Food

Best Thing I Ate: Sour Soup at Thip Khao, Pasta With Clams and Shiitake Mushrooms

Our favorite dishes from the past seven days of dining.
Drink and eat for cheap at Thip Khao in Columbia Heights. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Todd Kliman

Siin heng (sun-dried beef) at Thip Khao

I’ve had a number of good dishes at Thip Khao and some very good ones. Put this in the very good camp.

The Band-Aid-size strips of meat—sun-dried, according to the menu—are at once chewy and slightly crunchy, like jerky, whose concentrated intensity it also resembles. Unlike jerky, however, the flavor is not one-note; a sort of dry rub of pounded lemongrass, ginger, sesame, and chilies lends the strips heat and depth and crunch.

I’ve had three meals, now, at this Columbia Heights spinoff restaurant from Seng Luangrath and the crew at Bangkok Golden in Falls Church, and each time out has been better than the last. Stay tuned for more.

Ann Limpert

Kaing som (sour soup) at Thip Khao

January is never an easy month, but this winter seems to be a particularly bad mash-up of colds, brutal temps, and zero snow days spent in front of the flicker of a Netflix screen. So this week’s trip to Thip Khao felt like a visit to a sort of culinary apothecary. Beyond the fact that there’s an actual shot called the Stomach Settler—it’s vodka infused with various aromatics and barks—many of the sharable dishes are so heavy on the capsicum that you’ll be sweating and sniffling your way through dinner.

There was plenty of joy to be found in the chili-heavy stuff: a blistering larb salad with pork skin, pork liver, and minced pork, or luscious slices of grilled pork neck dipped in a sauce bobbing with chili seeds. But that night, I needed soothing more than I needed scathing, and I found it in a bowl of soup called kaing som. The clear broth is wonderfully sour, thanks to a good dose of tamarind, and packed with long-stemmed mushrooms (enoki, I think) that served in place of noodles, plus fresh basil, green onions, thin slices of chicken, and cherry tomatoes.

Amazingly, five of us managed to share the bowl—a steal at $10—but next time the winter blues hit, I’m slurping through one on my own.

Anna Spiegel

Pasta with clams, pancetta, and shiitake mushrooms

It may be cheating, but the best thing I ate this week was a meal at home. That’s not to say the many dinners out were bad. It’s a food writer’s curse—cue the tiny violins—that after a string of decadent tastings, the thing you crave most is a homemade sandwich or bowl of pasta.

Linguine with clams is my go-to dish. I’ve cobbled together a formula that’s a combination of an old Bon Appétit recipe for pasta with clams and wild mushrooms, and New York-based chef Andrew Carmellini’s creation called spaghetti “clams casino,” which adds bacon or pancetta and breadcrumbs to the mix.

Italian recipes—even unorthodox ones like this—are all about the ingredients. My ideal lineup for the main components: fresh shiitakes from North Cove Mushrooms at the Dupont FreshFarm Market; any local garlic; pancetta sliced to a quarter-inch thick from Balducci’s (they have a wonderful cured meat selection); and Olde Salt littleneck clams from Rappahannock Oyster Co., which can be picked up at Union Market or ordered online. The beautifully plump, briny bivalves really make the meal.

Obviously this is more of a dream grocery list than a one-stop shop, so start with the clams and go from there.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.

Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.