Thai Tom 2011: Final Match

Eggplant Ginger vs. Cashew Chicken

Eggplant ginger tofu Cashew Chicken

Yesterday for lunch, Gloria joined us at the Thai Tom counter for the championship match of 2011. She was enthralled by the cooking show and the occasional bursts of flame out of the stir fry woks.

Enthralled by the flames

After Match 6, the championship was a little anticlimactic; Cashew Chicken has been bested by Panang Curry in the past, so it was no surprise that Eggplant Ginger also took the Cashews to task. It didn’t hurt that Eggplant Ginger was ordered with tofu, which in my opinion is superior to the chicken at Thai Tom.

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Final results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Gloria wants to dictate the time and place of the next Thai Tom Showdown, when she grows out of her disinterest in solid food. Thai Tom has at long last expanded their menu, so we will have to spend some time researching the initial qualifiers for the next match up. However, I expect it will include these solid contenders:

  1. Eggplant Ginger (#10)
  2. Panang Curry (#16)
  3. Cashew Chicken (#3)
  4. Pad Thai (#1)
  5. Swimming Rama (#15)
  6. Garlic and Pepper (#9)

Chilling at the counter
The next Thai Tom Showdown judge is ready for action!

Solid as a Rock

A few days before we came to Thailand, I took Gloria to the pediatrician for her four-month checkup. The doctor told me that it would be a good idea to start Gloria on solid food soon. Apparently the new research shows that starting closer to four months than the traditional six helps fend off food allergies, although I did remind him about Gloria’s early arrival and he agreed that we could wait until she hits her adjusted age of four months. This meant there was no rush to start solid food during our Thailand trip, but we could start looking for signs of readiness.

One of the major signs we’re supposed to watch for is Gloria showing an increased interest in our food. And since we’re not embarrassed to admit that a large part of what keeps bringing us back to Thailand is our penchant for tropical fruit and spicy curries, we thought it might be interesting to see whether any of these delicious treats could tempt our little one. Not to mention that mashed banana is recommended as a great first food.

Yellow watermelonBanana
She didn’t appear particularly interested in the yellow watermelon or banana pieces that we showed her at breakfast

PineapplePapaya
Pineapple and papaya chunks were perhaps a bit more interesting, but does she recognize that they are food?

Tom yum goongPad thai
Clearly not tempted by piping hot tom yum goong in Phuket or fresh pad thai sen yai in Mae Hong Son

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Perhaps we should wait a little longer before introducing pad prik giang?

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I’m not sure she’s ready for pad see ew either, sadly

Dragon fruitMango
Looking quizzically at chunks of dragon fruit and mango

My guess is that the Globug will have her first taste of solid food sometime in 2012.

Thai Tom 2011: Match 6

Panang Curry vs. Eggplant Ginger

Match 6

As the new normal, match 6 was performed take-out style. Today, Eggplant Ginger showed that when it’s on, it’s on in a huge way. In our biggest upset of 2011, Eggplant Ginger unseated the reigning champion in a very close call. While the Panang Curry was again excellent, it just couldn’t top the smoky charred delicious eggplant today. I guess sometimes you need a curry, other times a stir fry is the answer. Our final match of 2011 will probably be delayed a little while, as I’d like to take Gloria to the source for the occasion if possible.

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Thai Tom 2011: Match 5

Swimming Rama vs. Cashew Chicken

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We haven’t had Thai Tom since Gloria’s arrival, as it’s not the easiest quarters to squeeze a newborn into. But we had an itch to scratch, and thus loosened our tournament criteria to allow take-out as a viable option. I do not regret that decision. :)

The first time I had Swimming Rama at Thai Tom was pure serendipity. Lauren and I stopped by at closing time and asked if they were still serving. George said sure, but only if we wanted Pad Thai and Swimming Rama. While I do enjoy a good peanut sauce, I hadn’t ever thought to order Swimming Rama at Thai Tom before. Little did I realize what I was missing. Thai Tom’s Swimming Rama is like no other version I’ve had anywhere else. They mix in a generous portion of chili paste, and the result is more like a mildly-sweet peanut curry, similar to how I imagine massaman variation of pad prik giang would taste.

Unfortunately, today the Swimming Rama was overly sweet, and so it was easily topped by the consistently spiced cashew nut chicken that is second only to Mr. Poon. Swimming Rama, we’ll see you next year!

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Thai Tom 2011: Match 4

Garlic and Pepper vs. Eggplant Ginger (Passover versions with tofu and no rice)

Match 4

A few Passovers ago, Lauren discovered that if you order a dish at Thai Tom without rice, they will happily serve it to you over spinach instead and it’s delicious. So when my mother-in-law was craving Thai Tom on her visit this weekend, we were prepared.

Today’s match involved two of my favorite stir fries. #10 (Eggplant Ginger) was my first love of Thai Tom, with thin slices of Japanese eggplant that soak up the ginger-soy goodness. #9 (Garlic and Pepper), while not quite the crack-like-version I had in Mae Hong Son, still uses a heavy hand of both garlic and pepper to whet your taste buds. In the end, it was a very close call, but the nod went to Eggplant Ginger. If you have a group of three though, get both (with a curry as your third dish of course)!

