Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bangkok Asian Market & Cafe

I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire.  The only diversity in cuisine we had was "Mexican" (Del Taco) and "Italian" (Papa Ginos).  I am barely exaggerating.  Since I've moved away, there actually have been some new additions in nearby towns, introducing "exotic" cuisine like a thai restaurant, and even a Korean/Japanese place.  I've tried the Indian (at take-out only Taj-e-India), I've tried the Nepalese (at Base Camp Cafe), and I have zero desire to return to any of them.

On my last visit home, I was driving by and noticed a new place: Bangkok Asian Market & Cafe, the sign said.  There were no cars in the parking lot, and it wasn't entirely clear where I was supposed to enter the run down looking building.  Undeterred, I pushed on a random door, and found myself inside a tiny Asian grocery store, with a very small counter behind which some food could be prepared.  In Lebanon, NH.  I looked around, admired the variety of ingredients, and went on my way, vowing to return sometime to try food from the tiny cafe.

So when I visited next, and realized I had failed to actually make good on my vow, I stopped in with my mother to at least grab a Thai dessert to bring home.  I wanted her to get to try something different.  We ended up trying more.

It was all decent, and I'd like to return at least once more to try more items.  And stock up on grocery items you can't find anywhere else around there!


I don't have exterior shots, but, the venue is not exactly inviting.  The building looks run down, there are no windows in front, and although there is signage, it isn't the most clear.
Grocery Area.
About half the space is filled with two grocery aisles, stocked with a really decent variety of Asian ingredients.  In the back is freezers with frozen items, including mochi ice cream in all flavors.
Food Prep Area.
The other area has a counter, behind which food is prepared, and the cash register.

There are two curry specials of the day available in steam trays, and everything else is made to order in this tiny "kitchen".


The cafe menu is broken into appetizers, salads, and curries, plus a few drinks such as Thai ice tea and coffee, and made-to-order smoothies.  They also feature a daily special (frequently pad thai), and, on my visit, a single dessert.

Curries are all available with chicken, shrimp, or veggies, and are served with jasmine rice.  The cafe offers all the basics: green, red, yellow, masaman, and panang.  We didn't try any curries, but tried an appetizer, salad, and dessert.


The appetizer menu has all the Thai classics you'd expect: spring rolls, summer rolls, chicken satay, fish cakes, and chive dumplings.

If I were hungry at the time we stopped in, I would have gone for the chive dumplings, but since I was just there to grab dessert, I didn't want them then.  My mom however wanted a snack, so she went for an order of spring rolls.
Spring Rolls. $5.
"Crispy baked vegetables spring roll, serve with sweet chili sauce."

The spring rolls were cooked to order and came as a set of four.  They were a bit burnt on one side.  Inside was a lot of vermicelli, and some thinly shredded cabbage and carrots.  They weren't particularly good nor bad.  I liked the sweet sauce on the side of course.

I appreciated the packaging inside foil to keep them warm.  On the side was sweet chili sauce.


The salad menu has papaya salad, larb (chicken or pork), a bean thread noodle salad, and a few others.  I couldn't resist grabbing a papaya salad to have for dinner later.
Som-Thom / Green Papaya Salad. $8.
"Shredded green papaya, carrot, tomato, green bean, roasted peanut, dried shrimp, lime juice, and palm sugar."

The papaya salad was also freshly made ... as in, a legit mortar and pastel came out.  The shredded green papaya and carrot were very fresh and crisp.  The tomato was good enough for not in-season tomato, and the green beans were the right level of snappy.  A good distribution of peanuts as well.

I was surprised to find my papaya salad topped with poached shrimp, given that the menu said it had dried shrimp.  Inside my salad was 4 whole shrimp, not rubbery, well cleaned.

It also had legit heat to it.  There were little chunks of chili in the mix.  When you ate one of them, you knew it.  The spicing was great, you could taste the fish sauce, and there was a nice level of acidity.

Overall, this was a good papaya salad, better than average, and clearly made with care.  Not generic, Americanized papaya salad.


The market side of the business has packaged commercial desserts in the freezer, but on my visit, there was also a dessert special.  (Ok, who am I kidding, I was there to try the dessert, obviously I'm a dessert-o-holic, but I knew it existed, as I had seen the owner post about it on Facebook.)  I was told it would take about 15 minutes to make, but I didn't mind.  It was my reason for being there, I adore Thai desserts.
 Bauloy Samsee. $4.50.
This seemed to be very similar to a dessert, Bua Loy Kai Warn, I had at Chat Thai in Sydney.

This version had three colors of glutenous rice dumplings, green (pandan), orange (sweet potato), and white (plain?).  The version at Chat Thai had purple (taro), orange (Japanese pumpkin), and green (pandan) dumplings, which was a bit more colorful with the purple taro replacing the plain white ones here.  Since I love taro, I also was also generally happier to have taro in the mix.  Colors aside, the dumplings all tasted about the same.  The dumplings were a bit too soft for my preferences, and many came stuck together, so not that well prepared.

Both versions of the dessert were served in warm coconut milk, a thin broth, not thick like a coconut cream often found in thai desserts.  The Chat Thai one was cloying sweet, but this was much better, just thin coconut milk, nice coconut flavor, not too sweet.

Both were served warm, this one was actually quite hot, and she warned me to be careful, as it was freshly prepared.

But just like the Chat Thai version, I didn't actually like it.  Kinda soft, flavorless, mochi-like balls, in tasty enough coconut milk just wasn't very exciting.  I gave my mom and bite and she hated it, but I think she was unfamiliar with mochi or glutinous rice based items entirely.
Bauloy Samsee ... waffled! 
However, I salvaged this and turned it into a dessert I really truly loved.  Yup, I waffled the mochi balls, and topped it with not only the coconut milk drizzle, but also whipped cream.  Read more about that here.
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