Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fist of Basil and Pla Koong at Nidda

Published by Commandrea (Andrea Afra) at 11:05 PM

A couple of years ago I pilfered some Thai Basil seeds off of my friend Brittany's plant, stuck them in a pot, and they decided they wanted to grow. The leaves are smaller than what you get at a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant but they are still full of flavor and help add an essential flavor layer when trying to recreate these cuisines from home. I don't do a lot of Vietnamese dishes at home only because it's so cheap and accessible and we eat it all of the time. On the other hand, I'm infatuated with Thai food and the beautiful simplicity of the ingredients that combine to create a sensory symphony of flavor (waxing a bit too poetic, I know.)

Nidda used to be Bangkok Place and I was really good friends with the previous owner, Marty Chuenpreecha, one of the founders of Patu in the Village. Marty took over the space at Bangkok Place (inopportunely located next to Erotic Cabaret and their window display of mannequins bedecked with fabric daisy pasties and fishnets.) The teensy little Thai cook named "Nao" (NOW) came with him and I swear she could have taken a nap in the giant wok she cooked with in the kitchen. When Marty moved to California to be with his family and a friend took over business, Nao stuck around long enough to see that the recipes were passed on correctly to the other cooks. I don't know if she's still around but you can still tell that she was there.

Bangkok Place epitomized Thai food for my palate because of the love that I knew was in the food. But every now and then I come across it again and I can tell that the cook is stirring the dish with their heart. I've tasted it at a handful of places like Asia Market (1010 W. Calvacade), Thai Restaurant (5757 Westheimer), and finally Nidda (1226 Westheimer).

Pla Goong @ Nidda
Spicy Charbroiled Shrimp Salad w/ Lemongrass, shallot, keffir lime leaves, fish sauce, lime juice, Thai chilies

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