Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘papaya

Seattle has a reputation for authentic Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines. I’ve had Tamarind Tree on my list and I finally dined there last month. In Asian Plaza on the corner of Jackson and Twelve, I had to circle the mall a couple of times to find the restaurant at the back.

Our group of five gathered for a weekday lunch. The modern interior was decorated in warm tones. A majestic pot of fuchsia and white orchids was on the bar.

We were seated by a thoroughfare with a view of the kitchen.

Featuring a classic wise men motif, the ceramic teapot was handmade Bát Tràng porcelain, as were all the serving plates and bowls.

A caddy of fiery condiments was on each table.

Myra recommended sửa đá chanh, a blended beverage of fresh lime, condensed milk and crushed ice. It was a refreshing milky drink laced with citrus notes, tempering the bold flavours of the meal.

We ordered several dishes to share. Spring rolls (gỏi cuốn) and egg rolls (chả giò chay) were appetising. Vegetables, herbs and rice noodles were wrapped in rice paper parcels.

A salad (gỏi đu đủ) of shredded green papaya, steamed prawns, pickled jicama, julienne carrot, roasted peanuts and fresh herbs was a symphony of tastes and textures.

A golden cratered crescent was filled with prawns, sliced pork, slivers of shiitake mushroom and bean sprouts. The rice flour and coconut milk crêpe batter was crispy and stuffed with ingredients, a delectable version of bánh xèo.

A favourite homely rice pot (cơm gà tươi Hải Nam), the rice was cooked in chicken broth and topped with Hainanese steamed chicken. It was fragrant and rich, brightened by splashes of ginger fish sauce (nước mắm).

The final savoury dish was bún chả Hà Nội, Hanoi grilled pork noodles. I wrapped grilled pork portions, rice noodles and herbs in lettuce leaves and ate the rolls by hand.

The waitress suggested two desserts. First was flan, a dense silky custard in a pool of caramel sauce.

The second dessert was bánh chuối nướng Cognac, Cognac red banana cake. We tipped the glass of warm Cognac coconut milk over the spongy cake, a sticky sweet adult treat.

I understand why the dining room was full for the two hours we were there!

I spent twelve hours in Portland last Friday. I had visited Vancouver three times in the past year but had not travelled south to Oregon. Crossing the Columbia River Bridge was a spectacular entrance into the state and city. Of Portlandia and tax-free shopping fame, Portlanders were friendly and I adored their boutiques. A stoic posy of daffodils defied the cool temperatures, sheltered by a flowering camellia tree.

Coffees and almond croissants at Barista fuelled our morning. A late lunch was at Pok Pok, the only restaurant I know of in Portland.

A curious structure of wooden beams, corrugated roofing and bamboo walls, the aesthetics were of Southeast Asian hawker stalls.

Festive lights twinkled and the heater glowed. Water was steeped in pandan leaves which tasted of toasted rice.

The dense menu detailed ingredients and cooking methods for each dish.

Although tempted by a Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, I was already buzzing from two caffeinated beverages. I selected a glass of cha manao instead, a Thai iced tea with fresh lime juice. It was refreshing and its delicate sweetness tempered the bold flavours.

Three of us shared four main courses and one dessert. The Pok Pok special was a plate of game hen (kai yaang) and papaya salad. Roasted on a rotisserie over charcoal, the portions of chicken were smoky and tender. The spicy sweet and sour, and tamarind dipping sauces were appetizing, so much so that I emptied the remainder onto coconut rice and sticky rice. Julienne green papaya, halved cherry tomatoes, batons of snake beans and crunchy peanuts were mixed with Thai chilli, lime juice, tamarind, fish sauce, garlic and palm sugar.

Next was gulf prawns grilled over charcoal (kung phao). The charred shell peeled easily and the succulent crustacean was swirled in the shallow bowl of lime, garlic, coriander root and chilli sauce.

Ike’s Vietnamese fish sauce wings are a Pok Pok signature. Marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep fried, and tossed in caramelised Phú Quốc fish sauce (nước mắm) and garlic, the poultry was served with pickles, lettuce and slices of cucumber. The chicken wings were an ominous crimson and each bite numbed our mouths. Our lips tingled and our fingers sticky, they were a fiery highlight.

A classic Thai stir-fried rice noodles, the phat si ew was silky and peppery. A dark soy tan, and flecked with Carlton Farms pork, Chinese broccoli and egg, I would have been happy eating only this as my meal.

We ignored the durian dessert and ordered the coconut ice cream sandwich. Wedged in a brioche bun on a bed of sticky rice were four scoops of coconut jackfruit ice cream sprinkled with peanuts and drizzled with condensed milk. We requested no chocolate syrup and also abandoned the bread. Coconut, sticky rice, peanuts and condensed milk were a pleasing combination.

Pok Pok readied us for an afternoon of shopping!


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