I’m dead-serious when it comes to Thai food. Most Americans think of Pad Thai, green/red curry and “that coconutty chicken soup”, tom ka gai. This is Bangkok food. Bangkok is a city in Thailand, not the whole country. Fork & Stix owner Phatcharin Wanna is bringing St. Louis its first taste of Chiang Mai style Thai food, and thank goodness for that. Aside from the city’s laid-back atmosphere, Chiang Mai is known for its incredible array of street snacks.
The restaurant is hidden away on the far eastern side of the Delmar Loop. If you drive past The Pageant, then turn right on Rosedale, you’ll see the little shop’s sign. Parking on Rosedale is extremely limited, so you should probably park and walk over. As you can see below, the restaurant’s interior is small, bright and decorated simply with paintings from local artists.
This review is comprised of two meals at Fork & Stix within about 2 weeks of each other; I couldn’t stay away!
Each table has what I would call “The Tray of Pain”. You get your food and think, hey, I can handle some more spice! I’m tough! Maybe you throw in some chili flakes, chili oil or even some more chili paste. You’ve made a huge mistake, haven’t you? You’re not that tough. Good thing they also put sugar on the table to help neutralize that heat!
Our first starter was the Chicken Sateh ($5). The chicken is marinated in coconut milk and turmeric, then grilled and served with a peanut sauce and cucumber relish. There’s nothing too complex about these, but they were very good.
What I WANTED to order during my first visit was the Sai Oua ($6) with a side of Naam Prik Nuum ($3). Sai Oua, a Chiang Mai sausage, are a grilled pork sausage stuffed with a Thai longtail boat worth of herbs and seasonings. Naam Prik Num is a hot sauce made of roasted chiles, shallots, garlic and cilantro. My dad is not a pork fan, nor a spice fan, so we didn’t. Not the case for visit number 2!
Outstanding. The sai oua wrapped in a little sticky rice and covered with some naan prik nuum is one of those combinations that cannot be beat. The sausage has a tropical and herbaceous flavor rather than the chili flavors associated with Thai food. I was scared about how hot the naam prik nuum would be, and while it certainly was hot, it wasn’t “danger zone” hot. Roasting the chilies beforehand gives it a deeper flavor. It reminded me of some of the roasted chili sauces and salsas I’ve had in various Latin American dishes.
I loved their Som Tum salad ($5). This is how it’s supposed to taste. Spicy green papaya is tossed with tomatoes, green beans, thai chilies, lime juice, tamarind sauce, fish sauce, garlic, palm sugar, sun dried shrimp, and peanuts. The dressing is light but so good, especially on a hot summer’s day.
My dad took the cautious route with his main and ordered the Green Curry Chicken ($8), made with bamboo shoots, bell peppers, Queen of Siam basil, green curry paste, coconut milk. I find most green curries are either good or bad; I’ve never really had one that was mind-blowingly amazing. This one certainly fell into the good category. The coconut broth packed a surprising amount of heat for a ‘mild’ dish, and they were generous with both the meat and veggies.
The green curry was no match for the Khao Soi ($9 w/chicken or tofu, $11 w/beef). This dish in particular has been written up by seemingly everyone has been to Fork & Stix for good reason. So far, no dish I’ve had in St. Louis has been more authentically Southeast Asian than this. It’s similar to a laksa, if you’ve ever had that.
Khao Soi is a curry noodle soup from the Northern part of Thailand, which you don’t often find the US. Its broth is much thinner than your common red/green curry with a sweeter taste. It has a coconut milk base (this instantly means it’s at least “ok”), then in typical Thai fashion, a million other ingredients. Ginger, cilantro, and lime jump up and yell in your face like Kanye West at the MTV Music Awards. Some palm sugar or brown sugar give it that edge of sweetness that some people foolishly dislike.
I just cannot emphasize enough how good this dish is. If Fork & Stix only sold Khao Soi, I’d still say it’s one of the best Thai restaurants in St. Louis. Listen to me. If you wuss out and have your significant other get this because you’re scared and would prefer to go the safe route of green curry, you’re going to have the worst case of order envy ever. And, considering how good it is, I don’t think you’re going to find them so willing to share with you.
Their other signature dish is the Hung Leh curry. This Chiang Mai classic melds pork belly and pork loin curry with palm sugar, turmeric, tamarind, peanuts, and fresh ginger. What makes this dish special? For a Thai curry, it’s lacking a signature ingredient: coconut milk. That’s because this dish was inspired by Thailand’s neighbor, Burma, with its heavy use of turmeric and ginger. It’s not so unlike a Malaysian rendang, either.
This dish blew me away. The belly and shoulder meat were sweet, tender and packed with flavor. People worldwide love their tender pork. The gravylike curry pits the sweetness of palm sugar against the tanginess of tamarind and the assertiveness of ginger. It just calls out for a big ball of sticky rice to be dipped in it.
My advice: you get the hung leh and your BFF gets the khao soi. Then you share. Do it.
Well, there you have it. Fork & Stix is not only my favorite Thai restaurant in St. Louis, but it’s easily one of my favorite restaurants in the whole city. Don’t believe me? That’s mildly offensive, but okay, fine. I bet you’ll believe Gerard Craft, though.
Make your way down to the Loop pronto and try it out! Tell Phatcharin that Whiskey & Soba sent you. Then bring me your leftovers.
549 Rosedale Ave
St. Louis, MO 63112