TO drive around Chiang Mai, Thailand, with the chef and restaurateur Andy Ricker is to experience a particular sort of hungry man’s torment. That place, he said, pointing at a storefront or street stall, is known for stir-fried noodles, that other one for fish-head soup. We would pass right by. Elsewhere, he nodded toward a busy restaurant that he called the most famous place in town to get khao soi, a Chiang Mai specialty. Again, we drove past. By this point in his career, his standards are set. “Too sweet,” he said.
和厨师兼餐厅老板安迪·里克尔(Andy Ricker)一起驱车周游泰国清迈，对于一个肚子饿的人来说是一种特别折磨人的体验。他会指着一个店面或者一个货摊说，这里最有名的是爆炒面，那里最有名的又是鱼头汤。而我们只会径直路过。在另一个地方，他又会朝着一家火爆的餐厅点头，说那是城里吃清迈特色菜清迈面(khao soi)最有名的地方，然后我们会再一次驱车驶过。到了厨师生涯的这个阶段，他的口味标准已经定型。他会说：“那太甜了。”
Mr. Ricker, a 47-year-old, six-foot-tall native Vermonter now based in Portland, Ore., has become an unlikely ambassador for Thai food in the United States. Your only visual clue that he is someone who knows his nahm phrik noom from his nahm phrik ong is a glimpse at his right arm, which is tattooed with a mortar and pestle, bird’s eye chiles, and the holy trinity of northern Thai herbs — cilantro, green onion and phak chi farang (the last often known in the West as sawtooth).
47岁的里克尔身高6英尺，原是佛蒙特州人，目前居住在俄勒冈州的波特兰。他出人意料地成为了泰国菜在美国的“传播大使”。外表上看不出他是个能分清绿辣椒沾酱(nahm phrik noom)和番茄辣肉酱(nahm phrik ong)的人，除了他的右臂，那上面纹着研砵和杵子，以及泰式辣椒和泰北的三大香草——芫荽叶、青葱和 “phak chi farang”的图案（最后一样在西方通常称为锯齿芫荽）。
I have followed Pok Pok, his first Portland venture, since it opened in 2005, tracing its transformation from a takeout shack in his garage to a sprawling, perpetually packed restaurant. I was struck by his refusal to pander to Western tastes. Instead of pushing pad thai and peanut sauce, he serves hoy thawt, an egg-and-mussel crepe found at Thai night markets, and northern-Thai-style laap. Rather than the tart, spicy minced-meat “salad” from the northeast that most adventurous American eaters recognize, this version is spiked with blood and offal, and fragrant dried spices that give it a beguilingly bitter edge. Mr. Ricker now presides over a mini-empire in Portland with four restaurants (including Ping and Whiskey Soda Lounge) that serve food you rarely see outside of Southeast Asia. (By early 2012, he plans to open two restaurants in New York City, one on the Lower East Side and one in Brooklyn.)
自从他在波特兰的第一家店Pok Pok在2005年开张之后，我就一直跟踪着这家店，见证了它从一个车库里的外卖摊发展成一个远近闻名且永远有人打包的餐厅。里克尔拒绝迎合西式品味的做法让我吃惊。他不主推泰式炒河粉和花生酱，而是推出hoy thawt，一种来源于泰国夜市的鸡蛋配蛏子的煎饼；还有一种泰北风味的生肉沙拉。那并不是大多数勇于尝试的美国食客所熟悉的泰国东北部酸辣碎肉沙拉，而是另一种做法：加入血和内脏，还有各种芳香的干香料，让它有种令人陶醉的微苦调子。里克尔如今在波特兰的餐饮小帝国包括4家餐厅（其中有Ping餐厅和威士忌苏打餐厅[Whiskey Soda Lounge]），供应一些在东南亚以外的地方很少见的食物。（他计划到2012年初在纽约开两家餐厅，分别在下东区和布鲁克林区。）
Eager to learn more about Thai cuisine, I arranged to meet him during a trip to Portland to discuss the possibility of writing a cookbook. He had already been considering it, so we agreed to collaborate. Our first order of business, he insisted, was a trip to Chiang Mai to eat at the places that inspired the food at Pok Pok. While he makes food from all over Thailand, he is especially enamored of the food of the north.
It was there that he first encountered a bowl of curry — devoid of coconut milk, but full of local wild mushrooms — that convinced him there was an entire universe of Thai food unknown to Westerners. And it is where he has returned most often during the past two decades to meticulously research the dishes that end up on his menus. So in May we made the trip, hitting a few of the dining spots that provided some of his earliest revelations. I discovered dishes that were staggeringly tasty, but also humbling reminders of how little even a self-appointed Thai food fanatic like me actually knows about the country’s cuisine. And none of our meals cost more than 200 baht (about $6 at about 29 baht to the dollar) for two people.
