An Isan Native Cooks Up Exotic Thai Food at Randolph's Saap | 7 Nights Spotlight | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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An Isan Native Cooks Up Exotic Thai Food at Randolph's Saap


Saap in Randolph - BEN DEFLORIO
  • Ben DeFlorio
  • Saap in Randolph

Randolph is a long way from Isan, a once-impoverished and not particularly touristy part of Thailand that borders Laos and Cambodia. Dishes from that region are often spicy and pungent. Because wood for cooking is scarce there, raw and pickled items abound.

Location Details Saap
50 Randolph Ave.
Randolph, VT
closed: Sun.

The married co-owners of Saap are passionate about sharing the little-known Thai cuisine, which is just beginning to trend in the U.S. Native Nisachon "Rung" Morgan grew up in Isan and left to work at a restaurant in Bangkok. She met her husband, Steve, on Thailand. A former instructor at the New England Culinary Institute, he loved Thai food and had been studying Buddhism when he joined the site. Steve corresponded online with Rung for more than a year before traveling to Thailand to meet her.

Saap in Randolph - BEN DEFLORIO
  • Ben DeFlorio
  • Saap in Randolph

A January evening in Vermont finds him waiting tables at Saap and offering exuberant descriptions of the dishes. Some of the more exotic items are specials: crispy duck heads, stir-fried morning glory with garlic. For those who prefer a more familiar meal, however, there are many of the Thai dishes you know and love: spring rolls, pad Thai, drunken noodles and, of course, fried banana topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

But there's a subset of dishes that are neither well-known in Vermont nor particularly outlandish. Isan-style pork sausages laced with dill, lemongrass and garlic, and served with a chile dipping sauce, are deliciously herbal and bursting with flavor. Vietnamese catfish is coated with housemade curry paste, rolled in banana leaf and grilled. The leaf, imparting a mild flavor, keeps the fish moist as it cooks.

Saap in Randolph - BEN DEFLORIO
  • Ben DeFlorio
  • Saap in Randolph

In the States, som tum salad — made of green papaya, green bean and tomato, dressed with lime and fish sauce — usually comes with peanuts and optional dried shrimp. Saap's nut-free variation swaps briny blue crab for the shrimp and adds a tangier sauce. The seafood tom yum — packed with shrimp, squid and mussels — is another winner.

Wash it down with fresh-squeezed limeade, a craft beer or house-roasted coconut water dotted with coconut bits that swoop up your straw like the tapioca in bubble tea. Then start planning your next visit.

This article was originally published in 7 Nights: The Seven Days Guide to Vermont Restaurants & Bars in April 2016.

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