Like any love affair, the early days of my Thailand obsession—which is into its ninth year—saw me taking to well-known Thai dishes; but as the relationship goes on but with a bit less sizzle, I started seeking out lesser-known comfort dishes, such as paak paet thort (fried duck beak), a low-key Isaan dish that not many people knew about. My food-loving Thai colleague, Sai, introduced it to me one day while we were having lunch at a street-side Isaan stall beside a petrol station. I never knew that duck beaks could be eaten, but Sai assured me that it was yummy. After sampling this chewy delicacy, I was intrigued—and hooked.
Prior to my recent departure from Bangkok—I just moved back to Singapore, with Mr. P in tow—I requested for paak paet thort at my favourite Isaan joint in the city. I’m sure there are lots of superb Isaan spots around—after all Bangkok is overrun with northeastern folks and food—but Jay Koi (เจ้ก้อย) is my go-to when I crave for regional specialties from this fiery region. Plus, Jay Koi’s no-frills, down-to-earth approach of Mr. P’s native cuisine has garnered his nod of approval.
A few days before our flight out, we traipsed to Jay Koi, which was tucked beside a traffic-thronged Phetchaburi Road. The pavements weren’t clean, the cramped interiors were lit by fluorescent light while the ‘pok, pok, pok’ sounds of pestles pounding mortars constantly mixed with the human din, but Jay Koi embodied Bangkok roadside dining at its best. Perched on rickety stools and a stainless-steel table hastily wept clean, we thumbed through the laminated menu and opted for our favourite dishes, such as paak paet thort; kaeng om (a spicy Isaan-style soup infused with dill and plaa raa, or fermented fish sauce); som tam khor muu yang (papaya salad with grilled pork neck); and naam tok nuea (grilled beef), alongside chilled beer. We knew that in Singapore, certain Isaan specialties—particularly the former two—would be harder to find.
The dinner that ensued was simple, yet deeply satisfying. After our bellies were filled, I inquired Mr. P about the meal. “No disappointment,” was his reply. And with that, one of our last meals in Bangkok concluded on a saep (delicious in the Isaan dialect) note. Farewell, Jay Koi. Farewell, paak paet thort. Farewell, Thailand. Goodbye for now, but we’ll be back.