In Chiang Mai, there is food everywhere: rows of vendors selling bowls of noodles or coils of sausage, bustling outdoor markets where inscrutable soups and stews are set out in trays and in plastic to-go bags, and street stalls where treats hidden inside banana leaf packages are grilled over charcoal. “In the beginning, you have no idea what any of this stuff is,” Mr. Ricker said as we ogled dozens of bowls of chile relishes at a covered market. “And you can’t ask anyone because you don’t know more than a few words of Thai.”
It was good fortune, then, that early in his adventures, he met Chavalit Van, known as Mr. Lit. Now in his early 60s, Mr. Lit opened SP Chicken in 1977 on the moat road that surrounds the old city. He recently retired, leaving the daily operation of the restaurant to his wife and daughter, but Mr. Ricker almost always spots him out back, entertaining his grandson.
幸好在他冒险生涯的早期遇上了被称为“利先生”的昭华利(Chavalit Van)。现年60多岁的利先生1977年在旧市区周边的护城河边开了SP Chicken餐厅。他最近才退休，把日常经营交给了他的妻子和女儿，不过里克尔几乎总能看到他在餐厅后面和孙子玩。
The first thing you see at SP Chicken — and the items that first caught Mr. Ricker’s attention — are the lemongrass- and garlic-stuffed chickens rotating out front on a vertical spit beside a wall of glowing charcoal. “When I finally approached him to figure out how he did it,” said Mr. Ricker, of Mr. Lit’s poultry, “I said something in halting Thai and he responded in near-perfect English.” They struck up a friendship, and later Mr. Lit taught him how he modified the cheap rotisseries you find in Bangkok’s Chinatown.
During a brief but furious Thai rainstorm, we sat beneath the restaurant’s aluminum awning on plastic chairs while the two old friends caught up. As we ate sticky rice, papaya salad and those flavor-packed birds, hacked into pieces and served with a sweet, spicy dipping sauce, they discussed the toils of running restaurants. The food is incredibly good, but it’s not just the flavors at SP Chicken that inspired Mr. Ricker. “I love that he has been making more or less the same food for more than 30 years,” he said.
SP Chicken, 31/1 Sri Phum Road; no phone.
地址：SP Chicken，31/1 Sri Phum Road；无电话
Krua Phech Doi Ngam
SP Chicken serves food mainly from Isaan, the northeast region of Thailand. But the area west of Isaan, often referred to as northern Thailand, explained Mr. Ricker, has its own distinctive cuisine, and he was eager to replicate the happy bewilderment he felt when he first discovered the distinction. So we headed toward Krua Phech Doi Ngam, a restaurant with an encyclopedic menu of local dishes. We sampled several that have counterparts at Pok Pok, including jin hoom (a beef stew seasoned with turmeric), yam kai meuang (an intensely flavored chicken soup) and yam samun phrai (an herb-heavy salad).
“SP Chicken”餐厅供应的主要是泰国东北部伊森地区的食物。不过里克尔说，伊森西部通常被称为泰北，那里也拥有独特的烹饪菜色，他很想回味自己当初发现这种区别时那种悦愉的困惑。于是我们便前往“Krua Phech Doi Hgam”，这家餐厅的菜谱如同当地菜色的百科全书。我们选取了几样在“Pok Pok”有对应菜色的菜品，包括“jin hoom”（一种用姜黄调味的炖牛肉）、“yam kai meuang”（一种香气浓烈的鸡汤）和“yam samun phrai”（一种加入大量香草的沙拉）。
The salad was a particular highlight: a boisterous sweet-tart jumble of more than a dozen ingredients, including thinly sliced betel leaf, fried shallots, cashews and shredded fresh white turmeric. “This dish really kicked it off for me,” Mr. Ricker said. “I thought, ‘If this is northern Thai food, then I love northern Thai food.’ ”
Krua Phech Doi Ngam, 125/3 Moo 3, Mahidon Road; (66-53) 812-051.
地址：Krua Phech Doi Ngam, 125/3 Moo 3, Mahidon Road；电话：(66-53)812-051
Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham
Because a trip to Chiang Mai without a bowl of khao soi would be like a trip to Texas without barbecued brisket, our next destination was Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham to sample one of Mr. Ricker’s favorite renditions of the dish. In an open-air space, with a basic kitchen in front, a busy staff fills bowl after bowl with house-made noodles, then a ladle full of ruddy, pork-and-chicken-based broth from an enormous pot, a small dose of fresh coconut cream, and finally a little crown of crunchy fried noodles.