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Thai Tom 2011: Match 3

Yellow Curry vs. Cashew Nut Chicken

Match 3

Today we needed to make another trip to UVillage (yes, we are still Crate and Barrel whores). After finishing our errands, we decided to make the most of the winter-break student lull and headed to Thai Tom for match #3. Yellow Curry was the first dish I ever had at Thai Tom, and I remember it fondly. While it was good, today it did not quite live up to my memories. I think in the future I’ll stick to having my Yellow Curry in soup form at Jamjuree. Cashew Chicken, while not quite as good as Mr. Poon’s, had a generous helping of cashews in a sauce that got better with every bite. Sayonara Yellow Curry!

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Thai Tom 2011: Match 2

Panang Curry vs. Pad Thai

Match 2

After a morning gym class, we had a leisurely brunch at Volunteer Park Café. Afterwards, as we were driving home, I turned to Lauren and asked “is it crazy that I’m a little hungry?” She smiled and responded “what’s next on the Thai Tom face-off?”

Shortly thereafter we indulged ourselves with Panang Curry and Pad Thai. The Pad Thai was fantastic, reminiscent of some of the renditions we had in northern Thailand, with tamarind juice instead of the ketchup that is so common in most American Pad Thai. Against most other dishes, that would have been it, but Panang Curry is the big dawg, the reigning top dish at Thai Tom, and it did not disappoint. So the Pad Thai is out, but it will definitely be a standard in my rotation once the tournament concludes.

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Thai Tom 2011: Match 1

Opening match: Swimming Rama vs. Big Rice Noodle in Thai Sauce

Match 1

To celebrate my birthday today, we had a delicious brunch at Tilth and front row seats at the Thai Tom counter for dinner. George was cooking up a storm and the flame levels kept us warm.

Tonight’s contest was a blow-out. While it’s been a few years since I’ve had Thai Tom’s Swimming Rama, it was every bit as good as I remember, with a rich curry-like peanut sauce. While I love sen yai, Big Rice Noodle in Thai Sauce had way too much fish sauce, and as a result was the big loser tonight. Next up: Panang Curry vs. Pad Thai.

George at work
George at work

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Thai Tom 2011 Showdown

It’s been almost five years since our original Thai Tom showdown, where Lauren and I methodically ran through a subjective set of face-offs across the 16-item menu. In the hopes of making the rotation more viable as an annual event, this year I’m only including the top eight seeds from that original tournament. Here are the 2011 match-ups, which I aim to complete in time for March Madness. For consistency, all of the dishes will be ordered with chicken and a spiciness of four stars.

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Lon Hoi Thot

Rating:

A few weeks ago, we discovered a delicious purveyor of Easy Thai near the Sunday Market, next to the Toyota dealership. Of the three small rarn ar harn dtarm sang located there, Lon Hoi Thot is the northernmost one (furthest from the market and directly across from the 7-11). They have an English menu available to foreigners, and of course all of the easy Thai classics are available even if they aren’t listed there. One of the family members, Koi, speaks excellent English and has provided me with a lot of pronunciation tips for ordering Thai food.

All of the food at Lon Hoi Thot is fresh and served very quickly from their two cooking stations. My favorite dish of theirs is gai kratiem prik thai (chicken with garlic and pepper). Lon Hoi Thot adds more garlic and chili to the dish than most places, which makes it the best one I’ve had in Thailand. I also really like their pad prik giang (vegetables in red curry sauce), either gai (with chicken) or jai (with tofu and extra vegetables).

When we took Lauren’s family here for lunch a few weeks ago, their comment after the meal was “is this place open for dinner? We want to come back tonight.” Unfortunately Lon Hoi Thot is only open until 4PM, but I took them on a repeat visit for lunch the next day.

The dishes at Lon Hoi Thot are priced similarly to other food stalls in town (about $1), the quality is very high, and the kratiem prik thai is completely addictive. We had some for lunch both yesterday and today, and I may have to stop by tomorrow (our final day in Mae Hong Son) for one more hit.

UPDATE (12/1/2011): I discovered on our return trip to Mae Hong Son that Lon Hoi Thot is now open for dinner! Oh, and the food remains as delicious as I remember it.

Lon Hoi Thot
Look for the big yellow sign, your smiling hostess Koi (in the glasses), and her mom the amazing chef

The chef at work
Cooking up pad prik giang

Chicken with garlic and pepper
Gai kratiem prik thai kai dao – it’s like crack

Pad prik geang
Pad prik geang kai dao

Pad thai sen yaiPad kra pao
Pad thai sen yai jay and pad kra pao gai

Lauren enjoying pad thai sen yai

Lon Hoi Thot
East side of Khunlumpraphat Road/Hwy 108
Across from the 7-11 and the Sunday Market
Mae Hong Son, Thailand
+66 (0) 5362-0690
Daily: Breakfast, Lunch (8:00AM-4:00PM)