Brooklyn and Manhattan are chock-full of medicore Thai takeout joints, but southeast Asian food aficionados know you have to head to Queens spots like SriPraPhai and Ayada if you’re in search of a seriously spicy, authentic Thai meal. We have Pok Pok of course, with its off-the-wall menu, beer slushies and hours-long lines, but that’s a cuisine of its own.
Kao Soy, which recently opened in Red Hook, may not be quite ready to enter the SriPraPhai pantheon yet, but it’s a major step above your standard neighborhood delivery place. The owners are a local couple, Carlos Padillo and Kanlaya Supachana, and much of the menu comes from Supachana’s hometown of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. You’ll find your usual pad see-ew and chicken curries here, but you’ll want to skip those and go straight for the many unusual dishes you’ve probably never tasted if you haven’t been to Thailand (or at least to Woodside).
The namesake, and standout, kao soy is a monster of a noodle dish that is something like pad thai on steroids. A base of soft egg noodles come swimming in thick red curry, with juicy chicken drumsticks soaking in the mix and a mountain of crispy fried egg noodles on top, along with delicate slices of batter-fried papaya. Pickles served on the side add a little extra bite, as does the hot chili oil. It’s a beast of a dish to dissect and eat (you’ll need a combo of fork, spoon and fingers), but the diverse mix of rich flavors and textures is worth digging in for.
For those of you thinking “that doesn’t sound crazy enough,” move on to the amazingly-named kha nom jean kiew wan khoong ma prao on (yes, that’s one dish), which takes a basic green curry and kicks it up quite a few notches with rice vermicelli noodles, spicy shrimp, slices of coconut meat, veggies, a medium-boiled egg, fried dried smelts and prik nam pla, a delicious spicy fish sauce condiment. The add-ons are helpfully served on the side, so you can order this even if your group consists of both fearless foodies and those who would rather not have pungent freshwater fish tossed into their curry.
Getting even fishier, a fried whole red snapper is done perfectly, with crispy sides that come right off by the forkful, and dipped in a very spicy red chili paste, also thankfully served on the side (tread carefully with this one), while a bitter melon soup is included to cleanse your palate. On the appetizer list, even the much simpler chicken and shrimp dumplings are tasty as well, while the towering banana blossom fritters, served with a spicy garlic-lime sauce are a crispy, greasy mess of excitement.
This is a great addition to Red Hook’s Van Brunt street food scene, which consists mostly of quick cafes and excellent expensive restaurants, but few in-between options. The noodle dishes are all in the $9 to $12 range, while seafood is slightly more expensive but tops out at $22 for the whole snapper. Kao Soy is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week; no alcohol is served yet, but you can get a fresh coconut with a straw, and two neighborhood dives, Red Hook Bait and Tackle and Brooklyn Ice House, are right across the street for post-curry drinks.
Kao Soy, 283 Van Brunt Street (near Pioneer), 718-875-1155