Perfect Pok Pok   Leave a comment

I'm happy to announce that finally, I found a Thai restaurant in Portland that just blew me away. I finally was able to get a driver and dining friends to Pok Pok. Pok Pok is pretty famous in Portland and is on the "Best Restaurant" local list, but is a bit more of a pain to get to via public transportation. I know that the chef is known for specializing in Southeast Asian street food, not the fusion stuff of Typhoon or the regular cooking found in a myriad of many other Thai establishments offering pad thai and fried rice, and non-spicy curries which have been tamed with coconut milk.

And most exciting for me, there is a lot of Northern Thai cuisine offered. So when I went, my eyes went immediately, after trying to understand the english transliterations of the Thai food dishes, to Kaeng Hung Leh, a curry withsweet pork belly and
pork shoulder curry with ginger, palm sugar, tamarind, turmeric,
Burmese curry powder and pickled garlic. It was marinated just to the right falling off the bone tenderness, and the curry was very savory and rich- more rich than I had in Chiang Mai, but I had no problems with this upgrade.

My drink of choice, a bloody mary with Thai chili vodka, didn't have the fruitiness of the Kickboxer from Saucebox,
but did have the tell-tale recognizable taste of those little Thai hot
peppers, so it was good enough for me. I would have liked a bit more
tomato though.

As for the Het Paa Naam Tok, a Spicy Isaan forest mushroom “salad” with
soy sauce, lime and chili powder dressing, shallots,lemongrass,mint,
cilantro and toasted rice powder (basically the vegetarian equivalent of the traditional Waterfall Thai Beef dish), it was ok. The Khao Soi with tofu, a vegetarian version of my usual nothern style curry with egg noodle dish, was described as being made with their "secret curry paste recipe, natural chicken on the bone and
house-pressed fresh coconut milk. Served with pickled mustard greens,
shallots, crispy yellow noodles and roasted chili paste. Chiang Mai
specialty, with Burmese origins." The curry itself had great flavor, though I admonished my companions for not using the sides, but the noodles were not fresh egg noodles (though the crispy noodles were right on), so I will have to look elsewear for Khao Soi. I have noticed that other normal Thai restaurants also offer this dish, not just ones that specialize in Northern Thai style food, so there is still potential for me to find a substitute for my fix back in Chicago that I only got from my favorite Thai restaurant Sticky Rice. This dish would taste a lot better with the chicken too instead of being vegetarian (the soup itself of the curry is good), but the noodles are too important for me to forgive.

The Khanom Jiin Naam Yaa, a ground fresh fish curry with krachai,
lemongrass, chilies and glangal, served over rice vermicelli with
herbs, pickled mustard greens and boiled egg, did not have enough daring fish parts and I was able to tell. Passable, but not remarkable.

A nice surprise was a Vietnamese dish of Ca Muc Nuong, with nice squares of large calamari, grilled whole over charcoal, chopped and served with lettuce and herbs
served with a spicy lime/garlic/chile dipping sauce. That dipping sauce was awesomely spicy.

I tried to challenge Pok Pok by ordering a dessert which sounded like an improvement of normal breakfast food: Pok Pok Affogato, which they offer as condensed milk ice cream drowned in a shot of Vietnamese coffee, served with a Chinese fried donut. I thought the donut was fried too crispy rather than being doughy on the inside and crisp on the outside-it would shatter as we tried to break it, almost like a chip. But it tasted perfect, and the bowl of ice cream and coffee was perfection.

I also tried the Coconut Ice Cream Sandwich, which is coconut – jackfruit ice cream served on a sweet bun with sweet sticky rice, peanuts, condensed milk and chocolate syrup. The sweet bun was not sweet enough though, not like what you would get in Thailand. But, I was still impressed by the Pok Affogato and am ok with it. I smile because they did get the size of the scoops of ice cream right!

Next time I go, I already have ideas on what I want. I would try the Kai Yaang (roasted chicken), Papaya Pok Pok (which is one of their specialities and namesake because of the sound made when mashing ingredients with morter and pestle), the Sii Khrong Muu Yaang which sounds like its been fancied up slightly (Carlton Farms baby back ribs marinated in whisky, soy, honey, ginger and Thai spices.
slow grilled over charcoal and served with 2 spicy dipping sauces), and Yam Khai Dao, described in the menu as a salad of crispy fried egg,Thai chilies, Chinese celery, onions and carrot with lime, palm sugar and fish sauce dressing. Yams are all based on their balance of acidity, so it is delicate mixing and not just a salad of ingredients thrown together.

Until we meet again, Pok Pok…


Posted March 27, 2009 by pechluck in Uncategorized

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