Saap (Randolph, Vermont)

While I rather enjoy many of the towns of central Vermont (Randolph, Bethel, and Northfield, for example), we don’t usually get to do much culinary exploration of them simply since we’re on our way someplace, like hiking or hitting up an event in Montpelier or Burlington. But we did make a special point to go back to Randolph and try one of the area’s better Thai places: Saap, and meet up with our friends Rick and Sarah.

Located on the eastern side of Randolph as you are entering a fairly industrial area, Saap is nestled into the first floor of a converted large house, it’s a friendly location with a nice patio. It isn’t the sort of place you’ll likely just happen upon, but since they opened a few years ago and have focused heavily on Northern Thai cuisine (primarily from the Isaan region), I’d gotten more than a bit of a word of mouth advertising.

Starting off, our table ordered up some corn fritters. Basically sweet corn niblets breaded up and served with chili sauce and cilantro, this was a good example of a simple dish done well: the corn was fresh and sweet, the breading light and airy, and the dipping sauce a nice complement to the crispy bits of corn.

Our second appetizer, moo dad deaw, is basically soy-marinated strips of pork served with a fish-based dipping sauce over vegetables. I’ve had this dish before, and mostly it’s kind of like having Thai-style egg rolls without the wrapper: a good, well-marinated and crispy pork over shredded carrots with a pleasant fish sauce.

Our third appetizer was sai krok: Thai pork sausage with lemongrass, dill, garlic, and chiles. Having not had “Thai sausage” before, this was actually another great dish: the pork-based sausage was a pleasant combination of spicy pork with more than a little garlic, and I think some rice as a filler. This made a nicely flavorful sausage that grilled up nice and crispy and made some delicious little chunks of pork to dip in the fish sauce.

Our final appetizer was peek ghai tod, or basically Thai-style chicken wings. Aside from the more Thai-based chile glaze on the wings, these were basically your normal chicken wings, albeit nicely crisped up. I’d certainly get these again, possibly exploring a few more of their glaze flavors.

The first main course was kanhom jin nam ya ghai: chicken in a chile paste with ginger, galangal, and rice noodles. Here, it started with a very nicely dressed set of rice noodles, topped with a sauce that was just teeming with ginger and galangal (two of my favorite spices), and a nicely cooked chicken breast sliced up with a chile paste and sprouts. A good start to the main courses.

Next, lop ghai tod. I’d basically describe this as slightly Thai-flavored (lots of lemongrass notes) chicken tenders served up over a bed of jasmine rice. Not a fancy dish, but again, perfect execution and a light sweet and sour sauce, this worked quite well.

Rounding it out was khao kha moo: braised pork leg with rice, mustard greens, and egg. A really good chunk of braised pork complemented by some good earthy mustard greens, this reminded me of a Sichuan dish I always like: marinated pork with fermented mustard greens.

Overall, we really enjoyed Saap. The emphasis on Northern Thai food gave it a subtly different set of flavors than our normal Thai places (such as Tuk Tuk in Hanover), and the execution of the dishes was quite good. Saap is definitely worth at least a small diversion into Randolph for a visit.

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