Bangkok Post reviews
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- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: September 7, 2012 at 8:24 am
A roadside samosa vendor comes out tops for spicy treats
Time really does devour all things, and seems to have an especially voracious appetite for the quality of the food served at once-favourite restaurants. How many times have you gone to a place you once revered but have been away from for a few years only to find that the dish you went back there for, even correcting for the heightened allure imparted by nostalgia, wasn't quite what it once was?
Sometimes the decline seems to go unnoticed by the crowds who still show up, as in the case of one illustrious phad Thai restaurant that one might name, but long-time customers know.
So it's a relief to find a place where standards are maintained over the years. Restaurants, food shops, and stalls of this kind are usually family-run places where unique recipes are handed down through the generations, as they once were in certain households that were famous for a particular dish.
These thoughts came to Ung-aang Talay this past week, not while dining at some ancient landmark of a Bangkok restaurant, but at at Pahurat pushcart that sells samosas, and has been doing so on the same spot for 40 years. It sets up daily at the corner of an alley close to the Indian emporium (a resurrection of the ATM department store that burned down some years ago) on Chakraphet Road, not far from the Gurudwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, the Sikh temple. The alley itself winds through an Indian shopping district dense with Indian sweets, snacks, and other temptations before intersecting with Triphet Road.
Over the decades cooks from different generations of the same family have manned the woks, but aside from these changes of personnel and occasional price increases, very little has changed.
The samosas and tikkis fried up constantly during the day remain the best the U-a T has ever been served in Bangkok.
Clearly, U-a T is not their only admirer. Getting hold of a bagful often entails some waiting while the cook handles stacked-up orders from a long queue of customers. There have been times when U-a T has had to wait for a half-hour or more, but this is no problem because it allows time to browse through the sweets, incense, clothes, spices, Indian movies on DVD and other goods displayed in the stores further on into the alley.
The samosas are the vegetarian type, which use potatoes as the main ingredient. The potato in the filling is crushed, not mashed, so there are firm pieces to give it texture, and it is quite aggressively seasoned with coriander, turmeric, and possibly caraway to give it a rich flavour and aroma.
The thing that really distinguishes these veggie samosas from others that U-a T has tasted, however, is a very sharp sting of chilli. They are pretty fiery _ spicy enough to leave anyone without a Thai-bred tolerance for chilli heat breathing through his teeth.
The wrapping that holds the filling is not the thin, crispy kind often used for meat-filled samosa. It is thicker and softer, but not at all heavy. It doesn't hold an unwelcome amount of the oil it was fried in, and comes from the wok crunchy and delicious.
The tikkis are patties of the spicy potato mixture that are dipped in thin batter before frying and are not wrapped in a shell. Once again, the chilli warning applies. A friend of U-a T's fresh in from France bit into one unawares and spent the following few minutes sweating impressively.
Both the samosas and the tikkis are sold with a tamarind-based dipping sauce that also has some chilli mixed in, although it is not especially spicy. It complements both of the fried items perfectly, especially after a bite or two has been taken out of a samosa and it can get inside to mix with the filling. Eaten together, they are are one of the glories of Bangkok streetside snacking.
Both the samosas and the tikkis are priced at 10 baht each, although a sign indicates that they are sold in pairs, "Two for 20 baht". The stand is open daily from 10am until 6pm, but there have been times over the years when U-a T has stopped by late in the afternoon to find it closed, perhaps sold out.
While in the neighbourhood, it isn't a bad idea to cross Chakraphet Road and head back to the intersection with New Road. With luck you will find a stand offering ba-yia, another savoury deep-fried snack, this one of Islamic origin. This may seem like a surfeit of fried starch, but no one who samples these ba-yia will complain.
And almost directly across from Chakraphet Road from the samosa vendor is an alley that leads into the Royal India restaurant, another place whose quality has has not been eroded by the years (if anything, the food is even better than it was 20 years ago). Consider stocking up on some of their Indian sweets to take home. The food is excellent, too, but that is a subject for another column.