Refreshing snacks: Po Pia Pak Sod Gai Ya and Cha Nom Yen

On a hot and sweaty day (hello Summer!), I finally made a second visit to Khao San Road.

I start with the po pia and a cha nom yen – Thai iced tea. The po pia are fresh rolls filled with home-made chicken sausage, lettuce, carrots, mint leaves, and Thai basil. A tamarind-garlic sauce topped with peanuts and Thai coriander is on the side for dipping. The chicken sausage is springy and the vegetables serve to give a nice crunch and faint sweetness to the roll. Fresh and tasty, this is a light way to start your meal.

Accompanying my starter was the Thai iced tea. Infused with Thai spices, this is a sweet and creamy drink made with condensed milk. The tea they use is strong – almost herbal – and it reminds me of my mother’s Ceylon tea that she loves so much. Not so light, but delicious and cooling. I sipped it happily, reminded of visits to Malaysia.

Gra bong are squash fritters made of deep-fried squash with red curry paste, shrimp paste, lemongrass and eggs. Like the onion bhaji, a lot of people seem to love this. Also like the onion bhaji, I am not one of those lovers. They’re crispy, a little chewy, a little sweet, and a little bit spiced. By all reasoning, this should be a dish I’d really enjoy, but I’m very ho-hum on it. Still, these are nice with flavours of cumin and lemongrass coming through. The tamarind and cane sugar sauce for dipping is excellent.

The khao soi is tender braised beef with egg noodles in a coconut milk curry. Piled on top are crispy noodles and green onion, then finished with a squeeze of lime. This soupy-creamy mix of noodles is definitely a favourite. The egg noodles were perfectly cooked and mixing the crispy noodles with the chewy ones made for a nice textural play. The beef wasn’t as meltingly soft as I’ve previously had, but it was still tender. The freshness of the green onion really makes for a nice biting contrast with all the coconut and spice. Good stuff.

According to the menu, Gaeng Massaman is the only Thai curry with a twist of tamarind sauce and cooked with onions, peanuts, potatoes, and bay leaves. And more onions. And topped with crispy deep fried shallots. Roasted peanuts strewn throughout, giving the curry a nice toasty flavour and crunch. It’s a good dish and highly recommended by many, but I don’t feel the same excitement as when I eat a bowl of khao soi. This is a filling dish with the potatoes and the side of rice – I felt like I could do with just either/or.

Street pad thai – the “authentic” pad thai. I really enjoy the flavours of this dish – spicy, sweet and a dash of sour. The chicken pieces were tender, the noodles chewy, and things were just a bit saucy. I’m always happy to eat a whole plate of this – except when I’d just eaten half a bowl of khao soi. And some po pia. And was still working on some iced tea. Still, I tried.

It was clear when I started lunch that I was going to be taking some things home. So I added some sa koo ma prao with my pile of left-overs. Now, I’m a big fan of tapioca and coconut, so this cool, sweet, and creamy dessert really works for me. I like that they mix it in some threads of young coconut flesh in there. The only thing they could do to make it even better in my eyes, is if they’d add some palm sugar to it.

Overall my visits to Khao San Road were solid. I found the flavours to be nuanced, dishes well-prepared, and everything had that air of authenticity to it. A casual spot in Toronto for some good Thai.

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More at Khao San Road

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