We’re fortunate in the Seattle metropolitan area that a large number of Asian restaurants have opened in the last, say, 20 years, one of the definite perks of living in a large city on the West Coast. Among the many ethnic varieties, a new Thai restaurant seems to be opening every week. Just last week, Pestle Rock began business in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Their specialty is Isan (or Isaan) regional cooking, a cuisine that is distinct from the more well-known food of central and southern Thailand. The northern region’s proximity to Laos and Myanmar (Burma) influences its food more than the rest of Thailand. Its main staple is sticky rice.
Our waiter was good enough to explain some of the differences. He said, for example, that their menu does not include phad thai, a Central Thai staple which diners come to expect at a Thai restaurant and considered a national dish. The cooking also makes very liberal use of chiles, tamarind and herbs. As distinct from regular nam pla, the anchovy-based fish sauce that is ubiquitous in Thai cooking, Isan uses pla ra, a pungent mash of fermented snakefish. I didn’t establish whether Pestle Rock uses it or not. Green papaya salad is also of Isan origin.
Their fried chicken wings (Peek Gai Tod) was one of the best wing preparations I have ever tasted. Continue reading