The first time I strolled by this Thai restaurant — I was taking the long way, as I often do, before joining friends for dinner, at Sripraphai — I stopped for a moment to scan the takeout menu in the window. Poodam's features many pungent and spicy dishes from Thailand's Isaan region, near its borders with Laos and Cambodia, that immediately caught my fancy. How could I not test my tongue on "spicy sweet chili paste fried rice"; the pig's offal soup called tom loud moo; crabmeat fried rice, Nam sausage fried rice, and their (unfried) rice-dish relative, pig leg with special sauce? I was finally prompted to return when I wrote about a wonderful, moist fish larb that I'd found in Luang Prabang, and a comment pointed me back to Astoria. (Thanks again, Steve!)
I still haven't tried the larb, which shuffled toward the "to eat" list, with the offal soup and the fried rice, when I spotted an item on the Isaan menu called steamed curry fish custard (above, and below in cutaway view; $10.95). The waitress confirmed that this was, indeed, ahmohk (here called haw moek) — a dish whose sublime texture has also won it the moniker curry fish mousse. None of the versions I hunted down in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap evoked my first time (rosy memories are tough to match), but this moist, piquant ahmohk came close; the underlayer of curry leaves was an uncommon touch.
I really must round up a few companions for dinner at Poodam's and, if we're lucky, a sunset show.
44-19 Broadway, Astoria, Queens