Pok Pok, the holy grail of refined Thai food. I've heard amazing things, but even when I lived in New York, I didn't take the time to visit their location in Brooklyn and my heart was filled with regret. So, after I got Pok Pok by Andy Ricker for x-mas, I enlisted my #fafafaf home girl Lindsey Higa to make a couple dishes that caught my eye; plaa thawt lat phrik (deep-fried whole fish w/ chile sauce) and of course, som tam thai (central Thai-style papaya salad).
This was one of those undertakings that made me so happy to live in Hawai‘i. You may have heard that our proud state is a melting pot of cultures with a HEAVY asian influence. As a result, gathering ingredients for the Pok Pok recipes was incredibly easy (maybe a little bit too easy). We visited our favorite market in Chinatown, Lao Asian Market, to pick up tamarind sauce, shallots, green papaya (freshly shredded by the shop keeper), cilantro, chiles, tomato, and onion. All we had to do was show "aunty" the photo of what we wanted to make, and she helped us buy what we needed. Next, Linds and I went to Tamashiro Market to pick-up a beautiful and super fresh tai snapper, dried shrimp, and basil... and we were done shopping, or so we thought.
First, we made the papaya salad. Quick shout out to the sun for the incredible evening glow:
Lindsey and I can get distracted when we shop, so we forgot a couple/several things on the list (cabbage and green beans). We substituted red cabbage instead and I love the extra punch of color it added to the salad.
Next up was the fried fish. In my family, we fry two whole tai snappers at our New Year celebration. I absolutely LOVE the fried snapper my grandma makes... the fish's skin is always crisp and the meat juicy. Pour on a little bit of shoyu and I can finish an entire fish on my own.
Pok Pok's fried fish is my grandma's fish with the flavors turned wayy up. Like that Bruno Mars song no one will admit to liking but will blast in their car when alone and sing every lyric. Anyway, here's how we did:
Again... we left out another ingredient the recipe called for-- tempura mix for the fish coating-- but we just left this out and the fish still turned out crispy! Also, this tamarind chile sauce is BROKE DA MOUTH... its sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy, you literally do not need anything more in life. Next time I make it, I'm definitely doubling the recipe. I found myself wanting more sauce to eat with my rice and anything else I could think of long after the fish had disappeared. It's that good.
Make a shopping list of things you need so you don't get side tracked like Linds and I, and definitely run out and get the Pok Pok cookbook if you don't already have it. If you're going to make the tamarind chile sauce, make a very very large portion. I'm thinking it'll be delicious on any type of protein, veggie, and/or carb.