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Food Fight

Morning Glory Food Fight: Ruen Pair vs. Crispy Pork Gang & Grill

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Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge Ruen Pair's Morning Glory - T. NGUYEN
  • T. Nguyen
  • Ruen Pair's Morning Glory
Morning glory, hollow as a reed and as deeply green as Robin Hood's cap, grows bountifully throughout the waters of Southeast Asia. Most Southeast Asian dishes, then, make ample use of morning glory in their cuisines in some way or another; one of the more popular morning glory dishes is Thailand's version, fried and tossed with copious chunks of garlic, chile, and any number of sauces (fish, oyster). For this edition of Food Fight, we set out to see whether Ruen Pair's famed fried morning glory dish stands supreme over next door neighbor Crispy Pork Gang & Grill's decidedly more crispy-porky version.

As almost anyone who has stayed out well past midnight in this town can tell you, Ruen Pair is that reliable post-drinking standby, a pit stop between the last bar on the crawl and the first leg of the journey home. Inevitably, someone orders the morning glory for a jolt of vitamin A after all that vitamin beer; good thing too, as there is more than enough here to split between two people. The vegetables have a nice, woodsy crunch, and the garlic is prominent. Almost too prominent, in fact: it almost overwhelms the dish. And yet, this is just as comforting at lunchtime as it is at midnight.

Right next door is a newcomer whose name, Crispy Pork Gang & Grill, sounds a bit more like an '80s cartoon strategically scheduled between My Little Pony and She-Ra than a Thai restaurant, but that's exactly what it is. Accordingly, a good number of dishes on the menu is dedicated to crispy pork belly, including the morning glory. The portion here is slightly smaller than at Ruen Pair, but what it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up in pork. Generous bits abound just like the right number of croutons on a Caesar's salad. The pork is, as promised, crispy; it's also slightly chewy so you can better appreciate its flavor. This lends the morning glory a meaty flavor you didn't realize was missing in Ruen Pair's version.

click to enlarge Crispy Pork Gang & Grill's morning glory with crispy pork - T. NGUYEN
  • T. Nguyen
  • Crispy Pork Gang & Grill's morning glory with crispy pork

The morning glory itself is fried but not overly crunchy, a welcome surprise given that the pork provides all of the crunch you may want in one mouthful. And while we appreciate the garlicky flavors of Ruen Pair's morning glory, the garlic in Crispy Pork Gang & Grill's dish doesn't overwhelm, so you can pick up subtle flavors in the sauce. Even without the crispy pork, this would be an excellent morning glory dish.

We're one of the very last people you would ever find who believes that bacon makes everything better, but here, the pork belly really does. New kid on the block Crispy Pork Gang & Grill wins this round with its absolutely delicious, perfectly balanced morning glory dish that is great on its own, and even better with its namesake crispy pork. And that's the end of that story, morning glory.

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