pig & khao

I don’t know why it has taken us so long to try Pig & Khao – it has been on my list since the start. It moved to the top when we tried to get in with a group of six during primetime after a nearby show last Friday. The food smelled amazing, and we were disappointed, but not surprised to hear it would be a two-hour wait. After an average meal down the block, I vowed to make a reservation soon. The next Saturday offered a 5:15 pm or a 10:30 pm, so we chose an early dinner.

pig and khao peanuts baboy daiquiri rum & hydeThe cocktail menu seemed so interesting we had to start there. The Szechuan peppercorns in the rum-based Baboy Daiquiri caught my eye, and Derek went for the Rum & Hyde. The numbing spices added a subtle depth to my drink, and the Roasted Peanuts with coconut, lemongrass, and kaffir were an ideal match. We decided to only go for small plates to try more things and settled on the Thai Mushroom Salad, Green Papaya Salad, and Baby Octopus Paksiw.

pig & khao thai mushroom salad green papaya salad coconut rice

With a beer and white wine as an accompaniment, we dug into the mushrooms, which were expertly roasted to smoky, chewy perfection. Normally averse to cream sauces piped onto a plate, we loved how the coconut cream calmed the heat and served as a becoming partner for the sweet and tart chili jam. Next up, the green papaya salad held its own with the most authentic ones we have tried over the years, although the chef spun the dish a bit differently with charred chicken and taro.

pig & khao baby octopus

We closed the meal by dredging each sauteed baby octopus through the buttery black vinegar broth and relishing the bitterness of the watercress and garlic chips. I almost forgot the sweet coconut rice which cooled the tongue between spicy bites, and we had enough to bring home for a side dish the following night.

We want to try everything on the menu and look forward to going back for the food and the lovely people at Pig & Khao.

staycation 2018: day 3

One of the keys to a fantastic staycation or vacation is the ability to pivot when needed. Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night to Derek reading, which meant he could not sleep. We didn’t really have to leave for the Cloisters at 10:00, so I decided we would sleep in a bit.

I was craving Ethiopian, but there seems to be a dearth of this cuisine in NYC, especially for lunch. There may be lots of great places, but no one is writing about them. We tried Meskerem several months back, and it was fine, but we wanted to find something better. Injera has gotten some press, as well as several spots in Harlem, but all dinner-only. Derek volunteered to research the genre while I showered. He found Awash, which took us over to the East side, somewhat on the way to The Met. We walked a bit over a mile, only to find the restaurant closed. Time to reboot. Fish Cheeks had caught our attention on the way over, so we decided to go back and revisit it. Some of the dishes we have had here before are so amazing, it was hard to not reorder them, but we ventured into all new plates this time. Happy hour starts at noon, so we began with six $1 oysters, served with fried shallots and a spicy sauce that was uniquely Thai, and discounted glasses of wine and beer. Next came a raw shrimp with spicy fish sauce, basil, and garlic appetizer, a side of morning glory (described as a Thai watercress ) sautéed with Thai Chiles and fish sauce, and a whole fried snapper, covered with chili peppers, red onions, and fried kefir lime leaves and shallots. All excellent choices for an authentic and delicious Thai meal.

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Next was The Met. I wanted to see the Heavenly Bodies exhibit (catholic costumes), and Derek was excited about the Souls Grown Deep outsider art sector. The outfits were exquisite with their gold accents and precise embroidery. So beautiful, but hard to imagine necessary when the church’s mission should be to help the poor, feed the hungry, etc. We paused for a refreshment on the rooftop while taking in the Huma Bhadha sculpture. Cast in bronze, the colors and textures were mesmerizing while at the same time creepy. On to the outsider art in the modern department. Many of the artists are from my home state of Alabama, and their assemblages are pretty amazing. They used such elementary objects and made them into beautiful pieces.

existing conditions cocktail menu

1st round – Professor Plum + Banana Justino

existing conditions cocktail menu

2nd round of Saratoga Paloma + The Remedy

After the museum, we decided to skip The Pool and go for Existing Conditions, which was more in our neighborhood. I had been excited to share this place with Derek, but it just wasn’t his thing.  He appreciated the fact that the fizz lasted the entire Saratoga Paloma, but the rest didn’t impress him. Oh well, hopefully, the rest of the staycation will appeal to both of us. This cocktail lounge probably won’t be your food destination, but the inventiveness of the beverages are worth a trip. I thought every drink we ordered was amazing.

beef lettuce wraps

This meal is one of our favorite Friday night treats. The inspiration comes from our favorite Korean BBQ place in Atlanta, Hae Woon Dae (scallion sesame salad), our favorite Thai place in Atlanta, Thaicoon – but only on Sundays (chile fish sauce), and our favorite restaurant with Vietnamese influences in Hudson, Food Studio (steak and salt & pepper with lime sauce).

