The dish I miss most from Poodam's, late of Astoria, is the haw moek, whose sublime texture suited the moniker "steamed curry fish custard." There may be nowhere in New York where you can still find it freshly made, but on a stroll through Bangkok Center Grocery I spotted two frozen versions, eventually taking home the counterman's favorite, imported from Gusto Food of Thailand (above, shown before steaming; two "cups" for $6.50).
Once steamed, with rice, it sported a nice level of curry, both throughout the coconut-milk-enriched custard and, mingling with chopped cabbage underneath, in leafy form. Decent amount of flavor, too, from some unspecified "farm-raised fish" (in the cryptic style of Thai labeling, which also assured me that my selection was "fit for human consumption"). A shortcoming was lack of any discernible chunks of fish; my first and still favorite rendition of haw moek — at the Cambodian restaurant Angkor Borei, in San Francisco, it's called ahmohk — had them in abundance.
Previously, chilli paste: It's what's for breakfast. Spread on toast, it looked like apple butter, but Maesri brand chilli paste for bread (8 oz.; $1.75) gave me a whiff of fish sauce and dried shrimp before zinging my throat with tamarind. That's all good, but I wish it weren't at odds with my morning coffee. In the afternoon, Maesri's nam pla wan (Thai-style fruit dip; 8 oz.; $2.50), offers much the same ingredient list in chunkier form; I spooned it on slices of mutsu apple.
Most days, Bangkok Center Grocery is simply a small but well-curated specialty store, but at Taste of Chinatown (a periodic event that's been on hiatus), festival-goers were treated to fresh-made papaya salad (prepped and served below; $1) that walked a lip-tingling tightrope between chili heat and fish-sauce sourness.
On another occasion, I was poking through the preserved bananas, catfish crisps, durian chips, and other snacks when the lady behind the counter offered me a taste of Thai Tanya brand tom yum crisp (not shown; 150 g.; $6), a loosely packed seafood brittle of dried shrimp and squid, cashews, kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, sliced onion and garlic, sugar, red pepper, fish sauce, and lemon juice. Fabulous blend of flavors.
Bangkok Center Grocery
104 Mosco St. (Mulberry-Mott Sts.)