You know what the best part about food it? Sure, it’s tasty, it’s a basic necessity for living and existing, but it’s so much more powerful than that. Eat something bad and it can fuck up your day (in more ways than one), eat something delicious and you’re thinking about it for weeks, or in my case, years. When I was in Southeast Asia, I had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten and I reminisce about it all the time. Not being able to hop on a flight to southeast Asia as often as I would like relive some delicious food is tough, but I discovered a spot makes it a bit easier to curb those cravings. I’ve tried most places in the city in a desperate attempt to relive the experience but to no avail, until I finally hit up Mae Sri Comptoir Thai.
Called Mae Sri Comptoir Kuay Tiao Thai (it literally means noodle stand) offers authentic Thai street food delights. The menu is pretty straight forward, appetizers, salads, rice and noodles. We started with the fried pork meat balls. Served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce, these meatball poppers were porky, chewy and addictive. Something you can get at any street food stall in Thailand, only they’re skewered together and grilled over a flame.
The Set Tum Tad. Tum Tad is basically like an Indian thali but on spicy steroids. The dish focuses on the papaya salad with accoutrements that you can mix in or eat with. The one at Mae Sri is served with rice noodles, fried pork rinds, homemade pork sausage and raw cabbage. Traditionally served with a crap-ton of sides, including salted egg, a variety of fresh herbs, candied preserved sardines and fried shrimp, this version is definitely the intro to tum tad. You have a choice of regular papaya salad and Issan papaya. If you value your palate and taste buds, get the regular one, if you laugh in the face of pain, get the Issan.
The Pad Kra Pao is stir-fried pork with long bean, green and red chilis with holy Thai basil. Very unassuming, this dish packs a punch, it’s incredibly flavourful and fragrant. It’s served with jasmine rice with an optional fried egg. When an egg is fried in a wok, it’s never an option, but necessity. Do it.
Baa mee moo comes with or without soup and is as delicious as it is fun to say. Egg noodles, roasted red pork, choy sum greens, pork dumplings, fried pork belly, half a boiled egg and topped with fried garlic, roasted peanuts, with chopped onion and coriander. There’s so much going on and it works. Thai cuisine is a clinic in the harmonious melange of textures, tastes and flavours finding that sweet spot right in the middle of a Venn diagram of deliciousness.
The kuai tiao ruea ayutthaya or “boat noodles” is what I came here for and what I haven’t stopped thinking about for years. Fresh rice noodles, slices of rare beef, pork balls, pork belly bits, sprigs of morning glory, topped with chilis, coriander, onion and fried garlic. Traditionally served in a portion a tenth of this size, this Mae Sri’s offering forgoes the ritual of stacking up a pile of bowls and paying by the serving. The soup was next level. Deep and beefy, it was packed with flavour. I hesitate to reveal what the secret ingredient is, but you need to know; it’s blood. Blood is what makes the soup robust and gives it its murky appearance, the herbs and spices quell the taste of iron and is basically undetectable. I’ve been waiting for someone to serve this in Montreal. It’s here. Go.
Mae Sri Comptoir Thai, is a sight for sore eyes, or in my case, a taste for sore buds. The dishes at Mae Sri are as street as you can get. They’ve got more street cred than your favourite SoundCloud rapper. The only thing Mae Sri is missing is the bright plastic furniture and the plumes of diesel fumes from criss-crossing motos.
Food is mysterious, I eat it all the time, but it also devours me. It has the power to evoke some of the deepest memories and transport you to a very specific time and place. Instead of reminiscing about being hunched over a street-side table in Southeast Asia, now all I think about is the time I ate bomb ass boat noodles at Mae Sri in the McGill Ghetto.
Mae Sri Comptoir Thai
224 Milton St
514 543 5711