Peking Duck - Hua Seng Hong Restaurant, Bangkok
Fact (NOT hyperbole): this ducky dish possesses the mystical power to convert duck haters into duck fanatics. Unlike Peking duck served in the U.S., this one is made with duck skin only, and its non-greasy crispiness is unparalleled. Wrap a piece of this crispy goodness in a soft, silk-thin rice pancake along with fresh vegetables and a spoonful of hoisin-based sauce, put it in your mouth, and a tastebud euphoria shall ensue!
Spicy Stir-Fried Razor Clams - Krua Bang Tabun, Petchaburi
At a glance, these clams may seem like solidified Martian sperm. Upon closer observation, well, they still resemble some sort of alien secretions. Beauty might not be one of this dish's attributes, but deliciousness certainly is. As weird-looking as they are, these razor clams are cooked to perfection--tender, boldly flavored, and delicately spiced with aromatic herbs, rendering this dish an absolute must-try.
Spicy Crab-Roe Dip with Sea Beans - Krua Bang Tabun, Phetchaburi
Made with rich, unctuous crab roe and a bunch of who-knows-what ingredients, it is a dish that seems deceivingly simple but is surprisingly complex in flavor. It comes with fresh vegetables including cabbage, string beans, cucumber, galangal (ginger's close cousin), and the most succulent of all, blanched sea beans topped with thick coconut cream. Crab-roe dip and blanched sea beans, in my not so humble opinion, should make it to the Food-Duo Hall of Fame, alongside peanut butter and jelly, hummus and pita, biscuits and gravy, and other world-renowned pairs.
Khao Perp (Sukhothai Noodle Soup) - Khao Perp Yai Kreung, Sukhothai
Flavor-wise, there's nothing extraordinary about this dish--just a delicious bowl of noodle soup with a nice broth and good ingredients--but the unique preparation of it and the restaurant's surroundings are what make one's experience here a little dining adventure. First of all, the noodles are prepared fresh right there in the outdoor kitchen, on the rudimentary clay stove with huge firewood branches partially sticking out. What's more? This family-run open-air eatery is charmingly situated in the courtyard of their own house, in a pretty remote area of town encircled by lush greenery. A few chicken coops and wandering house cats add to the homespun atmosphere. And thanks to the family's genuine hospitality, one can't help but feel more like a guest than a customer.
Colorful Thai Pasta and Curries - Khanomchin Baan Na, Sukhothai
I don't usually use the word "cute" to describe food unless it's an artistically frosted cupcake, a resplendent jar of assorted candy or a cake model of Snoopy. This curry-centric restaurant, though, is an exception, offering an outstanding demonstration that savory dishes can be cute, too. Colorizing pasta isn't such a hard task, but arranging it into neat bite-size bundles deserves extra appreciation. Accompanied by a dazzling array of authentic Thai curries, served in dainty ceramic bowls, it is a meal to remember indeed.