Thailand, Digested: Top 5 Delights, Part 5

Last of the top 5 Thai delights, but certainly not least…

5) Crab omelet and tom yum. We took advantage of one of our fine Bangkok hosts, Jarrett Wrisley. He had treated us splendidly one night, introducing us to excellent people and feeding us Isan-style grilled chicken, an amazing eggplant salad, scrumptious larb, etc., all under a big old tent by an expressway. Heaven. Then he took us out and got us drunk, the Thai way, on a bottle of whiskey and club soda and a splash of Coke. (Well, first there was drunkenness the Thai hipster way, with radioactive-color slushies.)

And then, at the end of the night, he happened to drop the fact that he was having dinner with Rick Bayless the next night. Our eyes bugged out. Rick Bayless, Ambassador of Lard! (Peter and I imagine that he pops up out of nowhere every time we use lard–“Oh, Rick Bayless! Thanks for joining us!”–and he tells us fun facts about it.) Rick Bayless, Mr. Mexico! Seriously, he’s a chef I’m impressed with no end.

So we tagged along when Jarrett met Rick and his family at a restaurant called Raan Jay Fai, and in addition to getting to meet this guy and talk lard facts with him (and it turns out he has read and liked Forking Fantastic!–astounding!), we also got yet another amazing meal.

Raan Jay Fai--Inside

The crab omelet was, as Peter said, the best crab cake ever. Really–that’s how much crab was in it. Decadent. And the tom yum, the hot-sour seafood soup, was so bright and sharp and intense that it just sliced through my brain–and that was before I saw the shrimp in it that was bigger than my fist. (Does that still count as a shrimp?)

And that was also before I admired up close the restaurant’s kitchen: a couple of woks set on top of charcoal fires, in the alley next to the dining room.

Raan Jay Fai

That was our last real dinner in Bangkok. As usual, I wish I’d eaten more. But here’s another remarkable thing about Thai food culture: all the food comes in refreshingly small portions. And because there’s so damn much bounty everywhere, we never felt anxious, like we had to stock up on the tastiness, and so paced ourselves admirably, and managed to eat very moderately the whole time.

Which does me no good now, sitting here in the freezing blandness that is the northeastern United States. Peter and I have cooked a ton of Thai food since we got home, but of course it’s not quite the same. It’s not 95 degrees and humid, and there aren’t hot-pink taxis whizzing past, for one. We’re not eating with spoons, for two. (OK, yes, we are–it still doesn’t help.)

To take the edge off a little, I started reading David Thompson’s massive Thai Food book a little more closely. (Ack! Thai Street Food coming this October!)

In the history chapter, there’s a quote from a Thai ambassador to France in the 17th century. The guy says, “Here are few spices and much meat, and an attraction of quantity replaces piquant wholesomeness.” Oh, snap!

I’ve ranted a little on this blog before about how annoying it is that the French went and made themselves the bosses of the food world. It seems even more ridiculous now.

All that’s getting me through: how soon can I go back?

**For more pics, see my Flickr set.***

2 comments

  1. dano says:

    Mate,love the write ups,
    off to Bangas next month armed with directions and maps….any hints on how to find the crab omelet joint?
    cheers
    dano

  2. Zora says:

    It’s across the street and just a tiny bit north from the Corrections Museum (very random sight), which is part of a small park in the older part of the city. I believe the restaurant is one or two storefronts up from the corner–the photos should help, though!

    Also, there’s a very famous pad thai restaurant, Thipsamai, right near by–so if you can find that listed in a guidebook (or the correx museum), you can find Jay Fai. (Actually, I think Jay Fai might also be listed in Frommer’s or Fodor’s online.)

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