I wonder what is it about Thai food that gets most people’s gastric juices churning? Is it the nam plaa (fish sauce), the spicy taste of red chillis or the mixture of sweet, tangy and spice all mingled together?
I had the pleasure of dining with a friend, passionate foodie and fellow blogger mny at a Thai eatery of her choice. Kawan kawan, let me tell you this: I was so very excited that the pavlovian tendency to salivate was immediately activated with the memory of eating dishes like Phad Thai and Tom Yam Kung as soon as I alighted at Montparnasse métro on my way to Thai Panthong.
It was a hot and humid day, one of the record hottest days in Paris since the late 1800s, I was told. The air around the Montparnasse area was stifling. It almost reminded me of being back in Asia. I was sweaty, hungry and terribly lost. For those of you who’ve been to Montparnasse, you’ll know what I mean. When you exit the grey monstrosity of le station Montparnasse-Bienvenue, you’re faced with an open space that almost causes one to be a little agoraphobic. You’re basically in a square with roads going in every direction, left, right and centre. Added to that, there are about one hundred people moving at super sonic speeds on their way to somewhere else, whilst you are looking lost and deserted. Which way do you turn? I knew that I had to get onto the Aveneu du Maine in order to find rue de l’Ouest, number 37 (or was it 28?) but the Ave de Maine is a very long street as most streets in Paris are. Do I take a left or a right to get onto rue de l’Ouest? My imap for some reason didn’t help that day, so I took a risk and asked a Parisian news vendor for directions. Well, as you may have guessed, his answer was the proverbial shrug of his Parisian shoulders which left me nonetheless wiser. I should have bought a magazine, it occurred to me later, maybe then, he’d have pointed me the right way. Haven’t I learnt that in order to get my back scratched I have to scratch the scratcher’s back in return?
All my hard work at finding the resto paid off when I finally ran into Panthong to find mny seated zen-like waiting for me. The perfume of Asia arrested my attention and I was immediately at peace. Familiar aromas of spices, wok-fried ingredients and the fragrance of rice assaulted my nostrils. What a place! I knew it would be authentic just from all the smells mixed in the hot humid air.
We perused the menu and settled on Som Tam Poo for starters. I’m a fan of green papaya although not of the mature variety. This salad is a NE Thai dish made with nam plaa, chillis and lime juice mixed with dried shrimps so small you hardly notice they’re there. I wanted to try the version with crab as I’ve not had that before.
The crab was really a baby one marinated in nam plaa. It’s so tiny that it was served still in its shell. Those little beige puffy things were deep fried pork crackling, dehydrated so that they kept their crunchiness. It was so divine that I had 3 of them. I know it’s not great for cardiac conditions but what the heck! It was too sedap to stop at one…. and besides, pork fat is meant to give one shiny smooth skin as the mainland Chinese girls will tell you.
I wanted some sort of Thai curry for the main course and veered between the Green Thai Duck Curry and the Red King Prawn Curry. It was a difficult choice but I decided to stay on the seafood theme and ordered the Chou Chi Kung – a dry red curry with King Prawns.
The dish tasted every bit as vibrant as it looked. Creamy coconut sauce over barbecued King prawns garnished with cilantro (coriander) and chives. It married well with the Khao Niew served in a bamboo basket.
Mny fancied something spicy. She settled for phad khii mao. This simple but flavoursome noodle is wok fried with minced pork (chicken will work too) snow peas, sliced chillis and whole pepper corns. It’s so easy to magic up even a drunkard can make it, so the story goes. And so the name of this dish stuck for khii mao means drunk in Thai.
Funny, I thought, the Italians have spaghetti alio olio– long pasta tossed in olive oil infused with garlic – and the brits have the kebab. In Britain, drunken nights out are followed by a naan or pitta bread wrapped with slivers of grilled lamb smothered with chilli and garlic sauce eaten en-route home. One is so drunk and hungry that this rather generous parcel of yumminess is devoured before the key even gets through the key hole or one’s tongue starts to smart from the heat of the chilli sauce.
If the phad is still not fiery enough, you can always accompany it with this:
All good things are sugared coated, a favourite saying I’ve often heard. So it is only natural that our lunch ended with dessert. I had bananas in a sesame flavoured coconut milk. This is really one of my favourite Thai desserts, next to mango with sticky rice. I had to forego that since I’ve already had quite a bit of glutinous rice. The coconut cream was both savoury and sweet, akin to the beurre salé, so famous in Paris patisseries.
My partner in crime ordered the bualoy sarm see – little taro balls in 3 colours immersed in coconut milk. This was equally delicious.
During lunch, the conversation veered from events happening in and around Paris, what our children were up to at school and the recent floods in Thailand that caused many to be homeless and the rice fields to be ruined.
Mny had a brainstorm that night. She decided to organise a Charity Luncheon at a Thai resto to raise funds for her country folk. This luncheon will take place on November 14th, just after the Toussaint holidays.
Kawan kawan, if you can, please come and support this good cause. All the proceeds will go towards helping the needy in Thailand. We will eat Thai, drink wines that have been specifically selected by a resident wine connoisseur that pair with Thai flavours and be in the company of friends. Place your reservations in the comments box below.
Thai Panthong Restaurant (closed Sundays)
37 rue de l’Ouest, 75014
01 43 22 03 25
Date: Monday, November 14th from 12:30pm
Venue: Im Thai Restaurant
8 Rue de Port Mahon 75002