The Dish: Thai Pepper Crème Brûlée With Candied Cilantro
Where to Get It: Bangkok Joe’s, 3000 K St. NW, (202) 333-4422, bangkokjoesdc.com
What It Is: To make this crème brûlée, chef and owner Aulie Bunyarataphan tosses in five Thai chilies—which fall roughly between cayenne and habanero peppers in spiciness—per quart of heavy cream. She then adds eggs, vanilla bean, and sugar. The dessert is topped with a sugar crust, fresh berries, and a sprig of candied cilantro, then served with a chocolate-coated spoon on a plate daintily dusted with cocoa powder.
What It Tastes Like: For the first few seconds, it tastes like a really nice crème brûlée—creamy, sweet vanilla goodness. But after a few bites, the spice starts to hit the back of your mouth. Bunyarataphan says she coats the spoon with thick chocolate so you get a little bit in every bite, helping to cool the spice level. While diners with a decent tolerance for fiery foods will likely wish there were more heat, they can still appreciate the slight, spicy tingle. Those who find pepperoni spicy might find this more adventurous.
The Story: Bunyarataphan debuted this dish long ago at her other restaurant, T.H.A.I. in Shirlington, but shortly thereafter took it off the menu as it was a bit too daring for diners back then. She and her husband, co-owner Mel Oursinsiri, recently decided to transform Mama Rouge back to Bangkok Joe’s and add several new dishes, including the spiced crème brûlée. She says it falls in line with her mission to use more traditional Thai herbs and flavors in her cooking. At the moment, Bunyarataphan says she’s only selling about five to six a day. But with 10 desserts on the menu, there’s a lot of competition for a sweet tooth’s attention.
Photo by Rina Rapuano