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Garlic

December 10, 2013

If you’ve been following the Ducky’s Always Hungry, you know that I’ve been going on and on about all of the wonderful meals that I had during my two-week trip to Asia this summer covering Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand.  While we were in Thailand, my husband and I were hosted by a variety of different family members all wanting to show us the best that Thailand had to offer in terms of true culinary experiences.  On the last night of our trip, before heading out to the airport for our journey home, 2 of my aunts and an uncle wanted to take my husband and I out for dinner at one of my uncle’s favorite restaurants.  Earlier this year, my mom and dad had actually been in Bangkok for several weeks visiting family when my aunt and uncle had taken them to this particular restaurant.  Knowing that my husband and I wanted to eat really good, authentic Thai food, my mom and dad told my aunts and uncle that this would be a great restaurant for them to take my husband and I too because they figured we would really enjoy the food.  And sure enough, my parents were right.

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Known as Garlic, this tiny restaurant is a favorite amongst those in the know.  I say in the know because you really need to know about this place to even find it.  Located in some back alley, or “soi” as it’s called in Thai, Garlic isn’t located in your traditional strip mall or shopping center.  Built like an old cozy lodge, the restaurant probably only seats 30-40 guests at the most in a very homey setting.  We arrived as soon as the restaurant opened for dinner, so we were the first guests there.  But within an hour, the place started to fill up, even though it was still really early in the evening.

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My husband and I started off ordering our favorite Thai iced coffee.  It’s hard to come to Thailand and not enjoy Thai iced coffee.  I know that Thai iced tea is a favorite of many people, but personally, I love the sweet coffee.  It’s hard to resist.  On a hot and humid day in Bangkok, what’s more refreshing than an ice-cold cup of Thai iced coffee.  If I lived in Thailand, I’d probably have a cup of it each day!  Sweetened coffee poured over ice with cream poured over the top and stirred together is exactly what I love.

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When we were waiting for the restaurant to open, we noticed on their sign outside that one of the night’s specials was the yum pla salmon sod.  Literally translated this means fresh (sod) raw salmon (pla is Thai for fish) salad (yum).  Basically, it was fresh pieces of raw salmon combined with ingredients such as fresh mint, Thai basil, cilantro, lemongrass, shallots, ginger and green onions tossed in a lemongrass-lime juice sauce to create a fresh salad.  I’d never had anything like this and instantly fell in love.  The salmon was so fresh and delicious, heightened by the flavor of the citrus-acid vinaigrette that everything was tossed in.  A spoonful of salmon with the shallots and green onions and lemongrass and mint and cilantro was just so refreshing and tangy and delicious.  The level of acidity was a perfect balance to the sweetness of the salmon and the combination of these tart and flavorful fresh herbs and vegetables just paired together so well.

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We also ordered a dish of the deep-fried shrimp cakes.  Much like my dinner at Taling Pling a couple of days earlier, the shrimp cakes were fantastic.  Crispy, crunchy and golden brown on the outside, slightly sweet and hot and soft on the inside, these shrimp cakes were fantastic.  In fact, I hate to admit it, but we enjoyed it so much that we actually ordered a second plate of these fantastic shrimp cakes.  These have to be one of my favorite Thai appetizers.

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In honor of my husband, we ordered tom yum goong, his favorite soup.  The tom yum goong here was more traditional than at other places we’ve enjoyed this magical soup.  With big meaty shrimp, cilantro, spices and onion, this soup had an interesting clear broth.  Not something I’d seen before as tom yum goong tends to have an oily red-orange broth due to the chili oil and tamarind paste that’s added to the broth when making the soup.  This soup had its own unique tom yum flavor.

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Now this restaurant, apparently, is known for their omelets.  But just calling it a plain-old omelet just doesn’t seem to do justice to what the dish actually is.  It’s a huge crab meat-filled omelet.  And not the kind of omelet that you cook in a shallow pan, throw down the filling, and then fold it over.  This was like a 9-inch round omelet that also happened to be about 6 inches high, if not more.  The outside was cooked to a perfect golden brown and a bit crispy and the inside was heavenly with chunks of sweet crab meat and cooked egg.  I can’t even begin to contemplate how you make something like this is that the outside doesn’t get overcooked, but the inside is perfectly cooked so that the eggs aren’t runny.  It was enormous!  But it wasn’t just the size, but the flavor was absolutely fantastic as well.  This was probably one of the most phenomenal egg dishes I’ve had in a really long time.

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And what would a Thai dinner be without a fish dish?  We Thai people love our fish, be it steamed or fried.  This time, we chose a deep-fried whole fish.  Again, cooked to perfection with a nice crispy, golden brown crust and hot, moist, flaky white meat inside.  Fileted open and butterflied to show off its glory, this was quite the fish dish.  There’s just something about a deep-fried whole fish and the Chinese and Thai’s do it the best, I think.

Garlic really was a delicious restaurant serving authentic Thai cuisine, just what my husband and I were looking for.  This was good, old-fashioned, no frills Thai food in a quaint, atmospheric setting.  It’s almost one of those hole-in-the-wall type restaurants that few people know about, and the people who know about it don’t want to tell others about it for fear that it becomes too popular and overrun.  Those types of places often have the best food, and Garlic certainly qualifies in that category.

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