Sunday, December 18, 2011

3 versions of Naem Khao Tod, and The Winner Is...

This post on the wonderful She Simmers blog got me thinking about Naem Khao Tod, which, despite loving it on many occasions, I hadn't had in a year or two. So without really trying, I ended up doing a mini Naem Khao Tod a-thon, trying versions from 3 places over just a couple of days last week.

First up was the Naem Khao Tod at Dharma Garden, which I posted about a few weeks ago and had again last week. The highlight of this version was the house made pressed ham, which was offered in very generous proportion and was pleasantly more sour than any of the other versions. The salad as a whole was dressed well and the ingredients were in good balance, with the one low light being the mushy rice croquette pieces, which I'd guess were fried earlier in the day and/or fried in oil that wasn't hot enough.

My next version came from Sticky Rice, where it was offered as a whiteboard special. At Sticky Rice this usually means it's about to become part of the regular menu, so I expect it to available there for a long time. Unfortunately, as much as I love Sticky Rice, this dish was a disaster and I won't be having it again. The peanuts tasted off, which was bad enough to ruin the dish by itself. I could forgive spoiled peanuts and give the dish another try, but in this case the biggest problem was that there was WAY too much dressing. It created a half-inch deep pool at the bottom of the bowl and destroyed any chance of the croquettes retaining crispness. The dish was a sour, soggy mess.

The clear winner was the one everyone talks about. At Spoon, it seemed that the pressed ham was more of an accent, with the rice croquettes playing the lead role. That's a fine thing, because these were some spectacularly crispy, tasty bits of deep fried rice. Dressing was applied lightly but provided plenty of flavor, and all of the ingredients tasted fresh. The Spoon Thai version of Naem Khao Tod was all about the fantastic rice croquettes.

Leela from the She Simmers blog rightly suggests that Naem Khao Tod is the kind of dish that you want to order when you eat Thai food at a restaurant. "If your local Thai restaurant has this on its menu, by all means, get it," she writes. It is indeed a tasty dish, and with one notable exception I support following Leela's suggestion.

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