去清迈不吃一碗清迈面，就好比去德克萨州不吃烤排骨一样，因此我们的下一站是去Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham餐厅，到里克尔认为做清迈面做得最好的地方去尝一尝。在一片户外空间里，一个简单的厨房在前面，忙碌的员工们一碗接一碗地盛出自制面条，然后拿长柄勺从一个巨大的锅里舀一勺色泽红润，以猪肉和鸡肉为底料的饱满肉汤，加少量新鲜椰浆，最后再盖上一点鲜脆的炸面条。
Almost 20 years ago, Mr. Ricker’s initial slurp of this particularly fine version — just barely sweet, with complex flavors of Thai curry paste and a hint of Burmese curry powder — was a watershed moment. Much of northern food confronts newcomers with exciting but occasionally challenging flavors. Not so khao soi. “It’s exotic without being weird and, most important, completely delicious,” Mr. Ricker said.
Just a few minutes after he ordered, plates cluttered our table, an uneven surface that he guessed was a repurposed door draped with bright-blue oilcloth. Bowls of khao soi were joined by an assortment of northern Thai dishes that I’d never eaten in the States, except at Pok Pok: gaeng hung leh (hunks of pork belly and shoulder in a rich curry), nahm phrik noom (a fiery green-chile relish) and sai ua (herbaceous pork sausage).
他点菜之后才几分钟，我们的桌上就已经堆满了盘子，桌子表面凹凸不平，他猜想那是用一扇门改造而成的，上面铺了一场亮蓝色油布。除了清迈面，还有一系列泰北式配菜，在美国，除了Pok Pok之外我没在其他任何地方吃过这些：gaeng hung leh（大块的咖喱猪肚和猪肘子）、nahm phrik noom（一种劲辣的绿辣椒沾酱）还有sai ua（加了香草的猪肉香肠）。
Between bites, Mr. Ricker asked a waitress in Thai about the particulars of the khao soi broth, which in turn led to a discussion of the restaurant’s history. The waitress led us to her mother, the proprietor of the more than 70-year-old establishment, who guided us to a two-color placard hanging in the dining room — a photo of her mother in the same spot, as a young woman, many decades ago.
Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham, 352/22 Charoen Rat Road; (66-53) 243-519.
地址：Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham, 352/22 Charoen Rat Road；电话：(66-53)243-519
Pa Daeng Jin Tup
“Restaurant” might be too strong a word for this spot on a dirt patch on the side of the road, about 15 minutes northeast of Chiang Mai, now scattered with a hodgepodge of tables and benches haphazardly nailed together. “It’s amazing what Thai cooks can accomplish in such rudimentary kitchens,” Mr. Ricker said, as we watched the cook use a crude pulley system to raise and lower a meat-covered rack over glowing charcoal.
Pa Daeng specializes in northern Thai drinking food — one of Mr. Ricker’s newest obsessions, which he explores at Whiskey Soda Lounge. We alternated slugs of Leo beer on ice with bites of charred pig teat, jin tup (grilled flank steak whacked with a hammer until it shreds), sour fermented ground pork, and tremendously tasty but comically tough strips of beef. “I’ve heard they call it ‘crying tiger’ because not even a tiger could chew it,” Mr. Ricker said.
Pa Daeng Jin Tup餐厅的特色是泰北的下酒菜——里克尔最新迷上的菜系，并且也正在他的威士忌苏打餐厅里尝试。我们一边大口喝着豹王(Leo)冰啤酒，一边咬着烤焦的猪乳头、jin tup（用槌子打碎的侧腹牛排做的烤肉）、发酵的酸碎猪肉，还有极度美味但是硬得出奇的牛肉条。“我听说他们管它叫‘老虎哭’，因为连老虎都嚼不开它。”里克尔说。
The mom in this mom-and-pop operation recognized Mr. Ricker (not many foreigners make it here) and came over to chat. “Made from pig brain,” she said in Thai, watching me dig into a custardy bundle that had been grilled in a banana leaf. “If you eat it, you’ll get smart,” she added with a laugh.
Mr. Ricker was in his element and happy, having befriended one of the cats slinking around at our feet and having so clearly succeeded in his quest to impress me. Gesturing at the colorful plastic plates that we had leisurely emptied, he asked a rhetorical question: “Did you ever think Thai food could taste like this?”
Pa Daeng Jin Tup, Ban San Sai, Noy Moo 9, Highway 1001, San Sai; no phone.
地址：Pa Daeng Jin Tup, Ban San Sai, Noy Moo9, Highway 1001, San Sai；无电话