Aside from Saturday’s epic five-stop Taco Task Force: Carnitas, which will be the subject of a separate post, it had been a pretty slow week in pork. My stomach had one last chance to experience porcine glory, so my mission was clear, enter a new restaurant and request the best pork dish on the menu. The counterwoman at Captain Thai Restaurant recommended Siam BBQ Pork ($7.95), which is what I ordered. However, while waiting for my pork to arrive, no doubt spurred by my interest, the owner’s brother started to unfurl the restaurant’s back story, and suddenly, the Siam BBQ Pork seemed a whole let less interesting.
Captain Thai Restaurant opened two months back in New Hollywood Plaza, replacing a donut shop in the same Thai Town strip mall that houses places like Ruen Pair, Thai Patio, Ganda and Bhan Kanom Thai. It’s named for owner Tanaboon Ramakul, a Thai Airways pilot who flies back and forth between Bangkok and LAX monthly.
Ramakul is from Bangkok, but Chef Ken – as he’s known at Captain – hails from Issan in northeastern Thailand and prepares regional dishes like Vietnamese Sausage ($6.95) – known as Nam Noung in Thai – which arrived in true DIY fashion. The dish reminded me somewhat of miang kam, which is readily available at restaurants like Hemlock in Bangkok, featuring DIY construction of ingredients with varying flavors and textures. Nam Nuong revolves around house-made pork meatballs, which are seasoned with nothing but coconut milk and salt.
The middle of a plate held a bowl of sauce that consisted of mashed potato (a thickening agent), tangy tamarind, coconut milk and white sesame, with crushed peanuts and a squiggle of chile sauce up top. Chef Ken (or whoever was in the kitchen at 1 AM) ringed the bowl with slices of crunchy, fibrous and skin-on banana, acidic, unripe mango, cucumber, raw garlic, spicy roasted Thai chilies and dry squares of rice paper. On the side, they provided a separate bowl of lettuce, cilantro, coriander and basil. The idea was to dip the rice paper in a bowl of warm water to form slippery “tacos.” Then pile on a little of each ingredient, tear off some herbs and lettuce and add that to the mix, then spoon on some of that sauce.
The concept of this dish outshined the execution, since they overcooked the meatballs, so this had the potential to be an even better story, or at least one with an even more satisfying payoff. Still, the dish was good enough to pique my interest. Next time, my plan is to arrive earlier in the day to try some of Chef Ken’s other signature dishes, including fried papaya salad, tilapia larb and tamarind paste curry fish.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.