You take a leaf of lettuce, add a bit of rice that tastes like butter without adding any (courtesy of Instapot – we know it’s Instant Pot, but we like this name better for some reason), dip the thinly-sliced, rare pieces of steak into the salt/pepper/lime sauce, spoon on a bit of the chile fish sauce, add some scallion sesame salad, fresh mint and cilantro leaves, maybe some smashed cucumbers, roll it up, and then take a bite. All of these flavors combine into an amazing umami experience in your mouth.

You can use pork, chicken, shrimp, tofu, or any other protein for these wraps, which makes them ok for pretty much any diet. Other beef sections like hangar or flank work too, but skirt seems to be the best.

It’s clear we live in NYC because in the photo there is a computer on our dining room table, which is a bar, doubling as a desk. In keeping in line with my normal posts, it’s not a beautiful shot. Going out on a limb, my husband took lots of pictures, so we’ll share them all with you just for fun. We forgot to get a good one of the cucumbers (which are completely optional to the meal, but delicious) or the salt/pepper/lime slurry.

With 4 ounces of steak per person and half a cup of rice, you are around 400 calories of deliciousness per person. Reisling is a good choice with the wraps, because it can stand up to the heat of the chile fish sauce.

Steak Lettuce Wraps
Serves 2

Butter lettuce (enough leaves for 6-8 wraps)
4 scallions
1 t sesame oil
Kosher salt
1 T Korean pepper flakes
Black pepper, coarsely ground
Juice of 1 lime wedge (enough to make a paste with the salt and pepper)
8 oz skirt steak (can also use flank or hangar steak, or another protein)
1 Thai chile (can also use any hot pepper)
1 T fish sauce
1 t lime juice
1/2 t sugar
1 bunch mint and/or cilantro
1 c dry jasmine rice, cooked to your preference

A day ahead, salt and pepper the steak. Remove from refrigerator half an hour before cooking and pat dry.

Combine the Thai chile, fish sauce, and 1 teaspoon of lime juice and serve immediately or let sit. You can make the chile fish sauce ahead of time and save, or continue to add to the jar each time you make this dish.

Slice the scallions lengthwise (a green onion negi cutter will make this easier – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003Q37E5C/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) and soak in ice water for 15 minutes. Drain and combine with the sesame oil, sesame seeds (black or regular), and salt to taste.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat and cook the steak on one side for 1 1/2 minutes, until seared crisp. Turn and cook for an additional 1 1/2 minutes for a rare steak. All of these times are for our particular stove. The main objective is to sear it, so make sure your pan is screaming hot before dropping in the piece. Don’t hurry the process of heating the pan – let it sit over the flame for at least 2 minutes. The meat should sizzle loudly when it touches the pan.

Combine 1 t salt and 1 t pepper in a small sauce dish, and then add the juice of a lime wedge to create a slurry.

Lay out all of the ingredients (steak, scallion salad, rice, lettuce leaves, mint and cilantro leaves, chile fish sauce, and salt/pepper/lime sauce), combine, and enjoy!

Chinese Smashed Cucumbers

3 Persian cucumbers
1/2 t salt
1/2 t sugar
1/2 t Chinkiang vinegar
2 t light soy sauce
1 T Chinese chile oil
1 T minced garlic

Smack the cucumbers with the side of your knife or another heavy object to break down the fibers so the liquids can penetrate, and then slice. Move to a strainer, add salt, and drain for 20 minutes. Combine the liquids, sugar, and garlic in a bowl, and then add the cucumbers.

 

uncle boons sister

As the counter-service casual relative to Michelin-starred Uncle Boons, Uncle Boons’ Sister is a good option for fast, mostly-authentic Thai. Everything we ordered was good, but not as sophisticated or as well-done as Fish Cheeks, Uncle Boons, or Pok Pok. One of our favorite Thai dishes is papaya salad, and we were a little concerned when ours came pre-made out of the fridge for us to add the dressing, peanuts, and dried shrimp. Our worry was unwarranted because the ingredients were fresh and the flavors were on-point – some of the best dried shrimps I’ve eaten. The rotisserie chicken tasted great, and the sauces were interesting, but I would like to have seen a crispier skin and meat falling off the bone. We could take or leave the accompanying soup, and the rice that was served underneath the chicken was absolutely delicious. Our order for Phat Thai was based on Eater’s review, but we forgot to add the vital component of head-on shrimp, so we enjoyed the savory, tangy notes, but it wasn’t unforgettable. Uncle Boons’ Sister will be our go-to when craving Thai but strapped for time or unable to get into one of the aforementioned sit-down restaurants. Also a good option when budget is tight – three dishes, a beer, and a cider for $50.