Andy Ricker, chef/owner of Pok Pok Ny (117 Columbia Street, Brooklyn; 718-923-9322), is a genius — he almost single-handedly reinvented the American idea of Thai cuisine. Once upon a time, most stateside restaurants served watered-down curries and overly sweet pad Thais, but these days determined eaters can find sweat-bursting, funky-hot Isaan-style papaya salad and wings coated in fish sauce much more readily.
Everything on the menu at Pok Pok Ny is worthy of a spot on our 100 Favorite Dishes, but the unsung hero is the Muu Paa Kham Wong ($18). The dish begins with boar collar, which is rubbed with garlic, pepper, and coriander root, brushed with seasoning sauce and sugar, then grilled over charcoal. When it’s done, the meat is sliced thin and drenched in a briny, mouth-searing sauce made from lime, fish sauce, garlic, chiles, and coriander leaf — the result is only for serious spice lovers. Iced mustard greens are served on the side for a crisp textural contrast to the rich meat, and also for the sake of authenticity — Thais believe that protein must be balanced with vegetables for nutrition and proper digestion.
The dish is typical pub grub or drinking food in Thailand, as it has all the customary elements: extreme spice, chewy texture, and salt. “All those things make you want to drink more beer or booze, which in turn makes you want to eat more of that kind of dish,” says Ricker. “They go hand in hand.” We’ll most certainly raise a glass (and some chopsticks) to that.
The Village Voice is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10.
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Here’s our countdown up to now:
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#75: Ippudo’s Pork Buns