Every true love story begins with tragedy and strife, and my newly blossoming romance with Chiang Mai restaurant in Red Hook, Brooklyn, is no exception. An affair born from passion, not convenience. We, like star-crossed lovers–separated by land and sea, subway cars and busses and long lonely walks underneath the BQE–were brought together by fate.
Chiang Mai is a restaurant specializing in authentic Northern thai cuisine, started only after the head chef Kanlaya Supachana had a tumultuous break with her co-chef of previous their previous venture Kao Soy, located only a few blocks away. The rumor is that after Supachana left the restaurant, things went sour (pardon my pun), with food quality and service ratings taking a turn for the worse. Chiang Mai popped up, and Thai aficionados were raving.
Red Hook is a bit of a hike from my home in Manhattan, but it’s one of the most under explored food havens of the city, and sometimes you have to make sacrifices for love. I went with six friends, and we were seated immediately in the cozy, brick room clad with tables of various shapes and sizes, and a collection of hodge-podge chairs. We ordered beers all around, and enough food for 20 people.
Tum Mamuang; Green mango pounded with palm sugar, garlic, dry chili and pickled fish, served with betel leaves.
Krabong; Papaya, taro and banana blossom fritters with spicy chili vinaigrette sauce and sweet peanut chili sauce.
Khao Soi; Soft thick egg noodles in curry soup with dark meat chicken, crispy thin egg noodls, pickles mustard greens, shallots, coconut cream, sweet soy sauce and chili oil.
Sai-Ua; Herbal pork sausage with green chili dip, white pork sausage, okra, squash, lettuce, cucumber and sticky rice.
Two orders of Moo Ping; Grilled pork skewers with spicy chili lime dipping sauce.
Two orders of Khoon Yang; Grilled prawns with spicy garlic lime sauce and sweet peanut chili sauce.
Two orders of grilled chicken wings, with a name that escapes me, but a lingering spice which will live on in my memory forever. And we also got a few extra orders of sticky rice for good measure.
Absolutely everything was bursting with flavor, and spicy enough to temper even my own aggressive and spice tolerant hunger. The best thing we tasted? The Khao Soi. This is one of my favorite Thai dishes in general, and this particular version was so insanely tasty I could have licked the entire bowl clean myself. But, alas, I had to share with my cohorts. Was this deliciousness a boastful stab at the chef’s previous partner, who is running a declining restaurant named for this very dish? Perhaps. If so, revenge is sweet..(from the coconut, of course), but its also spicy, crunchy, and just a little but tangy.