No Boda, No Cry

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Just off Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine is a little Thai restaurant called Boda. It serves “street-vendor inspired tapas and skewers,” small plates of fresh foods cooked simply and with spice. Hip atmosphere, good service, and some of the best drinks in Portland. It is also 110 steps away from my apartment – and that includes two flights of stairs.

It only has two problems. One, it’s hugely popular – get there at the wrong time and you’re waiting an hour for a table. And two, it’s rather expensive – $4 to $8 for skewers, two-figure cocktails, and $17+ if you want the entree of the day.

If that were all I’d probably never make it in to Boda. But on Sunday nights, from 930 until 1AM, they have a special late-night menu, with sharply reduced prices. (The simple fact that they’re *open* until 1AM, on a Sunday no less, will surely cause Portland residents’ jaws to slacken in utter awe.)

As a result, some friends and I (Hannah, Cassie, Lauren, b/c I like going out with ALL THE LADIES) have started going to Boda Late Nite every. single. Sunday. It’s our thing. It’s a hell of a way for a bunch of law students to get ready for another bloody week. Get there at 9:00, get led right to a table, have a civilized pre-dinner Thai Basil Tom Collins or Awesome Coffee… and come 9:30 they hand you the Late Night Menu, and you get to go to town.

If you’re anything like the four of us, “the town” involves two hours, two rounds of drinks, sixteen plates, and a $70 tab… split four ways.

And this was going to be our plan for this Sunday (and, y’know, all subsequent Sundays, until the heat-death of the Universe), but said astral body threw a monkey-wrench into our plans: Boda is closed this week, presumably for renovations.

What else is there to do in Portland on a Sunday? Well, we *could* go to Otto’s and get $4 slices of pizza. We could go to Pai Men, eat a big bowl of noodles, and spend the next two hours being very aware that we’d just eaten a big bowl of noodles. We could go to Gritty’s and get our calories from beer drank out of some dude-brah’s backwards baseball cap.

or – or – Inspiration! – we could not allow a beat to be skipped, and make our own Boda meal for ourselves.

This would be A) a challenge B) ridiculous and C) delicious.

…any one of those three would more than have satisfied us.

Sadly, Cassie’s back home in The County with a summer internship, and Hannah was down with a foot injury that had her apartment-bound. So it was up to Lauren and I to interrupt our busy hanging-out-and-cooking-things schedule to take this project by the horns. And then eat the horns. #mixedmetaphors #mixeddrinks #MIXOLOGY

First, we pulled up a picture of the late-night menu:

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It it worth noting that we have tried every single thing on this menu at least twice. And that often at a single sitting.

We weren’t going to make everything. We’re only two people, and even though we can build up a strong appetite by, y’know, forgetting to eat for extended periods, there’s only so much even we can eat. We decided to skip the “meals” straight up, and then only make what of the rest was our particular favorite.

For the full-plates we settled on the apple salad, because what Portland resident really needs more pork belly in their diet.

For the tapas we skipped the two crispies, quail and squid, so we wouldn’t have to fuck around with deep-frying. I strafed the vegetables because, with all the other things, we’d definitely never actually get around to eating them. And I skipped the oysters and mussels because they’re hard to find in small amounts, and shellfish leftovers were strongly cautioned against in my EMT class.

For the skewers we made… most of them. Skipped the scallops b/c expensive, the dates b/c somehow I thought Lauren didn’t like dates (BOYFRIEND FAIL), the tofu b/c would assuredly pale in comparison to Super Meat Boy being in tha house. At the last minute I also skipped the sticky rice ball because we’d just made sushi the night before, and that was more polished rice than I’d eaten in three yonks together.

This left us with a menu of such:

-House fried peanuts

-Kanom-krok quail eggs

-Spicy Thai wings

-Brussels sprouts

-Chicken breast skewers

-Pork belly skewers

-Beef skewers

-Shrimp skewers

-Asparagus wrapped in bacon skewers

-Shiitake skewers

-Portabella mushroom skewers

-Apple salad

…AND, to be entirely devoted to our cosplay cause, we also decided to ape two of their drinks: one, the 11 Tigers Old Fashioned; two, the Thai Basil Tom Collins. Because if Boda had been open, that’s what we would have been drinking.

