Jake and I made the 3.5 hour trek back to the Twin Cities after work on Friday. The drive to and from Fargo is a straight shot down I-94, and a rather uneventful one at that.
Jake fills up on coffee and drives, while I usually fall asleep around hour two to escape hour two of the Adam Carolla podcast.
One of my goals this past year has been to order a whole fish.
So, on Saturday, Jake and I stopped by our favorite haunt, Bangkok Thai Deli.
Bangkok Thai Deli (Look for the sparkly, mosaic smokestack)
315 University Ave. W.
St. Paul, MN 55103
For the first time, we ordered our meal to enjoy inside the deli. I noticed the table in front of us order a whole, fried fish covered in a spicy-looking sauce with herbs. So, mimicked what I’ve seen Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern do on television. I pointed at their table and asked for what they were having. We also ordered the spicy, grilled beef laarb and Jake’s favorite chicken pad thai, per usual.
Amongst a bustling, full house, we sipped on hot tea and Thai coffee swirled with sweetened condensed milk while we waited for our order. I noticed a few copies of a “special menu” offering foods such as roasted duck, ribs fried in some kind of salt and chili mixture, and other items not included in Bangkok Thai’s normal menu.
After a short wait, our waiter delivered our first, whole fish. It was giant, deep-fried and glistening in red sauce (I think our waiter mentioned tri-flavored sauce).
We navigated around the fish’s spiny fins and delicately nibbled its crispy skin and hatch-marked flesh. The meat tasted clean and fresh without even the faintest “fishiness.” I’ll have to admit that I was rather frightened of my whole fish when I noticed it grinning/grimacing at me with multiple rows of tiny teeth.
We forged ahead, spitting out the occasional bones and licking the sweet and spicy chili sauce from our fingers.
Jake removed its head and dug around for tender cheek meat while I froze in fear with one chopstick in the air. Later, I squeamishly picked up the fish head and relaxed a little as I cupped it in my fingers and realized it would not and could not move.
We both enjoyed our first, whole fish experience and I’m sure I’ll become more comfortable with the experience with repetition. During my college years, I was terrified of peel and eat shrimp and made my friend peel them for me. Now, I prefer my shrimp with their heads on and shell and legs intact and peel them for others. When you grow up so far removed from eating food that resembles food, it can take time, exposure, and practice to become comfortable. Like any new skill, trying new foods, especially food with teeth, can feel scary so be patient with yourself.
These prefaced a family gathering that followed our whole fish adventure later in the evening. . .