Eight Hounds piled into their cars and trekked to Lowell for a 5 hour ChowDown! (Really! Well, it did include some shopping time...)
Many thanks to Galangatron for picking wonderful places and making great suggestions for our meal. He'll add in the correct names of items, I'm sure, and pics will be added to this thread, also! (Thanks, duxyak, for your hard work- amply rewarded!)
We started off at PHO 88 (VietNamese), in a strip mall but certainly not a hole in the wall, with a delicious, huge Goat HotPot - filled with delicious meat (on the bone but easily bitten off) a complex broth, two plates of very fresh add-ins (taro, tofu, greens, lotus, and on and on) and a wonderful tofu-based sauce, creamy, with chili or hot pepper flakes and a citrus-y tang - one of the special hits of the afternoon. (I've got a container of it waiting for me in my fridge...)
We also ordered a Snail Salad, with the snail sliced very thin, on a lovely Vietnamese salad with a dressing that had a "brightness" to it (both the salad and the dressing) - led me to think that they know how to prepare even simple things like this salad with care, freshness, and tang.
One detail: The HotPot was huge (but we scarfed it down!) and cost $35 - so ask - as we did - if the price isn't on the menu.
On to our second wonder of the day, TEPTHIDA KHMER, a lovely Cambodian place where we had Natang - an appetizer of curried pork on rice cakes, also with " tang" and thoroughly enjoyed; an incredible Loc Lac, caramelized beef with a peppery lime dipping sauce, and finally Teuk Prahoc Sach Ko, grilled beef w prahoc dipping sauce. Unlike the dish we had at Floating Rock, where the "funkiness" of the prahoc was overwhelming and the dish was enjoyed (as something new) but went unfinished - Here, the prahoc became the base of an interesting, complex dipping sauce, and this dish was eaten to the last bite!
Time for a break! Shoppers, on your mark...! Galangatron brought us to Battambang Market, a large, clean, interestingly stocked and well labeled market, where the cooks in the group (everyone but me!) indulged in fresh, unusual herbs, fresh lychees, and more...
OK, time for more food! On to PHIEN'S KITCHEN, our Laotian stop of the day, for Larb (beef, chili, and mint), Papaya Salad, a special Bamboo Shoot Sour Soup that Galangatron had pre-ordered, that had a distintive, great "earthy" tone, a grilled Sausage that was raved over, and a wonderful (sorry for my lack of descriptive powers and creativity!) dessert - a mound of purple rice with custard topping. What a great end to a great day!
Others, I hope, will pipe up with correct names and more detailed descriptions of ingredients...
One practical note: We would recommend bringing maps with street names with you; while all were easy to find, some streets are not well "signed", and it's easy to make a wrong turn!
PS - Unfortunately, our Crew is overflowing at this point, so we can't offer an open invitation, but here are a couple of links with how-to's, for those who would like to set up their own!
This one is for ChowDowns - I'd offer the suggestion that you pick a time and place and post/sticky it - Keeps it simple for the organizer!
This one's for ChowCrews - a group of Hounds who eat together regularly!