Rating: 8 / 10
Andy Ricker (of late Pok Pok fame, RIP) has championed the cuisine of Chiang Mai for decades. A bonafide falang who fell in love with the people, culture and food of this magnificent country and decided lately to move there permanently. Along with Hanuman Aspler who teaches the history and foundations of Thai cooking, Andy explores the street food, roadside stalls and old haunts recording videos or writing about them in his articles.
Happening to spend an extended period in Chiang Mai, hunting the perfect Khao Soi, one morning I was in a ravaging mood for Phat Si Ew. After googling it, funnily enough an interview with Andy came up, and I read further noticing that he had already recommended a spot I truly enjoyed a few weeks before, Mit Mai, and ended up highly recommending the Phat Si Ew at Jok Fa. As life sometimes bestows mysterious bounties on you, the map showed it was a 200 meter walk from my hotel at the North Gate.
I grabbed a shower and headed out into the infinite terror of midday sun, sweating like a pro-choicer in the Republican Party, I headed into the stunningly trippy step back in time. Suddenly I was walking into a dream from five decades ago. The walls sung in aching repose. The clock betrayed my late waking habits, and the dining room stung with a soft perfume.
An old lady hobbled over to me with the kindest eyes. I ordered, grabbed a glass of water and tried to will the fan to focus more on me than the other patrons. The heat was obscene, and this coming from a person who grew up in Tamil Nadu. A few meters away I saw a (what must have been) 70 year old woman hissing away at a wok, cooking my late lunch, and I realised how fucking idiotic I was to complain about the heat, sitting at a restaurant awaiting food prepared to me by someone almost twice my age, who's day consisted of standing by the gates of hell permanently. I shut up, and smiled politely when the food arrived.
You knew immediately that this was going to be tasty. The vegetables were still shiny and crisp, the noodles of the thicker/fatter kind, and the egg and pork perfectly tanned with seasoning liquids. I dove in, and in one bite fell in love.
A distant cousin of Koey Tiao to the far south, Pad See Ew has an immediate comforting effect. It's so simple, yet so salty and pungeant and texturally pleasing, that you find yourself craving it in the strangest places. This thank you goes to Andy for writing about a place I had walked past 100 times but never thought to enter, it is by sharing some of your own secrets that the world can fall in love with new spots, even though the temptation to keep them to yourself is warranted.
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored in the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"