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13 Best Dishes in America We Can’t Stop Thinking About

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Tom yum hot and sour Thai soup with shrimp
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9. Tom Yum: Kalaya—Philadelphia, PA

The long-legged Sri Lankan river prawns are fixed in mid-clamber, a tangle of antennae and joints emerging from a coral broth that Nok Suntaranon, chef and owner of Kalaya in Philly, describes as “kook shop-style, developed by Chinese cooks” who were hired by the Thai aristocracy. “They made the tom yum, our classic soup, milder with evaporated milk.” Suntaranon, who grew up in Bangkok, loves the luxurious texture the dairy adds, and so do we. It’s a velvet cloak that softens (without hiding) the spicy and sour twanginess typical of tom yum—served tureen style here with barramundi and Pennsylvania mushrooms joining showstopping prawns. “When I create a dish, I won’t stop until it’s stunning,” Suntaranon says. “I just keep going.” To wit: Kalaya just moved from its snug home in the Italian Market to a huge, new Fishtown space that quintupled her seating. Thankfully, the tom yum also relocated. kalaya.net

Swordfish tacos
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10. Deep-Drop Swordfish: Hooked Up Seafood—Wildwood, NJ

Bill Bright likes his swordfish cold. The swordfish feel differently. In the summer and early fall, when Bright, a career New Jersey fisherman, and his family run Hooked Up Seafood on the road into the beach-and-boardwalk town of Wildwood, the upper water column of the Atlantic can reach 80 degrees. Warm water = warm fish = accelerated expiration clock. Catching sword this way, Bright says, “We weren’t always getting back on time.” So a few years ago, he began dropping long lines down deep to catch sword as they followed their primary food source, squid. The result: “Core temperature of 50 degrees, a live fish that’s already chilled,” says Bright. Dual translation: good for business (sword caught and held at this temp will last two weeks) and better for eating. The fish remains cold until Bright’s wife, Michele, or one of their four kids (Tess, Sara, Sam, Will) tosses a huge fillet on the griddle in Hooked Up’s snug kitchen trailer, with or without an audacious blackening spice. Plated with your choice of two sides (lemony Italian salad, tangled buttermilk onion rings, house-cut fries, Jersey corn) and served at a dockside picnic table with views of the sunset-streaked bay, the fish tastes like it has butter running through its veins, its texture firm but luscious. We’ve road-tested this dish dozens of times, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But no—Hooked Up’s deep-drop sword is simply, consistently the best piece of fish we’ve ever eaten. hookedupseafood.com

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