Pig and Khao: A Medley of Southeast Asian Cuisine
By Sophia Hsu / Photography by Erik Teng
In this cozy space in the Lower East Side, Pig and Khao is nestled amongst an eclectic mix of high-end fashion storefronts, bodegas, and trendy eateries. A collaboration between Chef Leah Cohen of Top Chef fame and the Fatty Crew behind Fatty Crab and Fatty ‘Cue restaurants, this full-service establishment provides a Southeast Asian fusion of predominantly Thai and Filipino flavors. With a hip hop playlist and a wood-centric décor, the gang serves up familiar flavors with a Pig and Khao twist.
The seasonal dishes live up to the restaurant’s name. There are most definitely all parts of the pig and a devilishly spicy khao soi on the menu. The staff is very passionate about the food and provides in depth explanations of each and every dish that the kitchen sends out.
Cocktails: As Pig and Khao’s menu changes with the seasons, even the drinks are seasonal. As our photographer and I get situated at our wooden table perched on the wooden bench, the bar sends over the Pigroni and the Sweet & Sour Cilantro Soda. For those of us who enjoy bittersweet adult beverages, the Pigroni comes in a shade of bright pig – I mean pink – which is created by mixing gin with bright red Campari, grapefruit juice, and a cardamom cordial. If you are looking for refreshment, the Sweet & Sour Cilantro Soda mimics summertime classics of mint lemonade and basil limeade but with the fresh-cut grassiness of cilantro. The Spring/Summer bar menu will be bringing back the Spicy Pakwan, another pink drink of chili-infused tequila, manzanilla sherry, and watermelon rimmed with salt.
Snacks: Chicharron, or Spanish and Tagalog for fried pork rind, has been deep-fried, rubbed with Chinese five spice, and served with coconut vinegar. As soon as you dip a corner into the coconut vinegar, you hear a snap, crackle, and pop making it a multi-sensory snack. Crispy and crunchy, savory and sour, chicharron has been enjoyed for decades and maybe even centuries alongside a nice, cold beer.
Small Plates: Four dishes follow the crunchy snack. Grilled Pork Jowl, a salad of thinly-sliced, brined then grilled neck of the pig, charred brussels sprouts, toasted rice, fresh mint and cilantro, and house dressing, turned our photographer from a Brussels sprouts hater into a zealot. A lighter take on the traditional Filipino dish of adobo, the Pork Belly Adobo takes crispy, roast pork belly in the style of lechon and sets the layered slices in a pool of adobo sauce along with a slow-poached egg. The Sizzling Sisig, a dish that takes all parts of the pig’s head marinated then chopped into tiny bits and served on a sizzling platter, can be extremely salty, but mix in the raw egg over the sizzling pork and serve it all over rice. Even the least adventurous eater will want to give it a try. A traditional Thai curry noodle soup dish that also has origins in Burma (aka Myanmar), the savory, spicy, sweet and sour Khao Soi really hits the spot and is served with both boiled and fried egg noodles creating a variety of textures in one bowl.
Dessert: With so many wonderful dishes, dynamic combinations, and comforting flavors, our photographer and I each have our own favorite savory dishes, but the addiction for the evening has to be the halo-halo. Many cultures have their own version of shaved ice. Taiwan is known for their fresh fruit baobing. Japan has its kakigori flavored with simple syrups. Korea has patbingsu with the addition of soft serve and candied toppings. From the Philippines, however, we get halo-halo, which in Tagalog can mean “mix-mix” or “hodge-podge”. Pig and Khao’s is super addictive with a colorful array of toppings like the electric purple ube (taro or purple yam) ice cream, the bright white of the coconut milk and macapuno, bruleed bits of sweet plantain, toasted rice, and the golden yellow of homemade leche flan (if you have never had Filipino leche flan, it is not like other flan. It is richer, creamier, and certainly more decadent than all other flan, so proceed with caution).
A big thank you to the staff at Pig and Khao for making our evening memorable. Make your reservation now on OpenTable®. Browse Pig and view Khao’s menu on the web: http://pigandkhao.com.