The other night, my friends Nhoi and Korn took me to Asiatique (http://www.thaiasiatique.com). Situated right on the water, the location couldn’t be more perfect. But the shopping mall cum tourist trap is kitchy and sweetly syrup-y. We took a walk around the stalls, looked at trinkets and thought about eating something, but in the end, decided it best not to eat at the restaurants with Disney World prices.
We sat outside on rickety metal chairs at a wobbly metal table and let Nhoi do the ordering. She has been several times before and claims that the duck is stellar. If it comes out of Nhoi’s mouth, I believe it. We have a very similar obsession with food: learning about ingredients, understanding the culture from where it comes, and our taste buds appreciate the same dynamics of spicy, sour and bitter. What an excellent friend to have!
So Nhoi got to ordering and soon our table was covered in all different parts of duck. We ordered sliced breast and thigh that sat in a pool of lightly seasoned five spice broth. Not too overpowering or cloying sweet. I realized upon first bite that this truly is a gem of a restaurant. The duck was juicy and tender, and when dipped in the chili garlic sauce, the flavors were elevated to what some might consider pure duck magic.
We ate duck blood, duck gizzard and duck intestine. Though it might sounds a bit on the wild side for a Westerner, all you have to do is close your eyes and trust. The gizzards were both snappy and creamy while the intestine was clean and crunchy. The blood was mild and bouncy, not overly cooked or stiff. Everything was cooked separately and with care.
They gave us a bowl of duck soup and winter melon to sip between bites. The broth is intensely flavored and the melon a touch sweet. It’s light yet robust and I’d buy the bullion cubes if they sold them!
By far far far, my favorite dish was the braised duck feet (you can do duck breast or duck legs too!) with egg noodles. If there ever was a comfort dish in Thailand, this would be it. The noodles are baked in a pot with the five spice broth from the ducks. The chicken feet are braised and so tender that to look at them causes them to fall apart. We mixed up the dish, stirring up the vast quantities of roasted coriander root and garlic on the bottom of the pot. The noodles are cooked so there’s still a bit of bite to them (an Italian grandmother would deem passable) and dressed with just enough sauce to thoroughly coat but not douse the dish (an Italian grandmother would blush at the judicious use of sauce). The duck feet are gelatinous and savory and worth the effort of working the meat off the bones. The dish is truly spectacular, and as I’m writing this, I’m craving another night out in duck town. If this picture doesn’t do justice, let my words convince you, “You must eat this dish if you come to Bangkok!”
At the end of the evening, I went up to the owners and introduced myself. I had to gush about how wonderful their food was. They were of course very gentle and kind and happy I enjoyed their food. Now to figure out how to convince them it’s a good idea to let me in their kitchen and learn the recipe with them….
To be continued!