For most tourists visiting Thailand, the bulk of their culinary experience hinges on such things as the classic pad Thai, local salads made with green [unripe] mangoes, green papaya, or pomelo, and tom yam goong. Since most Westerners aren’t so keen on rice as part of a savory meal and opt instead for the sweet sticky rice with ripe mango slices (khao niaow ma muang), they have not been initiated into the sheer, gustatory pleasure that is khao kluk kapi– stir-fried rice tossed with nam prik (shrimp paste)and served with strips of egg omelet, shredded green mangoes, and diced shallots.
In the Philippines, it is colloquially referred to as bagoong rice as the local spin on fish paste is used by Thai restaurants in lieu of the more incendiary-tasting nam prik. For many people, it is synonymous with the words “cheap yet flavorful”, a reasonably priced meal with more than a little hint of the exotic. Bagoong rice only needs a few shreds of sweet, grilled pork, perhaps a few bits of crisply fried fish to turn it into a meal fit for King Bhumibol himself. One local Thai stall, however, just went a little beyond that…
Thaicoon recently opened at the Zuellig Building’s Laza Food Court and it offers reasonably-priced and satisfying meals from our neighbors in the Golden Triangle. The saucy take on pad Thai is wondrously tongue-tingling while the Thai salads – crispy catfish and green mango – are both refreshing and make perfect meals for the sultry summer weather we’ve been having of late. But what I currently like best at Thaicoon is its spin on bagoong rice – it isn’t just bagoong rice, it’s sizzling bagoong rice.
Thaicoon’s ample-portioned offering is cooked fresh to order and plated up on a super-heated cast iron platter with shredded green mango, shallots, shredded carrot, and egg ribbons. You could get it with sweet pork or crispy fish, but why go for the usual when you can get your platter of khao with some crispy prawn cakes?
These are known as tod mun goong – a spin on the more popular tod mun pla (fish cakes) – and are delectably crispy on the outside, moreish and fluffy within. The cakes are sweetly savory and taste quite fresh; you can tell that real, fat prawns were used to make them with very little in the way of extenders. Paired with the savory, flavorful rice, you have yourself a magnificent, even regal lunch.
Thaicoon @ Laza Food Court: 2nd Floor – Zuellig Building, Makati Avenue cor. Paseo de Roxas, Makati