About a month ago I posted a message on this board inviting interested persons to join me for a "real" thai dinner at Erawan on 23rd and Sansom. A bunch of folks emailed expressing interest, and after a few weeks of organizing, a group of 29 of us sat down last Wednesday (the 31st) to an eleven-course thai feast that, I have to say, was pretty amazing.
Throughout the planning process, our hostess, Toun (the manager of Erawan - she also works days at the Thai kiosk in the Reading Terminal Market) remained a little nervous that a group of Americans wouldn't actually enjoy a full meal of serious Thai dishes in all their spicy, fish-saucey, herbacious glory. I had to convince her on multiple occasions not to cut back on the spicing. But in the end she was so anxious for her guests to have a comprehensive Thai-food experience that she added four dishes to our original 7-dish menu (without increasing the agreed-upon price for the meal) and brought in extra kitchen staff to feed our group.
The results were fantastic - incredibly flavorful, widely varied, and full of special ingredients that local Thai places can't afford to keep onhand on a regular basis.
I'm posting the menu for our dinner here. The dishes we had the other night arent available on Touns regular menu, but everyone should feel free (and indeed, encouraged) to call Erawan a day or two ahead of time and place a special order if you want to come in for an off-the-menu meal. Toun is very open to making the real thing as long as she has enough notice to buy the right ingredients. And, in my experience, once she knows youre someone whos curious about Thai food, shell often offer to pair one special dish that you request with one new one. Every time I eat there she gives me something new.
Our meal consisted of the following:
Nam sod kao tod cold pork salad with crispy rice, shallots, scallions, ginger, peanuts, chilis and fish sauce
Mu nam tok grilled pork (mu) with chili sauce
Neua nam tok - grilled beef (neua) with chili sauce
Green papaya salad
Laap neua (minced beef salad with chilis and lime) with sticky rice
Tom yum soup with seafood (scallops, squid, and, I think, seabass)
Lad nar: fresh shellfish with noodles and fermented soybean paste
Fish ga pao crisp fried catfish cubes with (I think) shredded thai basil
Pao bong phi deng - stir fried vegetables with thai miso (these were the stalky greens)
Green curry with chicken or tofu, vegetables and thai eggplant, basil and bamboo
Dessert: sweetened coconut milk with jackfruit and water chestnuts
If this stuff sounds good to you, give Erawan a call and set up your own dinner. If Toun can develop a regular base of customers for honest, unAmericanized Thai food, she'll be able to keep the necessary ingredients in stock...