When I was first considering the move to Nashville, I worried about the availability of finding good, authentic Asian food. While I’ve yet to find solid dim sum, I happened upon King Market during an exploratory visit and was pleasantly surprised. It’s a small restaurant seated in the heart of an Asian market. After moving, I was so caught up with trying other places that I forgot about the cafe – until last week.
King Market serves authentic Thai Isan style food, which has heavy influences from Laotian culture. Isan is the indigenous culture (about 30% of the country’s population), and while it is the most regional cuisine in Thailand, it is rarely found outside of the country itself. So what makes it different than the usual Thai restaurant you’ll come across in the U.S? The food has a certain brightness to it: savory salads and fresh stir fried foods that utilize plenty of chili peppers, lime, peanuts, and dried shrimp are up front. It’s a little sweeter and a little more spicy.
So when you’re visiting King Market Cafe, you’ll notice variations on salads like larb and nam toke (ground meat), with a heavier emphasis on fish sauce (to provide some umami and sweet notes). If you’re unsure of what items are, the helpful menu has photos and descriptions of almost every item so you’ll get a better sense of what is being ordered.
The most recent visit included an appetizer of fried meatballs ($6.00), Yum Seafood ($11.50), and green curry ($8). Service was quick and friendly, with everything being served when it was ready – appetizer arrived with the food itself.
The deep fried meatballs was exactly what I was expecting: deep fried meatballs. They weren’t battered, they were just flash fried so they were warm, tender, and perfect for dipping. I preferred using a combination of Hoisin and Sriracha sauces rather than the sweet and sour it was served with, but it was a great snack either way.
While the green curry is listed in the soup section, it doesn’t really have the consistency of a curry soup (thinner, runny broth). It was thick like a sauce you’d pour over rice, with the spice pared down creamy coconut milk and adorned with eggplant, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, basil, mushrooms, and meat. In other words, it is delcious no matter how you slice (or slurp) it.
In traditional Thai foods, “Yum” refers to a distinct combination of hot and sour flavors (while “Yam” or sometimes, “Tam” refers to a spicy and sour salad). Thus, their Yum Seafood had very pronounced hot and sour flavors. The generous helping of fresh jalapeño slices definitely helped with the heat and worked nicely with the array of mussels, squid, shrimp, and vegetables. The fresh squeezed lime brought in some citrus, making it reminiscent of many larb decisions.
All in all, King Market Cafe is definitely worth a visit – especially if you’re picking up some Asian groceries or snacks in the market portion itself. Service is very quick and friendly and you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised with traditional takes on Americanized versions of Thai food.
Check out their menu here.
King Market Cafe, 1801 Antioch Pike, Antioch, TN 37013