. All the raw enzymes of the vegetable matter stay intact, and the proteins are fresh and unprocessed, which boosts the nutrient bioavailability. My only complaint was the semi-large chunks of onion. I would have preferred them to be sliced extremely thin, soaked in water or acid to lessen the intensity of the sulfuric compounds, and then chopped very finely, almost to the point of a paste. Traditional methods of lowering onion intensity include soaking in water, vinegar, or simply slicing them thinly and placing them in the refrigerator so some of the sulfuric compounds can evaporate or degrade. I question the effectiveness of acid versus water; I suspect water is simply another medium/location for volatile compounds within the onion to diffuse out of; more importantly, slicing them thin would expose the most surface area for compound escape.
The pork satay skewers and pork toro were each delicious in their own right; the toro reminded me of offal barbecue with Asian sauces. The pork satay didn’t seem all too different from normal Thai-beef or chicken skewers. The toro was nicely marbled, which made it seem like we were eating thick cut pork belly on skewers; except they were probably two to three times “more moist.” “More moist,” in this case, was suspected to be attributed to higher amounts of fat, which can trigger salivary amylase production; not to mention the psychology of “eating something fatty,” which in its own right, can cause perceived “moistness.” All important factors in a culinary experience, but meat selection and proper preparation enhances all other factors.
Fried pig tails was the lauded dish of the night. It wasn’t just the result of “anything fried is usually good” syndrome. The batter was light, almost as if Panko breadcrumbs were somehow fused together as a sheet, and tightly wrapped around an extremely flavorful, braised pig tail, bursting with gelatinous bits and tender, juicy meat. There was a hint of garlic, and the dish was finished with bits of chopped fresh coriander.
The fried pork rinds were a fresher version than the kind found in supermarket snack stores. With the addition of a snazzy sauce, it still wasn’t leaps and bounds ahead of most pork rinds, but at least it didn’t come in a bag. A good textural contrast though. Traditional preparations involve boiling pig skin for long hours until soft and tender, slicing them into appreciable strips, drying them out a la desiccation, and then a chuckin’ into a 400 degree fryer, where they puff up like magic. Cracklins, on the other hand, are fried at lower temperatures; these temperatures are not hot enough to create substantial amounts of puffiness, but rather, results in pork “shards.”
Clever coconut rice. Rice served with a hint of coconut aroma (perhaps brushed with coconut oil at the end, or cooked in a coconut broth); sticky to touch, and comforting to eat. Paired off nicely with the spicy components of the meal.
The Sai krock isaan (fermented beef sausage) had a scent and taste that was 20% stinky tofu, 30% Taiwanese sausage, and 50% normal sausage. Plenty of sausage aroma fermented goodness to go around. Easy pickings; almost felt like snack food.
At the end of our meal, several members of our group were still hungry, so a round of Kao Soi and Pad Kee Mao was ordered. I didn’t get enough of a bite of either in fear of exploding, but I did sneak in some grainy photographs. The picture quality sucks all in all, since the lighting was pretty terrible, and my photo shooting experience is nil, so the photos won’t be shown.