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

Fat kid reverie

If I could travel anywhere right now it would be to Thailand. It’s my dream destination these days, and part of it’s because I imagine gorging off delicious, cheap eats from street vendors and small, gritty food stalls. It would be hot, my hair frizzy and unruly, my skin shiny and sticky, but man, would that food be good.

Recently I was at Pok Pok Phat Thai,  Andy Ricker’s pad thai centric spin off of his more popular Pok Pok in Brooklyn, when I saw something on the menu that confirmed exactly what I imagine about my dream Thai vacation: Hoi thawt, a Thai specialty sold by street vendors at night markets. SOLD.

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In my wanderlust fueled reveries, I visit Thailand and eat stuff like this. And it’s damn near magical.

Served on a green banana leaf, hoi thawt’s an eggy creation made of crispy, thin egg crepe filled with plump little fresh mussels,  chives, garlic and bean sprouts, served with a side of fiery, tangy Shark sriracha sauce.  It filled my whole mouth with bright, colorful flavors and my head with even more delicious, exotic wanderlust fat kid daydreams.

My Thai vacation dreams are alive and well and until I make them happen, thankfully at least some street eats are just a couple trains away.

KINdred stomachs

As much as I like Mexican food—and if you’ve been reading the last couple weeks’ worth of posts here, you know I looove it— I’m… dare I say it… kind of ready for a break. We were seeing just too much of each other there for a bit and I needed to back off for a while.  After a week in Mexico, where with the exception of a slice of pizza at the airport on the way out all we ate was Mexican food, the thing I was jonesing for once I was back in New York was Thai. And I had just the place in mind.

Squid ink and hot sesame oil soup

Kin Shop, a small West Village Thai-inspired restaurant from Top Chef Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle, had been on the to-do list since it opened last fall. It’s not strictly Thai in the traditional sense, but instead uses a lot of the same spices, flavors and cooking styles to create food that has that same exotic deliciousness. Continue reading

Go-to Thai

Pad thai, neighborhood comfort food

Everyone in New York has a favorite Thai place. It’s weird. Not their favorite burger joint, or preferred restaurant for chinese take-out, or even their go-to place for a slice of pizza. But everyone, it seems, has their favorite spot for Thai. It’s not always the best or the most authentic or even the most well known. Sometimes it’s just the one closest to home, or the one with the cheapest menu or the one with the fastest delivery.

I just moved into a new apartment, only about 10 blocks away from my old apartment, so pretty much still in the same neighborhood. The guy who lived here before us mentioned a couple of things about the places around our new home: which bars were good, where the nearest laundromat was and where his favorite Thai place was. “This will be your go-to Thai restaurant,” he told us matter-of-factly. It was literally across the street from the end of our block, about a 45 second walk from our front door.  Yet when we went, while it was nice and the food was decent, it just wasn’t my favorite Thai place.

My first night in the city, after just moving here from Italy, my then-roomate took me to Talent Thai, a small restaurant on 34th street in Murray Hill. Maybe it’s because eating there is now tied to the memory of moving to New York and all the excitement and anticipation of starting a new life in the city and everything that comes with it, but after that first night, Talent Thai became my go-to spot. Relatively cheap (most entrees, which are massive in size, cost around 10 bucks…a steal by New York standards), quick service, nice ambience, and delicious food, it’s everything I could ask for. Whenever I don’t feel like cooking, but I’m not sure what I feel like eating, I can always rely on Talent Thai. So even though there’s a much closer option, I’ll continue going to my old favorite, which thankfully is still only six blocks away.