|Owner Premjit Marks (above) would be happy to explain Thai cooking ingredients - or swap curry recipes at her Bangkok Center Market. |
There might be Thai grocery stores bigger than Chinatown's Bangkok Center Market, but they won't have Premjit Marks.
Marks, called "Nong" by friends and regulars, knows every shrimp paste, Thai sausage and fish powder in her tiny, well-stocked shop, and she happily explains them all.
Mark's prime customers may be Thai cooks looking for hard-to-find tastes of home, but she welcomes anyone who wants to try her food.
Behind the durian chips and catfish snacks on the counter, for example, she keeps Thai recipes, including some she has written herself.
On the door of the refrigerator stocking Kaffir lime leaves and rare $7 Nittaya brand curry pastes (Daniel Boulud is one buyer), she has listed all the ingredients you'll need for the curry you're hoping to make. And "sometimes," Marks says of her regulars, "people come in and just hand me the list."
Customer service comes naturally to the Thailand native, who moved here 16 years ago. For a decade, she was a waitress and cashier at Park Slope's Rice Thai restaurant, whose owner also ran the Chinatown shop.
Six years ago, though, she bought Bangkok Center Market from her boss, re-arranging the store and growing its stock.
While some of her wares are now common - fish sauces, jasmine rices - plenty of others are not. At least once a year, Marks heads home to find frozen stalks of sugarcane, stuffed with sweet black rice, or the $6 Tom Yum Crisp, a snacky-sweet mix of dried shrimp, garlic and chiles.
Many of Marks' goods are delivered by plane rather than boat. They cost more, she says, but they're fresher.
There's Thai cookware and easy weeknight meals, too, like frozen Thai dinners, premixed sate seasonings and, on Saturdays, Thai meals to go. There are dozens of $1.50 sauces, soups and pastes, holy, sweet and mint basils for $2, plus Thai eggplant and galangal.
And - this is Thai food, after all - there's an entire wall of chile sauces, from way hot to even hotter.
"Every American kitchen has to have these," says Marks with smile.
Thanks to her, now you'll know how to cook with them. Bangkok Center Market, 104 Mosco St., between Mott and Mulberry Sts. (212) 349-1979 Map