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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft’s Mieng Kum

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Courtest of Melissa Libby

Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft is a curious place. You enter through a small vestibule where you are greeted by an actual tuk tuk — a colorful auto rickshaw with headlights that glower at you like Darth Maul’s eyes. Then you take an elevator to the second floor where a vast, sleek, seductively lit dining room awakes. Only the witty displays of canned goods, dry crackers, colorful candies and even washing powder alert you this isn’t Thai as usual.

Tuk Tuk’s lovely young chef/owner, DeeDee Niyomkul, is the daughter of Charlie and Nan Niyomkul who have defined high-end Thai in this town at Tamarind Seed Thai Bistro and Nan Thai Fine Dining. This restaurant goes for something different. The menu lists a dozen or more small-plate versions of Thai street foods as well as a handful of Thai style salads and “Bangkok Street Noodles.”

Unique dishes include hoy tod, a crispy mussel pancake, and neau sawan, which are plugs of warm, sweet, appealingly chewy beef jerky with coriander.

However the one that most appealed to me was called mieng kum. These small spinach leaf bundles came piled with a zesty mixture of lime, ginger, onion, roasted peanuts and coconut shreds in a sticky wash of palm sugar caramel. You wrap them up, pop them in, and let all the little flavors explode in your mouth.

Not only do I remember eating varieties of this in Thailand many years ago, but I also like to make a bastardized version of it, called Thai Bar Mix, as an hors d’oeuvre to surprise my dinner guests.

The one I know consists of mini-wedges of skin-on lime, roasted peanuts, fresh ginger, hot pepper rings, green onions and tiny dried shrimp — each set out in a pile to be heaped on a leaf. That last ingredient throws people for a loop, but once they try them, they like them.

I asked Niyomkul if she would ever put dried shrimp in the mieng kum. She said not. Her restaurant tries to make Thai street food accessible to guests, not scare them off.

I can’t wait to try more food on the menu at Tuk Tuk, but I may sneak in my own dried shrimp.

By the way, check out Chloe’s great post in which she compares the food at Tuk Tuk to actual Thai street food.

Here’s my bastartized recipe, if you’re curious. It’s great with beer.

Thai Bar Mix

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

  • 5 serrano peppers
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted salted peanuts
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 limes
  • 1 length fresh ginger, about 1 1/2 inches long
  • 20 small dried shrimp
  • A pile of the largest baby spinach leaves you can find

Cut each of the peppers into about 8 thin rings. Using a small paring knife, carefully removed the seeds and pith from the center of each ring.

With your fingers, carefully separate the peanuts into halves.

Cut the smallest, most tender green shoots of the green onion into rings, about 1/4-inch thickness.

Wash and dry the limes. Cut them into thin rings, then cut each ring into 8 pieces, like a pie. Remove the center white core from each wedge.

Peel the ginger and cut it into small, even matchsticks.

Arrange each ingredient in a neat pile on a large plate. To eat: take a piece of each, combine in the leaf, and pop it all in at once.

Per serving: 66 calories (percent of calories from fat, 58), 3 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 5 grams fat, 7 milligrams cholesterol, 82 milligrams sodium.

11 comments Add your comment

jimmy

January 26th, 2010
11:42 am

Great recipe, I will file it away. I wonder if you could use bonito flakes in place of fried shrimp for those that may be a bit put off by little shrimp? I think the flavors could work?

jimmy

January 26th, 2010
11:42 am

Fried = dried in that last comment

Wooleybare

January 26th, 2010
11:44 am

Sounds yummy. where do you buy the dried shrimp?

John Kessler

January 26th, 2010
12:26 pm

Hmm….bonito flakes are smoky, while the dried shrimp are surprisingly bright and sweet. It would be very different. You can find the dried shrimp at Oriental Mart in (I think) Pinetree Plaza on BuHi. That’s the best market for Thai groceries.

Food Fan

January 27th, 2010
3:30 pm

John – I am surprised I am not seeing you at all these places! Was here last week for the first time with my girlfriend, who is not as adventurous as me when it comes to food – and that goes double for Asian food! Much like Spice Market, I again found the flavor profiles to be lacking, much more for American tastes (and I’m American) but I guess once you’ve had the real thing everything just doesn’t compare. While I did enjoy the whole steamed catfish, I didn’t enjoy much of anything else.

I also kind of feel like this restaurant is confused – they want to “make it accessible to guests” – yet they use the authentic titles & cryptic descriptions, so you end up asking the waiter what every dish is. Also, one of the weirder experiences I’ve had in a restaurant was here: The noodle dish we tried was fine, but I was told first by our waiter, and then again the busboy who brought us clean plates after our first course, that our noodle dish would be best eaten if stirred together. Then a third person brought out our noodle dish and asked us if she could stir it together for us, since that is the way it was reccomended. At this point I was more puzzled by what it would taste like if it WASN’T stirred together than actually was, and was questioning the entire time whether I ordered something wrong (kind of like when a waiter tells you he reccomends the sauce on the side, you know?)

