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If you are like voracious Me and Company you love Thai Food and there is no better place to sample the best around that in Thai Town East; Elmhurst. I recently took a few days off to take a mini vacation, albeit a cold one, to the source. Thais are famous for eating seven or more times a day. While there are still three main meals, numerous hobbit like snacks or “gin len” happen when and where they will. I met up with four old and new friends with good appetites and beat a path to Queens. Please agree or disagree. Set us straight and school us if we missed anything cause we're coming back.
Stop 1. Nueng ๑
Breakfast is the first and some same most important meal of the day. At 9 sharp Sugar Club (Nam Tan Thai) lifts the grate and turns out Thai strong coffee with condensed milk, complete brekkie served in a mini wok (The Khon Kaen Grand Slam) and thick toast soldiers to be dipped in green sweet pandan custard. Jimmy “Chirawat” Withanwattama runs the Sugar Club which has recently expanded. A clearinghouse for small kitchens it features locally conjured cold and hot delicacies as well as imported foods and products. The steady stream of Thai “Aunties” with their Aunty Carts and thermal bags are the pipeline for real deal Thai home Cooking here. I had prepared a cooler and good things like Thai Sausage (Sai Oua), Pork Shank (Khao Kaa Moo), Som Tum and Yam Koong (Spicy Shrimp Salad) and Tup Tim (water chestnut cold dessert) jumped in for down the road. Khun Jimmy’s sister in law Joop who made breakfast also treated us to short shelf life super sweet light and spongy Thai steamed ultra pink and green cupcakes, Khanom Pui Fai. Thx Khun Joop for making us feel like kids in a Khanom Store!
Sugar Club (Nam Tan Thai)
Mr. Khun Chirawat Withanwattama
Mrs. Khun Pakaporn Ainthasamgrit
8118 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY 11373
Stop 2. Song ๒
With Brekkie under the belt and The Man Who Ate Queens in tow we made a plan. While Sripraphai and Chef Khun Sripraphai Tipmanee is the original and still formidable it was almost time to spread out and try the many other Thai Food gems of Elmhurst. First a stop for respect and reflection. Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram. Here we were “loaned” an amulet for luck, had a Monk charge its “battery” and visited the lunch that local Kon Thai were sharing with the Monks. Community is key here.
Stop 3. Sam ๓
Round the bend on Whitney you’ll find Plant Love House
Baan Pluk Rak, (House Where Love Grows) Khun Manadsanan Sutipayakul and her daughters. Khun Benjaporn Chua and Khun Preawpun Sutipayakul are known for desserts and little noodle plates like ba mee poo moo dang, caramelized pork and fresh crab over vinegary skinny noodles and Plant Love Toast; “Matcha Roti Red Bean Sizzling.” Here we became three and ordered the corn fritters (Tod Man Khao Pod), Yum Kanom Jeen - spicy fermented noodle salad with thai herbs and crispy salmon as well as Num Tok Noodle - spicy pork blood noodle soup, chinese broccoli, sprouts, pork balls, garlic and cilantro. Thais don't do the "super-size" thing and small portions and tiny prices were right on time for this touch and go. Warmly received we will return.
Plant Love House (Baan Pluk Rak)
86-08 Whitney Avenue (Macnish Street), Elmhurst, Queens; 718-565-2010
Stop 4. Si ๔
If you’ve eaten at Manhattan's Wondee Siam mini empire then you’ve tasted the work of Chef Nicky Phimpoy. Her new endeavor in Elmhurst is Paet Rio. Here we became five hungry hounds and ordered a big spread. On this occasion Khun Nicky was taking a break from New Siberia to visit the homeland. We toasted her good sense and had a Siamese Thanksgiving that couldn’t be beat. Whole Chili Fish, grilled squid (pla muek yang) and raw crab salad all came down to dance. The amulet was evidently working fine. I’d like to go back with Nicky working the fire.
81-10 Broadway, Elmhurst, 917-832-6672
Stop 5. Ha ๕ (555)
There’s a Thai Bodega on Woodside that’s a general store and a community center. Khun Noi Sila has her hand on the pulse and knows lots and carries everything from the old country. I bought a cast Kanom Krok (Thai Cupcake/pancake) pan and ingredients for Thai cooking and baking. The restaurant mogul among us schooled me on preparing a version with fatback instead of oil and savory toppings. Uh huh! Khun Noi brought us up to date on local doings and treated our crew to Kanom Tien a pryamid shape leaf wrapped confection of glutinous rice flour, mung bean, sugar, coconut milk, and shallot.
76-13 Woodside Avenue
We held forth at the big table up front for a piece then…
Stop 6. ๖ Hok
Directly across the avenue is Khao Kaeng (Rice Plates and desserts) where
Mr. Khun Sopon Kosalanan of Chanthaburi Province and his Mom
Khun Thong Tad Charernnan are providing a steamline of Thai standards. Always in flux dishes like Sweet Pork, Quail with bamboo, chili pork with thai eggplant and string beans and Penang Curry, Bamboo Shots with shrimp, & pumpkin with egg over white rice spoke to us. We listened. The famous tummy and blogger among us suggests it’s reminiscent of Sripraphais early days in the old HR Block space. No faint praise. With such home cooking at a totally reasonable price we divied up some plates and enjoyed a sweet finish of Khanom Tako; mung bean jelly with coconut cream in a panda leaf cup. A personal favorite I need to learn to make. (I bought the ingredients at Khun Noi’s)
76-20 Woodside Avenue (77th Street), Elmhurst, Queens; 718-806-1807
Stop 7. Chet ๗
Some say the best Aharn Thai in town and maybe on the East Coast of Farangia is found at the diminutive Chao Thai where Chef Khun Sirichai Sreparplarn is manning a Siamese Soul Kitchen. I sampled Catfish Salad, Yam Pla Dook Foo. Fried in a way that the fish puffs up and crisps the name actually means “Cotton Fish” and on a bed of green mango and red onion with a fish sauce citric dressing it’s a giant fav of mine. Accompagnied by pak boong faedaeng moo, fiery morning glory w/pork and a green Fanta Nahm kieow I am restored. Again. There’s culinary magic at work, so much good food (aharn), folks (Kon Thai) and fun (sanook) but gotta stop somewhere for now. “Ciao Thai Town”.
85-03 Whitney Ave, Queens, NY 11373
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