Thip Khao

The time has come for me to return to face my demons at Thip Khao. Full disclosure: I’ve been here before, though not in years, and it is the only place that has created anything that was so spicy I couldn’t finish it. I had an axe to grind.

Accompanying us tonight was my friend, coworker, and good food enthusiast, Jody. While we waited for her to arrive, we ordered some beer from Thip Khao’s uncharacteristically wild/sour-heavy selection. My husband got the Burley Oak sour and I had the Scaldis Pêche Mel, a Belgian beer that takes me back…way, way back to February when I drank my heart out in Brussels. It was light and fruity, slightly sour without being too sugary. Perfect to accompany a bunch of spicy food. Jody arrived and ordered the Green Mango cocktail without even needing to look at the menu, and let me tell you, if you like spicy vodka, I have some good news for you.

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Ordering was an epic battle unto itself. Thip Khao has shortened and re-organized its menu since I was last here, plus everything looks like something you’ve never even heard of before. We eventually settled on three dishes, and later added another. In order, they were:

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Muu Som (rice cured pork belly). I’m not usually the biggest fan of fatty cuts of pork like this but actually…I’m not sure I’ve eaten many things better than this. It was so rich and mouth-melty, with a subtle tartness. The tomatoes and woodear mushrooms blended so well too.

Siin Haeng (beef jerky) and Oob Bae (goat red curry).

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did have this beef dish on one prior visit. It was years ago, just after I had started eating meat and it was life-changing. The best way to describe it would be “meat candy,” but even that description doesn’t do it justice. It’s dry but not tough, candied but not heinously sweet, spiced but not spicy. It’s served with a plain sriracha but honestly, it doesn’t need anything. The goat curry was a spur-of-the-moment decision. The curry sauce was like a thin, brothy version of a standard Thai red curry. It doesn’t have coconut milk and it was also disappointingly lacking in heat (the metaphorical kind of heat). Additionally, I somehow ended up with a giant chunk of meat on my plate that was so tough that I ended up gnawing on it like some kind of awkward hyena. I had to floss immediately when I got home because so much of it was still stuck in my teeth and retainer (and I never even succeeded at chewing it!) Fortunately, the rest of the meat in the bowl was pleasantly tender but come on, Thip Khao.

Still slightly hungry and brimming with hubris, we ordered the Tam Muk Houng Phet Phet. Tam Muk Houng is spicy papaya salad and, by all accounts, Phet Phet translates roughly to “spicy as fuck.” It’s like Thip Khao refused to put any chilies in anything else because they had to save them all for this.

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It might not look like much, but two bites of this will destroy your mouth for at least an hour. I love green papaya, but this thing is not for the faint of heart. Not only is it painfully hot, it also reeks of artisanal fish sauce so, I hope you like the overpowering flavor of rotten seafood while you set fire to your tongue. Don’t get me wrong; I still packed up these leftovers to take home, and they will get eaten if it’s the last thing I do (it probably will be).

I would be remiss not to mention my trip to the bathroom. Jody, ever the solid mom-type figure, reminded me of how much water I had drank after that salad and told me to pee before we left. It was in the bathroom that I discovered a huge dead cockroach on the floor. A better person than I might have cared, but what amazed me was that this place was packed, so it’s likely that double-digits of women had witnessed the six-legged offender and NONE OF THEM CARED EITHER. The food is actually THAT good.

Price: $30 per person.

Bottom line: The food is unlike anything else you’ve tried. It may or may not destroy your insides.

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