Whether you spell it Issan or E-san (as the folks at Poodam’s Thai Cuisine do), the cuisine from this Northeast region of Thailand by Cambodia and Laos is some of New York City’s most delicious and spiciest.

The restaurant’s name translates to black crab. While that particular delicacy doesn’t appear on the separate Issan menu, there is yam poo dong, or pickled crab. When you order it the waitress will likely ask if you’ve had it before. If you’re feeling adventurous and not unnerved by the very concept of raw pickled blue crabs then just say yes, even if it's a lie. The dish consists of a mound of blue crabs that have been salted, doused with lime juice and then showered with chilies, ribbons of red onion, lemongrass, cilantro and garlic.

There’s no delicate way to eat this dish. It requires picking up the crabs and slurping out the meat. It’s infernally messy, but bursts with so much flavor – salty, sweet, spicy, fishy – that you may just find yourself dredging clumps of sticky rice through the juices.


Issan cuisine is well known for sausage, but the pork sausage salad (left) falls flat. The squidgy chunks of pork loaf are imbued with a slightly fishy flavor. They’re reminiscent of the mystery meats that appear in Vietnamese sandwiches. Far better is the grilled pork sausage with Thai herbs. Flecks of kaffir lime leaf and chili lend flavor while tempering its fattiness. If that’s not enough flavor for you, amp it up with a roasted Thai pepper. Too hot? Munch on a bit of thua fak yao, or Thai long bean to cool your palate.

Larb ped, a salad of ground duck meat topped with kaffir lime leaves and crushed peanuts is also quite good. Eat some of the accompanying pickled garlic and the requisite roasted peppers to get the full effect. Duck also makes an appearance in a meaty soup that’s listed on the regular Thai menu. It’s a tad on the sweet side, but that’s easily fixed by doctoring it up with some fish sauce and pickled peppers.

Sadly, Poodam’s no longer serves pak ped tod, even though it's still listed on the E-san menu. Apparently deep-fried duck mouth is a tad too adventurous. Good thing they still have that pickled crab.

Poodam’s Thai Cuisine, 44-19 Broadway, Astoria, (718) 278-3010