Sherman's Food Adventures: Bob Pochana

Bob Pochana

One of the biggest complaints about Thai cuisine in the GVRD is that it has been "watered-down" so that it appeals to as many customers as possible.  While that maybe true, you can't blame restaurants in trying to maximize its target audience.  After all, they are in the business of making money to feed their own families as well as the staff.  On the other hand, it leaves the hardcore foodies wanting for more.  Fortunately, there are a few spots in town that do their best to offer up flavourful eats that may alienate the causal customer.  Bob Likes Thai Food happens to be one of my favourites in town and now they have decided to open up a casual take-out spot on Robson.  Paying homage to Thai street food, dishes are served up in wax parchment paper ready-to-go.  With prices ranging from $10.00-$12.00, it is also accessible.

I was recently there for a tasting and we had many of their most popular dishes including their take on a Portland favourite - Kao Mung Gai.  Yes, it is spelled different phonetically, but I assure you, this version could even be better than Nong's Khao Man Gai!  Featuring fluffy, yet still firm broken chicken rice, this ate well even before the addition of the "sauce".  Ah yes, the explosion of ginger, garlic, vinegar, soy and fermented soybean is essential to the dish.  When combined with the fragrant rice and tender chicken, this was addictive and really, I could've eaten 2 orders.  Now that was one of the highlights, but their version of Pad Si Ew is the best in town in my opinion.  Exhibiting serious caramelization, the rice noodles were subjected to plenty of intense wok heat (or wok hei).  Add in the pepper, dark soy, oyster sauce and sugar, there was a bit of everything in there including noted spice.  Moreover, the texture of the noodles were on point being soft with plenty of chewiness.

Let's not forget their Pad Thai as it was equally good compared to the previous 2 dishes.  Just like the pad si ew, there was noticeable wok heat where the noodles were slightly charred.  This produced a smoky caramelized aroma that only further enhanced the palm sugar and tamarind.  There was a dash of spice combined with some brininess that just completed the dish of al dente noodles.  One of the better versions in town in my opinion.  Back to a rice dish, the Kao Kah Moo or pork belly was simmered in anise, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic and bay leaf served on rice with pickled mustard greens and hard boiled egg.  Possessing many of the same qualities as the Chinese dish known as "cau yook", the pork belly was melt-in-mouth worthy.  Flavours were balanced without being too sweet nor salty.  The listed spices came though while the mustard greens cut through the heaviness.

Staying with the same cut of meat, the Kana Moo Krob also had similar qualities to Chinese roast pork where the cracklings were crunchy yet still airy and not hard.  With a 50/50 even balance between tender meat and fat, the belly also ate very well.  Despite being wok fried with gai lan, garlic and chilis, the crackling stayed crunchy and the roasted aroma was not lost.  Vibrant and crispy, the sliced gai lan segments benefited from the wok heat and added not only a different texture, it was tasty on its own.  Topped with a runny fried egg, the Wok Fried Pork & Garlic was yet another tasty concoction.  Maintaining the same and consistent high wok heat, the marinated pork was cooked beautifully where it was tender yet at the same time was dry on the outside without an excess moisture.  Savoury and slightly spicy, this went well with the rice and yes, the runny egg didn't hurt either.

On the topic of eggs, we had a dish that was predominantly made of eggs.  The Kao Kai Jeaw or Thai omelette was a simple dish with spring onion and cilantro served on top of rice.  Aggressively fried, the crispiness of the omelette on the edges was a nice textural contrast to the rest of the fluffiness.  Even before we dug in, the aroma from the fried egg was appealing.  Now this alone was good, but I found that when we added some of the vinegar chili sauce (as found in the stewed pork dish), it really brought things to life with spice and tang.  A visit to any "Bob" Thai restaurant isn't complete without Bob's Poutine.  Okay, this isn't really a poutine, but consider it chips and sauce consisting of thinly-sliced deep fried taro root topped with lemongrass, lime leaf, deep fried tofu, chili and green curry sauce.  If you can imagine, this was a flavour bomb with all of the usual Thai aromatics to go with their spicy green curry.  I got a few samples in before the chips got soggy.

About that curry, we did end up trying 2 of them including the aforementioned Green Curry (Gang Keaw Whan Gai) with chicken, bamboo shoots, basil and eggplant.  Unlike many versions of green curry in town, there was much more in the way of ingredients than actual sauce.  The big chunks of chicken were tender and almost juicy while the eggplant was soft, but not completely mush.  Best of all, the curry itself was aromatic from the coconut milk while exhibiting a noticeable amount of spice and brininess.  Exhibiting beautiful colours from the red and green peppers, the Panang Beef Curry (Panang Nua) was also very good.  The curry here was a bit richer and thicker with the usual hit of spice.  Pops of sweetness and aroma from the coconut milk provided balance.  As much as the portion size didn't look like much, the richness of the curry combined with the rice made it a filling dish.

Just before we got to the dessert, we did things a bit backward by having the Tom Ka Gai.  Sporting lemon grass infused coconut milk with chicken and mushrooms, this was both subtle and a flavour bomb at the same time.  I could get all of the ingredients with every sip, yet it wasn't overpowering where it was balanced and hit my sense of smell first.  Simple and delicious, the Mango Sticky Rice was a fitting end to an array of well-prepared Thai street eats.  The warm sticky rice was mildly sweet sporting aromatic coconut milk.  Tangy and sweet, the mango provided a shot of brightness and life to the heavy rice.  The surprise of the dessert was the chunks of coconut custard on the side - so creamy and tasty!  So you can see I enjoyed the food at Bob Pochana, but that was a given since I already enjoy Bob Likes Thai Food.  Best of all is the accessibility of the food figuratively and literally.  I even bought some to go with my own coin!

*Food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Reasonable pricing
- Good wok heat (wok hei) resulting in intense flavours
- Not afraid to add in spice

The Bad:
- Mostly take out as there is only one large table available

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