Pok Pok NY's Papaya Pok Pok, One of Our 100 Favorite Dishes

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No. 31: Papaya pok pok from Pok Pok NY

The simple papaya salad is a good measuring stick for the quality of a Thai restaurant--and at Pok Pok NY, the dish is a standout on the menu.

It's usually the curries, laaps, and charcoal-grilled meats that we come away from a Thai restaurant babbling about, but we use the green papaya salad as our measuring stick for the place. This dish is ubiquitous in Southeast Asia--albeit you see it in many subtly different forms, since each region makes its own version--often cobbled together on the side of a road in a mortar and pestle. Here in the States, we order it at every Thai restaurant we set foot in because if it's good, it's usually a harbinger of what's to come. The green papaya salad at Pok Pok is very good (that the eatery is named for the mortar and pestle should make this no surprise), and its success, we suspect, comes from its made-to-order simplicity: Fresh, snappy strips of green papaya, long beans, and firm chunks of tomato go into a just-muddled bath of fish sauce, tamarind, garlic, dried shrimp, peanuts, and fresh lime, which coats the produce thoroughly but not so much that your papaya wilts by the time you take your last bite. Achieving that elusive balance between tart, umami, spicy, and sweet--a combination that'll entice you to polish off an entire dish even if you're supposed to be sharing with your table--the salad is plated with a substantial chunk of a head of cabbage, which adds more crisp textural contrast if you eat it with or between bites. Pok Pok owner Andy Ricker is clear that Thai heat should not blow your face off, and this won't--but it's got enough of a spark that sticky rice is a welcome addition. And besides, that gives you a way to soak up remaining juices after the rest of your food is gone.

Later this year, we'll pen our Best of New York issue, our annual love letter to what's great in this town. When that paper hits the streets, you'll find our picks for the very best this city has to offer when it comes to dozens of cuisines, restaurants, dishes, and drinks. Until then, you can get a taste of our contenders as we count down, in no particular order, our 100 favorite dishes from around the boroughs, a list of laudable eats worth tracking down right now.

No. 100: Taqueria Lower East Side's carnitas
No. 99: Tartine's steamed mussels
No. 98: Malu's Cookie Monster ice cream
No. 97: Coppelia's Havana salad
No. 96: Falansai's clay pot catfish
No. 95: Uncle Boons' Khao Soi Kaa Kai
No. 94: ABC Cocina's salted caramel "impossible" flan
No. 93: Shu Jiao Fu Zhou Cuisine's peanut noodles
No. 92: Distilled's country-fried duck and waffles
No. 91: Calliope's octopus salad
No. 90: Charlie Bird's diver scallop crudo
No. 89: Silver Moon Bakery's fig and pepper bread
No. 88: Stage Restaurant's egg, cheese, and sausage on a roll
No. 87: Manzanilla's Marbella's Full Moon
No. 86: Bia's Cary Ga
No. 85: La Newyorkina's pineapple jalapeño paleta
No. 84: Empellón Taqueria's skirt steak tacos
No. 83: Sugar Sweet Sunshine's pistachio cupcake
No. 82: El Chivito d'Oro's skirt steak
No. 81: Saro Bistro's satarash
No. 80: Oda House's adjaruli khatchapuri
No. 79: Hill Country Chicken's pie milkshake
No. 78: Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue's chili mac
No. 77: The Musket Room's steak and cheese pie
No. 76: Battery Harris' Baked Patties
No. 75: Legend's Dan Dan Noodles
No. 74: Pure Thai's Nakorn-Patom duck noodles soup
No. 73: Melt Bakery's Morticia
No. 72: Calexico's Baja Fish Taco
No. 71: Sushi Dojo's Omakase
No. 70: Bear's smoked whitefish
No. 69: Locanda Verde's corn ravioli
No. 68: Ghenet's Ghenet Combination
No. 67: Ample Hills Creamery's ice cream
No. 66: Burger & Barrel's Burger
No. 65: Radegast's Munich pretzel
No. 64: Mighty Quinn's Burnt End Baked Beans
No. 63: Cho Dang Gol's spicy galbi jjim
No. 62: Tacos Mexico's chorizo taco
No. 61: Pork Slope's loaded nachos
No. 60: Pine Box Rock Shop's bloody mary
No. 59: Franny's antipasto plate
No. 58: Num Pang's curry red lentil soup
No. 57: Khe-Yo's Jurgielewicz duck salad
No. 56: Dough's doughnut (any doughnut)
No. 55: King Noodle's ma po tofu fries
No. 54: Terri's green power smoothie
No. 53: Estela's beef tartare
No. 52: Pho Grand's pork chop pho
No. 51: Stella 34 Trattoria's chocolate gelato
No. 50: RedFarm's spicy crispy beef
No. 49: Bhojan's daal tadka
No. 48: Pig and Khao's khao soi
No. 47: The Grand's handmade pierogies
No. 46: Dominick's Deli's Dante's Inferno
No. 45: The Queens Kickshaw's deep-fried squash blossoms
No. 44: Black Tree's squash blossom sandwich
No. 43: Nan Xiang's xiao long bao
No. 42: Jones Wood Foundry's bangers and mash
No. 41: White Bear's wontons
No. 40: The Harrison's toasted couscous and farro salad
No. 39: Katja's sausage sampler
No. 38: Magpies' strawberry-balsamic magpie
No. 37: Bunker's pho ga
No. 36: Fritzl's Lunch Box's burger
No. 35: Biang's lotus root salad
No. 34: BrisketTown's brisket
No. 33: Bronx Ale House's alehouse nachos
No. 32: Shinobi Ramen's mabo ramen

Know a dish we shouldn't miss? E-mail us.




Location Info

Pok Pok NY

127 Columbia St., New York, NY

Category: Restaurant

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