Living in New Orleans will spoil you for cheap, expertly-fried chicken.
On a recent trip to Austin, Texas, I visited Talad Thai and Lao Street Food truck to take a crack at their menu and see if the hype regarding their cuisine is legitimate.
It is not.
Here in the 9th Ward of New Orleans I can drive five minutes in any direction and avail myself of a two-piece, dark meat chicken plate for .99c. The fancier gas stations may charge a buck fifty but then they throw in a brown and serve roll as a bit of lagniappe.
I was desperate for a fried food fix so when I spotted Hat Yai fried Chicken I practically leaped through the food truck window. The menu boasts:
Crispy and juicy fried chicken marinated with spices and garnished with fried shallots served with tumeric curry sauce and jasmine rice.
Maybe the chef was taking the night off as I received two pieces of par-cooked, and then fried chicken sans any seasoning, any sauce or any rice for $11.
Khoa Soi Dumpling came billed as:
Fried chicken dumpling served with khoa soi curry sauce
The wan, pale, barely cooked dumplings arrived soggy and absent the bright, hot powerbomb that normally comes with this classic dish. The promised khoa soi curry sauce must have been left in the fridge and forgotten as it’s absence was sorely missed.
Sai Oui was billed as:
1/2 lb Lao Style pork sausage infused with lemongrass, lime leaves, and thai chili peppers.
Dreadful. I wanted to haul off and tear into this thing as I was absolutely starving by the time I turned my attention to it but it was clearly past its prime and should’ve been tossed in the rubbish and not served to a customer. It will take a month of eating fiery Texas hot guts sausage to get this bad taste out of my mouth.
And finally the star of the show (if the show was way off-Broadway and closed after one performance) Ka Pow – Crispy Pork Belly was described on the menu as
Tossed in our wok with garlic and ground Thai chili peppers. Finished off with holy basil. Served on a bed of jasmine rice with a sunny side up fried egg.
I work with pork belly quite a bit in my charcuterie projects and Talad’s sourcing is in dire need of improvement. A few haphazardly butchered cubes of flabby, barely-cooked pork belly squatted on a bed of nicely cooked if bland jasmine rice with zero seasoning. The sunny-side egg was frilled hard on the edges and barely runny in the middle.
This dish could’ve been salvaged if I had the time or inclination to fire up my own wok but instead I just tossed it in the trash.
Nearly $40 bucks out for my supper I was left to daydream about the Hoek’s Pizza trailer that sat in this very spot once upon a time.
The ladies running the cart could not have been friendlier but I’d prefer a bunch of crabby old grouses who are expert cooks