recollections of childhood on a far east island brought sweetness and spice to this chef’s dream of a true Thai experience

by A. Napadol

Koh Samui, my restaurant’s namesake, is an island in the south of Thailand; the country’s second-largest island after Phuket, it has an area of 88 square miles, a population of 63,000, and a regional flavor profile that includes the most delicious Paenang Curry, galangal (a collection of tropical spices), green peppercorns, and lemongrass that you will ever taste.

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I haven’t been back since leaving when very young, but have long dreamt of those early days—the tranquil sunsets, the fresh fish, coconut trees, and Rambutan fruits—and was determined to find a place in Brooklyn to bring the island’s relaxed and chill vibe to a borough that seemed to me to be more stressed every day.

I moved from my native country to New York in 1989 to work with a large gemstone buyer and seller, and quickly found that, though there was no shortage of Thai restaurants, none I encountered served dishes the way we made them back home. It had been my dream for years to have my own restaurant that served fare that not only reflected the regional flavors of my memory, but made people feel great generally, and energized particularly.

Thai cuisine is complex; its recipes typically include many different dried and root spices, a number of which have medicinal effects. Polyphenols, a plant compound found in spices like cinnamon, chili peppers, turmeric, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary, has a variety of health benefits, not least antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (they are also abundant in certain fruits and vegetables, tea, and red wine).

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Ray Catena Spread

Our menu has this deliciousness/healing synergy in mind, organized with the idea of a balance of savory, sour, spicy and sweet.

Pad Thai Jumbo Shrimp
(Gluten free)
Ingredients: sauce
4 tbsp. tamarind juice
2 tbsp. water
4 tbsp. plum sugar
1 tsp. natural sea salt (or Himalayan pink salt)
1 tsp. fish sauce (optional)
1/4 tsp. hot chili powder (optional)
3 tbsp. Sriracha Sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending upon level of spice preferred)

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Method
Put sauce ingredients in small pot and cook for 5 minutes until everything is dissolved, then set aside.

Ingredients: pad thai
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
10 pieces jumbo shrimp (shelled and cleaned)
12 ozs. dry rice noodles (soaked in water for 1 hour then drained)
2 tbsp. sweet turnip (finely diced)
2 tbsp. black bean curd (diced)
2 eggs
2 cups bean sprouts
2 tbsp. toasted peanuts (crushed to small pieces)
1 lime
4 stems chives or scallions (chopped)

Method
Heat oil in a frying pan. When it is hot, add shrimp, eggs, black bean curd, and sweet turnip. Stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add noodles and prepared pad thai sauce, stir-fry for a minute, then add crushed
peanuts, bean sprouts, and chives (or scallions). Stir quickly then turn off heat and squeeze lime (add a piece of lime to the side of the dish if needed). Enjoy!

TIPS: Always toast the peanuts for a little extra smoke and spice, and don’t forget to brag that this dish is gluten free!

Wine Pairing
Albarino Reisling,
Spain, 2015
The white grape Albarino grows beautifully in southern Spain and Portugal. I love this wine with Shrimp Pad Thai’s salty, tangy, and sweet qualities. Albarino’s flavor staying power, light body,
and high acidity results in refreshing citrus flavors, crisp definition, ripe fruit of peach and pear, and a floral exoticism. It’s also, and surprisingly, quite dry.

Wine Pairing

Samui
15 Vanderbilt Avenue / 917.909.1032 / samuibrooklyn.com