I went back to Thailand this week.
Well, my tongue did at least. Dom surprised me and took me to eat at Spin Modern Thai Cuisine in Austin. It’s right down the street from us, which will now make our trips to Thailand take five minutes instead of 26 hours.
For the past four years we’ve been in America, whenever we leave a Thai restaurant we usually feel tricked because it was supposed to be a Thai restaurant, but the food turned out to be Chinese or Vietnamese. Or maybe it tasted fine, but was it so expensive for a simple street food dish we could make at home, why go back again?
But Spin finally delivered what our Thai tongues have been missing for years, Thai dishes we love that are twisted into modern, exquisite works of art.
Our server explained each dish in such detail, I felt like I was already taking gorgeous bites of it. Then when she brought out our Tiger Cry and Pad Cha Soft Shell Crab, we couldn’t resist ogling at the elegant presentation for awhile, while screaming at ourselves for forgetting our camera.
But then once those fingerfuls of sticky rice laden with a nam pla chili emulsion, char-grilled beef sirloin, mint, kafir lime, toasted rice powder, cherry tomatoes and red radishes entered my lips, the next bite couldn’t come fast enough.
The server came to take our plate when I was mopping up the tiny bits of sauce left with a small blob of sticky rice. My lips were still tingling merrily from the spicy peppercorns in the Pad Cha, and I wanted the feeling in my mouth to last forever. And there was nothing left on our plates.
“The chefs will be so happy to see that you enjoyed the dishes!” she said.
Then she must have told the Thai chefs that my Thai husband and I were going crazy over how amazing their dishes were because the next thing we knew fun, affable Chef Thai came to our table to introduce himself. He and Dom started to chat in Thai, and I piped in that he was a great chef. Dom mentioned how we hadn’t eaten Thai food this great since Thailand, and then by the end of the convo he said he wanted to give us dessert on the house.
I didn’t think the meal could get better, but the Thai Tea ice cream tastes just like the perfect Thai Tea from the street on a humid Bangkok day, not too sweet and just the right amount of tea to sweetened condensed milk ratio. Oh man, what a night.
And then tonight, I was going to make some burgers in honor of 4th of July, but as I was gazing in our fridge drawers I saw I had the ingredients for larb, a spicy Thai salad from northeastern Thailand that I adore. Spin had a version of larb on their menu called Larb Sake, made sushi-style. We were so tempted to try it, but decided to save it for next time.
So I still had larb on my mind, and larb beats out burgers any day. Each flavor in larb sings of summer: cool refreshing mint, crisp, purple shallots, lip-puckering, zesty lime juice, fragrant toasted rice powder, tongue-tingling chili flakes and fresh cilantro—perfect for a summer night in Austin, or Bangkok.
Plus it’s easy and quick to make. But try to give yourself enough time to let the meat cool off before adding the herbs. Usually I am so hungry I don’t let it cool, and have to add the herbs when the meat is hot and then the herbs get all wilty. It’s still yummy, but it’s even better if the herbs are still be fresh and beautiful.
Make it tonight for dinner, and then tell me what you think…while I start planning our next trip to our Thailand down the street to try their Larb Sake.
Need a refreshing Thai salad to cool you down while heating up your tastebuds? Make Larb at home with this simple recipe!
- 1 pound of ground turkey, chicken, pork or beef
- 1/4–1/2 c. water
- 2–3 shallots, thinly sliced or 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- juice of 2–3 limes to taste
- 2–3 tbsp of fish sauce to taste
- 2–3 tsp of sugar to taste
- 1–2 tbsp of toasted rice powder
- 1 tsp.-1 tbsp. Thai chili flakes to taste
- 1 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 c. fresh whole mint leaves
- 1/2 c. green onions chopped in 1/4 in. (optional)
- Cook the meat in a wok or saucepan. Add water if it’s becoming dry.
- Once the meat is cooked, turn off the heat and throw in the shallots.
- Mix it up to cook the shallots until they wilt some.
- Add in the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, toasted rice powder and chili flakes by teaspoon, until you reach your desired flavor.
- Let the meat cool to around room temperature or so before adding the cilantro, mint, and green onions, so the herbs stay fresh.
- It’s best to eat this fresh, like any salad, so try to serve it as soon as you’ve stirred it up. But if life happens and you can’t serve it immediately, just say, mai pen rai and enjoy it!
- Serving Size: 3-4