Last year was the year for Portland cookbooks. In fact it seemed like every time I went on Eater, another chef had landed a deal and was working on a book. In the final few months of 2013, several well-known local talents, like chefs Gabe Rucker and John Gorham, released books that were hot commodities all over the country.
Most of the books I was content to just flip through at Powells, but there was one that had to be mine — Andy Ricker’s cookbook for his nationally acclaimed restaurant Pok Pok. Pok Pok is a place dedicated to Thai street food, made famous by their incredible fish sauce chicken wings. After a few very successful years, Pok Pok became so popular that Ricker opened several new restaurants throughout town (all with a slightly different Thai spin) and even opened a spot in NYC.
And while I, like most people, love the Pok Pok wings, the one dish I always, always order is the yam khai dao or fried egg salad. It was hard to put my finger on why I love it so much but after reading Ricker’s description of the dish, I solved the mystery.
The vinaigrette that dresses the greens, herbs and crispy egg is perfectly balanced. There is
heat fire from the Thai chiles, a bit of funk from the fish sauce, sweetness from the palm sugar simple syrup and zing from the lime juice. It’s one of those dishes that sucks you in from the first bite and you just can’t stop eating it. Or thinking about it. Or craving it.
So, of course, it was the first dish I had to make from the cookbook.
Disclaimer: While I would absolutely recommend buying yourself a copy of this book, you can find a copy of this recipe here.
I started by sourcing all of my ingredients, which necessitated a special trip to the Asian market for Thai fish sauce, Chinese celery, a disc of palm sugar and Thai chiles. The rest of the items were already in my fridge: lime, onion, garlic, carrots, lettuce and cilantro. And of course, two eggs.
Once the hunting and gathering was completed, the fun began.
The recipe has one sub-recipe for the vinaigrette: a palm sugar simple syrup, which was, well, simple. It’s basically a few ounces of palm sugar melted in water.
The simple syrup recipe makes about a quarter cup, but only a few teaspoons are needed for the egg salad. Happily the rest is excellent in cocktails.
Next up is veg prep — some mincing, some chopping and a little bit of julienne.
Once the mise en place is taken care of, it’s time to fry up the eggs. According to Ricker these can be made up to 15 minutes in advance. The most important part is frying them over high heat so the eggs get a nice crispy crust. Just don’t overcook them — you want the yolks almost set, no more.
Once they have rested for a few minutes, cut each egg into quarters.
In a large pan, or wok, warm up the dressing. Then add in the eggs, veggies and herbs and toss gently to coat. Note: This isn’t a warm, wilted salad but neither is it a cold salad — don’t cook the greens and herbs, just get the chill off.
Final step — plate up and dig in!