Thai curry meets Texas smoked brisket at Eem — Portland’s Signature Dishes


My name is Michael Russell. I’m the
restaurant critic at the Oregoian and this is Portland’s Signature Dishes. Today
I’m headed to Eem in North Portland to chat with Earl Ninsom and Matt Vicedomini about the dish that launched their restaurant, smoked brisket jungle
curry, which combines two distinct cuisines in a brilliant way — traditional
Thai and texas-style barbecue. So how did you guys come up with that? I grew up eating that. My mom liked to make it for my, for us, for dinnertime. My Dad’s from southern Thailand, so he liked to make a spicy curry. It was a really good memory because I remember I wanted to eat this, but we have to wait for my
dad to come back home so I’m, like [eats] and walk away and nobody knows. Like, so jungle curry is the type of curry that is a non-cocount milk base that has Thai chilis, turmeric, all the fresh Thai herbs in there, with shrimp paste. Usually very spicy. I was looking for, for new challenges that were, that I could do outside the cart because I was kind
of reaching like the limit of what I could do inside of that little food cart. So like trying to make Thai barbecue sounded cool. And you know, the idea that Eric could make these awesome cocktails, like it just seemed like a really fun thing that we could
try to make and work through all the little problems. And I mean you can’t look up brisket burning jungle curry you know, there’s no like, there’s no
context. You have to make food that doesn’t seem like weird fusion that kind
of makes it seem natural. We did a lot of recipe testing. Are we playing a three-card monte here? No, just ordering, like how would you do
it? So you have the ingredients for the curry paste. Black pepper, coriander, lemongrass, makrut lime. Turmeric, chilis, galangal, shallot, garlic
and shrimp paste. Now I’d like to see how the dish is actually made. Can we go back in the kitchen and take a look? Salt and pepper. This is easy so far, I can do this at home. Is that coriander seed? So we’re talking about sort of like the
aromatic spices so far just like the the spices that build the base. The makrut lime, do you also use the juice at all? What’s next? Lemongrass? Galangal. Just a little bit, huh? Are we getting close? Oh, so you’re sort of doing a little bit like… So this is a very hot wok. How important
is it to have the wok be that super, super hot? Okay, so you’ve got the paste in the water, you’re mashing it up a little bit. You need that funk, right? Oh yeah, there it is. Yeah you need that
fish sauce — it brings everything out, it cools it down, it mellows it out. Next, Earl adds a Thai root vegetable to the bubbling sauce. And then quickly grills some fresh zucchini, ladles on the hot curry, before handing it over to Matt for the finishing touch: some Texas style smoked brisket Alright here we’ve got the brisket. About 145-150 [degrees]? What’s the? After Matt adds the brisket, Earl tops
it with fried basil and Thai eggplant and it’s ready to go. This looks absolutely beautiful and I can’t wait to eat it. Should we just dive right in? Yes, please. Let’s do it. Can I serve? Oh, look at this beautiful brisket, oh my god. I kind of ate like a half pound of brisket in the back already, so. Wow. That’s so good. You know I didn’t think
that you could make that brisket any better, because it was already delicious
just on its own but together that curry and that brisket — it adds up to something even bigger. It’s delicious, thanks you guys. Thank you.