Trying to find authentic Thai food in South Florida is like searching good Chinese, Vietnamese or Korean food. This isn't Los Angeles; we just don't have the people here to make it. You're best chance of finding truly authentic fare is to make nice with a foreign family and invite yourself over for dinner.
But -- if you live in Palm Beach -- you've already got one foot in the door thanks to Malakor Thai, where family recipes are all you'll get from co-owners "Noopy" Areerak and Suchart Tiachaoen. Thailand natives, both wanted to bring the true taste of homestyle Thai cuisine to their small cafe that opened in Northwood Village in early 2011.
Now, newly opened Bangkok Jam is bringing the tradition to Royal Palm Beach, where the two chefs have created a second location, moving west to establish a new concept in a shopping plaza at the corner of Royal Palm Beach Boulevard and Okeechobee.
Sure, it's a hike for anyone south of West Palm Beach (and even those in West Palm Beach proper), but if you're lucky enough to be close by, what you'll get is a taste of some of the best Thai food in the area, priced beyond "affordable."
Just a few months ago the space was home to A-1 Thai, but has been completely revamped for Areerak and Tiachaoen's new Bangkok Jam -- a more casual, less expensive option than Malakor, but offering the same great food. Open for lunch and dinner, the menu consists of recipes straight from the family cookbook, dishes one would make at home. Priced lower than Malakor, small and large plates range from $4 to $13, and are half-priced at lunch from $6.95 to $8.95.
"We have a lot of people that come here and take advantage of our lunch prices, ordering to-go and taking it home with them for dinner," a server told Clean Plate Charlie. "The portions are only slightly smaller, so you get a lot for what you pay."
Each dish is lovingly made from scratch thanks to Areerak's sister, Suriya Sarjai, who prepares fresh sauces and staples used daily at Malakor -- and now for Bangkok Jam. A variety of comfort foods and standard Thai specialties have been put together for a menu offering everything from appetizers, soups and salad to dinner entrees, rice and noodles, curry and stir fried plates. Sushi will come next, they promise, but not until the business begins to pick-up.
There's golden bags, a mix of chicken, shrimp, corn and sweet potato wrapped in a spring roll rice paper skin and fried until golden brown. Plump and fragrant, they make a perfect starter. Of course the free plate of fresh rolls is the way to go; for a limited time dine-in patrons can get a plate while they wait, two large wraps stuffed with shrimp, fresh vegetables and bean sprouts. It's served with two housemade sauces: a tangy-sweet sauce with a touch of heat and crunchy peanuts, or sweet and sour.
Starters abound with five different soups to choose from, including a coconut with cilantro, galanga (a ginger-like plant), scallions, mushrooms and lime juice. The salads are equally diverse, and offer fresh ingredients like green papaya, sliced beef, minced chicken or green apple. Main plates include several stir fries, curry and -- of course -- noodles and rice bowls.
If you're a lover of noodles, ask for the Pad Kee Mao (pictured above). A Chinese-influenced stir fried noodle dish, it's made with broad rice noodles, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic and vegetables. At Bangkok Jam, holy basil -- not to be confused with Thai basil -- gives this dish a fragrant, spicy twist. Where Thai basil is the sweeter of the two with its distinct anise or licorice flavor, holy basil -- also known as "hot basil" -- is spicy. Its peppery notes are enhanced when cooked, which makes it perfect for use in stir fries and -- of course -- this dish.
Malakor Thai and Sushi is at 1232 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. in Royal Palm Beach. They are open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday to Sunday. For more information call 561-371-6001, or visit the Facebook page.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.
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