Weird experience, food was allright, and like Taurus that is replaced, empty restaurant. I’d reccomend hustling over there before they close! Was there at 8:30 on a Friday night and it was pretty empty. Place needs to be on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. Surprising from the same family that Tamarind Seed & Nan come from…

Gerry G

January 27th, 2010
8:45 pm

I have had the pleasure of dining twice at “Tuk Tuk”. Once on Friday when there remained only one large table un-occupied and then again on Sunday. The food was so good that hearing about a new Sunday Brunch, from our waiter, we just had to give it a try. I’m not sure about the previous comment that mentioned the restaurant was empty. The Friday night we were there was very busy. The food is some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had. I ordered their version of beef jerky and while I am not a violent person, but if you tried to take any of MY beef jerky you had better be ready to defend yourself. I have had all types of jerky (beef, chicken, bison, elk, venison, etc.), yet the flavor of this topped them all. It was spicy, sweet, chewy and just plain delicious. The waiter mentioned that children seem to like this dish very much.
Another dish that was superb was the Moo Yang, a very tender skewered pork. They have a unique skewer rack for serving the Moo Yang that is almost as interesting as the dish itself, as it was fabricated from pieces of a “Tuk Tuk” (a small three wheeled taxi that looks like it would be a blast to drive – there is one on display as you enter the restaurant). The food was still the highlight of our (I was there both times with my wife) dining experiences. The flavors of the spices, meats, and vegetables blended together was truly special. Everything we had was fresh and appealing. The dishes that we had, while authentic, would have also been enjoyed by any of our grand children. The service was excellent.
The Sunday Brunch is not a traditional breakfast of pancakes, toast and eggs; but a meal of noodles, meats, eggs, and vegetables. There was a really good Thai omelet that had muscles and shrimp. We really enjoyed the change of pace from our normal Sunday breakfast.
There exist only two burning questions in my mind considering this restaurant: 1) When will we be able to return and 2) how much to rent the Taxi for this weekend?

Intowner

January 28th, 2010
2:06 pm

Just went for lunch and it was excellent. We split 4 small plates – the jerky, calamari, mieng kum and steam rolls. I highly encourage you to try this place out if you haven’t been yet.

Raphael

January 29th, 2010
4:13 pm

I went to Tuk Tuk on a whim during there grand opening week and have made it a point to eat there once a week. The overall experience is very professional and unique. Most of the time I don’t know what I order but I like the fun of having the bartender or waitor surprise me with something I may have not had before. Of course there are somethings I have to have everytime I’m there(ie: the beef jerky and the chicken drums). Somethings on the menu that are too adventurous for my simple palette but I enjoy the reward of eating something I may not have tried on my own. The menu is designed in somewhat of a tapas style and allows you to try many different dishes without having to sign your house away.
Overall I would recommend that you try this restaurant because there is something for everyone. The service is almost too good for the casual feel of the restaurant but who complains about that. And once the weather warms up the patio offers a great view of the city, save me a seat please.

Matt Mccarver

January 30th, 2010
3:40 pm

I checked this place out last night and it was awesome! The restaurant was packed and the service was really positive. We’ve been long time fans of their other two restaurants and really think this is a nice addition to their other concepts. I spoke with the manager about how they came up with this style of restaurant, turns out the grandmother was actually a street food vendor in Bangkok and that’s how she was able to support Nan when she was growing up. Its a really cute story. I read the write up the other day Mr. Kessler and I think it too was very nice. I’m sorry “Food Fan” seems to be so miserable that he can’t recognize a good thing when he sees it, but I guess this shows, just because you have the internet, doesn’t make you a food critic. I’d hold my stock in Mr. Kessler’s opinions more, his actually make it to print.

Cyndi Slater

February 14th, 2010
6:32 pm

This restaurant has become one of my favorites in the city!
The food is excellent. I find myself often trying things I normally would not order and I am always delighted with the results. The staff are so friendly and warm that I feel I am dining with family. The beautiful decor and how they have used the space is impressive (as well as the Ladies restroom) sorry guys ( : I am sure your is nice too.
My husband loves their “beef jerky” so much I almost went down to buy a pound “to go” to include in his Valentine’s gift!
Anyone who thinks they are going anywhere but up is sadly confused.
I can’t wait for warm weather to enjoy the deck and beautiful view of the city!

Andre Hylton

May 10th, 2010
3:02 pm

I had a disasterous evening at the restaurant. Actually, the food was quite tasty and my companion and I were having a nice time. At the end of the meal, in which we accumulated up a decent tab for a restaurant of this price point ($160), I left a customary 15% tip.

My companion and I walked out of the restaurant and down the elevator and to my car in the parking lot in the back of the building, where we were accosted by our waitress “Zi” who complained about the tip and asked for more money. Mortified and angered, I gave her an additional $20 dollars on top of the 15% tip. I responded in shock quite frankly and should not have given her anything.

This type of behavior is unacceptable. I have a call in to management.