Love in the Time of Coriander

Thoughts on food & more.

Monday, September 05, 2005

I see . . . you see . . . Pad Se Ew!

Anne returned from her summer trip of canoeing in the border waters between Minnesota and Canada. She arrived leech-free, a little under-weight and ready to cash in on a promised birthday dinner.

I tried my hand at a few recipes in the September issue of Food and Wine ("Everybody Loves Asian!"). The recipes by Charles Pham of Slanted Door are written and edited well. The ground peanut sauce that pairs with the spring rolls turns out excellently. It's a really nice balance between sweet, salty and spicy. The only mildy disappointing thing was the Pad Se Ew recipe by a woman who runs a restaurant in Sacramento. Ever since the kiosk in Portland, I've been craving this dish. The sauce on this recipe just didn't materialize into anything that tasted like the real deal. Nor did it really embody a uniquely delicious flavor. Unfortunately, it was personality-less.

I wasn't aware that my next gratifying Pad Se Ew experience (to replicate the moment of love my tastebuds experienced in Portland) would happen so quickly after trying my hand at home. Pireeni, Neela and I met for a dinner-meeting at the new Thai House at 19th & Castro. The space used to be a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant with hardly any clientele save a few stragglers. But since I've left the city (my year anniversary just passed), it's gone through restaurant rehab and has emerged as kick-ass neighborhood Thai.

We ordered Chicken Pad Se Ew, Basil Eggplant and Green Curry with Tofu. Everything arrived in square white dishes in clean, modern style. Perhaps the decor leans a little too much in the direction of a college hub for the otherwise-hip Castro, with easy-to-mop white tiles and simple, plastic furniture. But the food was as good as Osha, my most recent Thai love in the City. An precise indication of the tastiness factor was that each of us kept sopping up whatever was left on the table, despite the fact that we were bursting out of our pants. And the prices? On the cheap. We emerged with a total check for about $25, $10 each with tax and tip. Not bad at all.

The noodles were a hit among the three of us. They had great consistency with a stellar sauce. Not too greasy nor too sweet, as Thai sauces sometimes are. The cooks also had a gentle hand with the spice factor, easing the foreign tongue into the merits of just the right amount of burn. Here's where I'm a bit dogmatic. I believe strongly that if one makes a commitment to trying a dish, it's not fair to try to amend it until all you're left with is a distilled version of what it might be. In the same way that I wouldn't ever call over a waiter to ask him to bring me a Tzaziki with no garlic (something my dad actually once did!), it makes me cringe to watch eaters "dumb" down Thai dishes by asking for spicy things to be made mild. I was glad to see that the Thai House shares my philosophy, too. Though Pad Se Ew is typically served mild, it came to our table in much hotter (and sexier) garb than usual. I wondered if this was the way it was really, by the Thai food police, supposed to be dished up.

As for the Pad Thai project, I've only abandoned it temporarily and will soon be restarting it. Don't worry. I haven't forgotten. In the meantime, I've been unfaithfully pursuing Pad Se Ew. But it's been worth it. I've been discovering the merits of "the other Thai noodle dish."


At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Christine said...

I love Pad Se Ew...even more than Pad Thai!

Can't wait for the recipe.


Post a Comment

<< Home