Thai Market, daydreamed and real

When my newly married friends Vanessa and Jon recently honeymooned in Thailand, I went along with them. Well, not really, not physically in the third wheel sense (cause how awkward would that be?) but vicariously through the Instagram pictures Vanessa posted daily.

In my Thai reveries I lounge around deserted beaches, play with baby elephants and feel small before giant Buddha statues, just like my married friends did, but mostly in my daydreams, I roam around the food markets, eating all sorts of things. And because it’s a daydream and not real, nothing has a single calorie. (In the beach part of my daydream, I look damn good in my bikini.)

Vanessa’s street food stories, like the ones I read on another favorite blog, The Londoner, left me with not only more wanderlust than ever, but with a ravenous hunger for Thai food. So when I asked a friend for a lunch recommendation on the Upper West Side earlier this week and she suggested a place called Thai Market, it was just what I needed.

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Tom yum goong soup. Emphasis on the yum.

To start, I had the tom yum goong soup, a reddish-brown blend of tangy, zesty lemongrass, tamarind, juicy shrimp, and plump, soft mushrooms.  It was colorful and warming, with just enough spicy heat to give my tongue a tingly little prickle without breaking out into full on nose sweats.

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Pad kee mao… that means give me more, right?

After it, at the server’s suggestion, I ordered the pad kee mao, large, flat rice noodles with tender strips of chicken, Thai basil, chili, tomato and bok choi. It wasn’t crazy hot but this time I definitely had to guzzle cold water throughout eating it. The flavors, like the colors of the different ingredients, were bold and bright, with chunks of bright green peppers, juicy tomatoes and red swirls of chili oil all mixing around in the most delicious way.

The restaurant’s overall look is supposed to transport you to Thailand, with giant photos of markets as a backdrop, along with Thai street signs and large red umbrellas that kind of make you feel like you’re outside. I popped in for lunch, and while I don’t doubt that the food sold by street vendors and at markets is way better and cheaper, Thai Market’s $8 lunch special makes it a pretty good alternative for being on the UWS.

Thai Market on Urbanspoon

Vietnam on the brain (and stomach)

Lately I’ve been on a serious Vietnam kick. After reading Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour, a collection of stories based on some of the episodes of his Travel Channel show No Reservations, I’ve decided that’s where I want to go, Vietnam. He also wrote about Portugal, Morocco, Spain and Cambodia among others but it was his chapters on Vietnam that really hooked me. I did some other reading, checked out Lonely Planet, and even thought, hell, let’s see what a round trip ticket might cost me. The answer? A lot. Duh, no surprises there. But even if they were giving away airfare, I couldn’t take the time off so yea, so much for that plan.

My wanderlust hopes might’ve been dashed but I still had Vietnam on the brain. More than anything, Bourdain had got to me with all his talk of Vietnamese food. So since I couldn’t make it to the actual country, I went in search of the food.

Vegetable spring rolls

Bao Noodles, a cozy bistro-like restaurant on a quiet stretch of second avenue close to my apartment, had good reviews and I liked it from the start. It was cute, our waiter was smiley and chipper without being obnoxious, and the menu had lots of things on it without being completely overwhelming. Continue reading