…earlier in the day we had also split a homemade Awesome Coffee to facilitate the process of moving Lauren into her new apartment. We’ll take partial credit for that.

We didn’t start shopping until about 7:30 that night. Due to the truly horrible line-speed at Hannaford (25 minutes to check out. Yes, really.) we didn’t start cooking until 9:28. We were hoping to eat at 9:30. That part of the cosplay disappeared; we ended up sitting down to eat about two hours late. (And finishing a little past midnight, because SO MUCH FOOD.)

First we sliced the pork belly, chicken breast, and steak, and put the cubes in a marinade of doubleblack soy sauce, fresh chili and garlic, fresh lime juice, and toasted sesame oil. Ninety minutes later these were ready to broil.

We then brushed the mushrooms with sesame and tamari and dusted with sesame seeds; easy.

We cut the asparagus and then rolled bunches of tips in bacon. After making sushi the previous evening, this was trivial. And a fascinating counterpoint. And by fascinating I mean cholestrolotastic!

We made a marinade for the wings consisting of dried chili, lime, ginger, lemongrass, and more dried chili; it had the consistency of… dried chili. Let it set for an hour and a half and then a quick bake; simple.

The shrimp were just lime juice and chilis. Outstanding.

The peanuts we treated to a marinade substantively identical to the Thai wings, dissolved into brown rice vinegar. It wasn’t quite the way Boda made it, but… we are now out of peanuts. So I ain’t complainin’.

Lauren did the brussels sprouts entirely sua sponte. I believe her recipe involved halving them, sauteeing over cast-iron (because de rigeur) in sesame oil with hells of chili (almost to the point of de regurgitation), finishing with fish sauce, and then baking until crispy.

The salad involved a fresh raw coconut, two Granny Smith apples, roasted shrimp (no chili), and a dressing of lime juice and a drip of peanut oil. In retrospect Boda toasts the coconut first. A different flavor, but not at all unpleasant. Rather refreshing, actually. And what Lauren is currently eating for lunch over at the courthouse.

And for the quail eggs… we heated a muffin tin in the oven, then dropped the eggs in and let them cook in the heat. Finished each egg with sesame shoyu and a bit of minced scallion. POUR JUSTICE GRANDE.

The drinks were also a good deal of fun. For the Thai Basil Tom Collins, Lauren muddled basil and lime in Ingenium gin with a pinch of demerara sugar and a splash of seltzer water. For the Old Fashioned I boiled 11 herbs and spices (with which I had recently made gluhwein; hence the slight red color) with Fifty Stone local whiskey; finish with my homemade bitters (I chose bitter orange peel; West Virginia gentian-root; and mace. I have too many goddam bitters, is the take-away here.)

…around 11:00 we realized we’d forgotten to buy peanuts. So Lauren went out to Joe’s Smoke Shop to find that A) it was now called Joe’s Variety (?!?!?) and B) they were closed. So our House Fried Peanuts courtesy of the impulse-buy rack at the 7-11 across from Local 188. #bealocalhero #buylocallygrown

Here are some prep photographs. Photocred Lauren Kousaie.

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Quail eggs, in muffin-tin.

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Urban Farm Marinatery

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ACTION SHOT

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winging it

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double double broil and bubble

…yeah.

It was hard to time the cooking properly, because I only have one oven, and it ain’t big. It was also hard to make the meal because I have the amount of prep space normally associated with homelessness. But over the course of some three hours, tip-to-tail, we did it. And did it easily and with no real fuss. And with a trial Thai Basil Tom Collins at our respective sides.

Mostly I’m just impressed that we were able to substantively recreate a meal just by taste-memory. We did zero research for this meal – did not ask Boda staff, did not observe their open kitchen, did not look up recipes. We just winged it. Wung it? Who cares: it worked. Worked like a mothafucka.

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Clockwise from bottom: apple salad; 11 Tigers Old Fashioned; Thai Basil Tom Collinses; spicy Thai wings; shiitake and portobello skewers; Brussels sprouts; shrimp skewers; “house” peanuts;  chicken skewers; beef skewers; pork skewers and bacon-wrapped asparagus skewers. Quail eggs center stage.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go eat leftovers. Forever.

(At least until next Sunday night. When we’ll definitely be back at Boda.)

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~ by davekov on 2 June 2014.

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