To the genteel and uninitiated foodie, contented with and always extoling the pleasures of vegetables, fish and tofu, this looks like dog food. A whole platter of pork spine sitting in a soup with sprinkles of chopped greens and chilli. And to the methodical chefs in pristine kitchens decked in clean chef finery- it’s bones for the stock pot. “Throwaway” food concepts over the years have moved from peasant to iconic, like fish head curry, bak kut teh (pork ribs were once regarded as throwaways), chicken wings (still not a thing in United Kingdom) and even pig heads (which the Filipinos converted into Sisig, a grilled and chopped pig head dish). They are all multi-million dollar food business icons around the world.
Now, there’s pork spine. These folks took a pile of them, braise them till soft and showered it with ladles of Thai style tom yum broth. Suddenly this looks like another huge peasant food potential. The Leng Saap people, who first made this dish popular at their Rod Fai Night Market in Bangkok, have now set up shop here. The hilarious food influencer Wongnai guys (they slam the tables and thrash their heads back in unearthly joy when they enjoy the food) made a viral video of the dish but, really, the food itself will have you come back for more. The spine is where most butchers chuck it away after chopping off the prime ribs. The ingenuity of this dish is they use the spine, naturally for stock, then liven it is up with limes, lemongrass, chillies (and some stuff). The porkiness is completely lost in the broth and meat is fall-off-bone soft. And my, there’s a lot of meat around these quarters of the animal, including some soft bones and cartilage. We ordered the XXL size ($58.85cts), good for 7 it says, but it can please 10 people quite easily. From a distance it looks like a scale model of Huang Shan mountain in China sitting on a mossy lake and it’s absolutely photogenic, a carefully thought of plating trick they implemented. Four, foot long meaty spines are stacked upwards like campfire wood, with at least another 8 smaller pieces peeking through the crevices. It is meaty and very tangy, sharp and spicy (you select the level of spiciness upon order). Start at level 2, a friendly warning from me. And if you come in smaller parties, choose the tinier portions (starting from $19.26, and don’t ask me why the strange and inconvenient pricing policy) which are less visibly shocking but very generous too.
Technically, you can just order a platter of the spine soup, douse it over the rice and pretend you have OCD (obsessive compulsive behaviour) and take your time to scrap and rip the meat off the spine. But don’t overlook their humble side dishes that pair well, like stir fry kangkong ($7.45), because greens is good distraction to this meal, and the Thai prawn cake ($12.84), crispy but with a very soft and moist inside. Another bite not to miss is the Thai Chilli Seafood ($10.70) - they first tempura some prawns and squid, then stir fry it in a rich, sticky, mildly spicy and garlicky sauce.
Like the Wongnai duo, you can slam the tables and throw your head back in possessed joy after the meal, because the area is very lively and quite loud, what with all the Thai music blaring from the neighbouring stalls, chatter and laughter. You’ll blend in.
B1-65, Golden Mile Tower