If you have the time, watch this Anthony Bourdain episode featuring Thailand and Pok Pok’s chef/owner, Andy Ricker. Sorry about the distorted form.
Well, maybe Portland is worth the trouble, Pok Pok certainly was.
If Seattle is a Puget Sound San Francisco, Portland is a North American Amsterdam. Although I’ve never been to Amsterdam, my vision is of an old-world, slightly disheveled, cobblestoned city populated with laid-back, slightly frowsy, eccentric bike-riders. If Amsterdam residents are also pet-centric, book reading, dope-smoking, foodies, I think we have a match. I read books and eat food, so I am able to travel in and around Portland without blowing my cover.
Anyways, back to Pok Pok. Like Portland, Pok Pok is unpretentious and funky, carries its sense of tacky like a merit badge, and has a surprise around every corner. Division Street in Portland’s Hawthorne district has evolved from a residential, service-based business area to a hipster’s destination point rich with restaurants, bars, breweries, and edgy retail stores. But walk a block off Division and you’ll find old-fashioned bungalows with blowzy flower gardens and unmanicured front yards.
The menu, unlike most Thai restaurants, has no Pad Thai or spring rolls. Instead choices include grilled game hen, spicy boar collar with garlic and black pepper, Northern Thai pork belly, Thai crepes, and noodle salad. I ordered Hoi thawt and Yam sen chao wang.
To make the authentic Pok Pok version, you’ll have to buy Andy Ricker’s cookbook, but here’s a reasonable version.
Spicy Glass Noodle Salad
- 1 pound ground pork
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2-8 Thai chilies, smashed and thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 2 bundles rice noodle vermicelli
- 2 tablespoons ground dried shrimp
- 1 c. bean sprouts
- 1 c. fresh spinach
- 1 c. fresh roughly chopped cilantro
- 1 c. fresh mint
- 1/2 c. ground peanuts
- 1-2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 tsp. sugar
- juice from 3 limes
- 2 tsp. roasted rice powder
- Soak the noodles for about 10 minutes in warm water
- Boil about six cups of water, add pre-soaked noodles, and boil for about 3 minutes, or until noodles are cooked, but not mushy. Drain and put it in a bowl.
- Heat cooking oil, add garlic, shallots, and chilies, stir until fragrant.
- Add pork, smashing to small pieces while it cooks. Add a few more teaspoons of fish sauce.
- Add pork mixture to the noodles.
- Add bean sprouts, spinach, cilantro, mint, peanuts, fish sauce, lime, sugar, and roasted rice powder.
- The lime flavor should lead, followed by a salty flavor, and sugar to balance out the flavors.