Pad Kra Pao is a spicy and salty stir-fry dish that easily can be your new adiction. Neung Soi 33 in the Phrom Phong area serves a good example of the dish where holy basil is the key ingredient. The protein source can be almost anything, from meat to seafood. Simplicity is the make or break for a successful Pad Kra Pao.
Pad Kra Pao is a dish that’s executed in as many ways as there are chefs making it. That’s probably also why most efforts doesn’t trigger your Thai food craving. Most chefs use to many ingredients, for example a wide variety of vegetables that doesn’t belong in the dish, for example carrots. I can accept pieces of long beans or a small amount of mushrooms, but not both. End of story. Another mistake is using to much fish sauce, oyster sauce and soy sauce. You have to choose between fish sauce or soy sauce as they both are salty, or you need to be extremely careful and precise if using both. It’s a dish that easily comes out to salty. But Neung made a good pad kra pao guided by the principle of simplicity.
That said, I got a bit surprised watching Neung making her Pad Kra Pao. She didn’t followed the classical approach in making the dish. She didn’t started with frying the chili and garlic in oil, but also threw in the chicken and a spoon of water with it. She also didn’t use fish sauce, but limited herself to use soy seasoning sauce together with oyster sauce. I have to admit, even as a fish sauce purist in the pad kra pao sense, that it tasted good. And as she said, you get fish sauce on the table if you want it. Also the pre-fried egg was good with a running egg yolk. For the non-insiders, a running egg yolk is just a fantastic combo with fried bird eye chilies.
So how to find your perfect plate of pad kra pao? It’s not easy to be honest as most of them are really mediocre. But you find some good to very good plates out there. First thing is to look for a hot wok and green veggies in the glass cabinet or on a table attached to the stall. Of course you can get it at most Thai restaurants, but you can preach as much as you want about having it the authentic and spicy way, but you will end being served a bland version as it seems difficult for Thai restaurants to accept that some Westerns eat spicy food. And Pad Kra Pao is either eaten spicy or you choose something else from the menu. There is no middle way here.
I also tasted the tom yam kung. Plenty of shrimps, slightly mushy as is quite often the case from a street stall. They don’t have the capacity to store in a fridge, but have them on ice. It is not a health issue, but shrimps looses it best texture much easier. The soup was decent, but slightly too sweet for my tasting.
I will go back to try a few more stir-fried dishes, but I will also come back for their Pad Kra Pao if in the area. You find Pad Kra Pao everywhere, but to many of them fail in delivering something good, but that is not the case with Neung 33.
Name: A la Carte Neung Half 33, where half symbolize that they are situated half way down Soi 33.
Food: Stir-fry dishes and soups made to order
Open: 5 am – 2 am
Address: Halfway into Sukhumvit Soi 33, just opposite 7/11
How to get there: BTS to Phrom Phong, take exit 5 and walk for 2 minutes until you reach Soi 33. Enter Soi 33 and walk for about 4 minutes and you see it on your left side, just across from 7/11.