Makansutra: These pork spines are not ‘throwaway food’
Doused with tom yum and sprinkled with chilli, they taste better than they look
To the genteel and uninitiated foodie, content with and always extolling the pleasures of vegetable, fish and tofu, a whole platter of pork spine sitting in a soup with sprinkles of chopped greens and chilli may look like dog food.
And to the methodical chefs in pristine kitchens - they are bones for the stock pot.
"Throwaway" food concepts over the years have moved from peasant to iconic – fish head curry, bak kut teh, chicken wings (still not a thing in the United Kingdom) and even pig heads (which Filipinos have converted into sisig, a grilled and chopped pig head dish).
And then there is pork spine.
The folks at Leng Saap, who first made this dish popular at the Rot Fai Market in Bangkok, have set up shop at Golden Mile Tower.
They take a pile of pork spines, braise them till soft and shower them with ladles of Thai-style tom yum broth, and suddenly the dish looks like it has huge "peasant food" potential.
The hilarious food influencers, the Wongnai duo from Thailand (they slam tables and throw their heads back with unearthly joy when they enjoy the food), made a viral video of this dish, but really, the food itself will have you coming back for more.
The ingenuity lies in using it naturally for stock, then livening it up with lime, lemongrass and chilli.
The porkiness is completely lost in the broth and the meat is fall-off-the-bone soft.
And yes, there is a lot of meat around these quarters of the animal, including soft bone and cartilage.
We ordered the XXL portion ($58.85), good for seven but can please 10 people quite easily.
Four foot-long meaty spines are stacked upwards like campfire wood, with at least another eight smaller pieces peeking through the crevices.
The dish is tangy, sharp and spicy (you select the level of spiciness upon order, and I recommended starting at level 2).
And if you come in smaller parties, choose the tinier portions (starting from $19.26 - do not ask me about the strange and inconvenient pricing policy) which are less visibly shocking but generous too.
Remember not to overlook the humble side dishes that pair well, like the Creamy Egg with Prawn and Tomato ($10.70) and Thai prawn cake ($12.84), which is crispy on the outside but soft and moist on the inside.
Another bite not to miss is the Thai Chilli Seafood ($10.70). Prawn and squid are given the tempura treatment, then stir-fried in a rich, sticky, mildly spicy and garlicky sauce.
Like the Wongnai duo, feel free to slap the tables and throw your head back in ecstasy after the meal.
And because the area is lively and quite loud, with all the Thai music blaring from the neighbouring stalls, chatter and laughter, you will blend right in.
B1-65, Golden Mile Tower
12pm to 10pm daily