My Thai "gateway dish"...

I'm not in the habit of writing a second blog entry about places.  At least so far.  Even though I will revisit places that I love, albeit far less often than I would like, I would rather focus on ground I haven't already covered.  There have been a few exceptions, like Boise Fry Company and Lorena's, where particularly interesting circumstances justified (at least in my opinion) further attention.

In this case in particular, it's a single dish from A Taste of Thai that I really want to draw attention to.  A few days ago I happened to be long on appetite and short on cash, I pulled out the old coupon folder and came across a $20 voucher for A Taste of Thai which I had purchased from CitySmart for $10.  I knew my sister was in more or less the same financial boat, so I offered to use the certificate to buy us lunch.  She went with the Pad Thai, which to most people is the "gateway dish" that draws them in to the exploration of Thai cuisine, much in the same way that the California Roll is most people's first sushi experience.

For my own part, I don't dig Pad Thai too much.  I don't like the odd sweet/tangy seasoning combination.  I kept dragging my eyes over their lunch menu again and again, trying to find the dish that would suit my tastes and keep me wanting to explore.  Eventually I decided that I wasn't going to find that dish amongst their lunch specials, and I decided to peruse the dinner menu.  And that, my friends, is when I saw it...

38. Pad Gai - Wide wheat noodles, eggs, onions, roasted garlic, black pepper and your choice of meat stir-fried in a mild sauce

I'd never heard of this dish before.  Nobody else I asked had ever heard of it either.  It sounded like comfort food to me, like something I might make myself at home.  I called the restaurant and asked if Pad Gai was available on their lunch menu.  After being told that it is not, I told the man on the other end of the phone that I was so interested in trying this dish that I would pay the dinner price if need be, but that I would appreciate them making an exception this one time if at all possible.  After a moment's consideration, he agreed.  Happy now, I added an order of egg rolls to finish off what remained of the voucher and headed out to pick up my lunch.

Fried Egg Rolls

A Taste of Thai's egg rolls are interesting to me.  Even though I generally prefer the thin, crispy skin of a fried spring roll to the thick, chewy wrapper that most egg rolls come in, these are actually somewhere in the middle.  This particular variety is all vegetables and noodles, and while I wouldn't describe them as light they definitely aren't as heavy as standard egg rolls.  They're complimented nicely by an accompanying sweet and sour sauce, and honestly I couldn't decide if they're better with or without the sauce and just kept going back and forth.

Chicken Pad Gai

I'm not exaggerating when I say that the Pad Gai was love at first mouthful.  That they describe the sauce only as "mild" on the menu is a compete disservice to how clean, rich and savory it is.  To someone like myself who favors Asian cuisine, this is comfort food of the highest order.  It's not spicy, it's not terribly exotic, it's just hearty and delicious.  The egg, rather than being just scrambled as I assumed it would be, was actually fried.  As I ate, I came across both bright yellow and crispy white bits, which along with the chicken and onions served to enrich the dish.  Personally, I would have been happy with just the noodles, roasted garlic, black pepper and sauce, but the other ingredients did lend some overall depth (and protein, I suppose), and of course a little visual flair.

While still shoving forkfuls of this stuff into my face, I was using my other hand to search for information about Pad Gai on the internet.  Interestingly enough, one of the most common things I found is that it's something of a rare dish, even in large cities.  Pulling up online menus for as many local Thai places as I could find, I soon learned that it's a rare dish here as well.  In fact, I was unable to find a single other eatery that makes it.  So, A Taste of Thai will apparently be getting more of my business from now on.  Stop by and try the Pad Gai if you're at all interested, and while you're at it ask if you can have it as a lunch special.  Who knows, perhaps if enough people ask...

Food:  A+
Value:  B+
Service:  A+
Atmosphere:  B+
Final Grade:  A

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  1. Pad = Stir-fried, Gai = Chicken. In Thailand, it is called Kuatiew Pad Gai or stir fried noodles with chicken. Unlike Pad Thai, this dish omits using tamarind juice or venigar. I remembered eating this dish for lunch while growing up as it is quick and easy and can be cooked in a large batch to share with everyone in the family. I don't typically see this dish on a menu not even in Thailand and my guess was that the dish was relatively simple to make and do not require any special skills. It was sort of a dish that most Thais know how to cook it at home so it is not considered special therefore not a popular item.

    I went to the Taste of Thai just last week as I heard everyone was raving about it and I was curious. My friend ordered Pad Thai and I had a bowl of Tom Yum Goong and Roasted duck meat with rice. I tasted Pad Thai but I didn't care so much for it. The dish would have been better without ketchup. Most Pad Thai in the US is too sweet for my taste. I was once told by a friend who owns a Thai restaurant in California that they make it sweet to please the American palatte.

    Tom Yum reeked too much of a fishy smell from a fish sauce otherwise it was perfect. As for Roasted Duck meat, it was perfect just like I would eat it on a street in Thailand.

    In all I would recommend a Taste of Thai.

  2. I'm still pretty new to Thai food, so I appreciate your insights. I find it interesting that Pad Thai here is corrupted, I had hoped most of the Americanization of Asian food had been restricted to Chinese food and sushi. Glad to know I was right about pad gai being a relatively simple dish to make too, guess I'll be looking for recipes.

  3. Straight to the point – You MUST try Thai Cuisine off of Overland. Lunch specials run Monday through Friday from 11 – 3 for around $8, which includes spring roll or golden bag with soup, salad, and entrée. The dressing on the salad is to die for and the soup is simple, but satisfying. The panang curry is a must, but you may want to order it mild.
    My roomie and I have tried just about everything on their lunch menu (we are budget conscious), but have also ventured out to their dinner menu for those few items not offered at lunch. We have been to a few different Thai places, but this is by far our favorite. Strong recommendations to try:
    Lunch: Cashew Chicken, Panang Curry, Green Curry, Red Curry, Pepper Garlic, Pad Woon Sen
    Dinner: 48. Basil Curry Noodle, Mongolian Beef (most tender beef I’ve ever eaten)
    To finish off your lunch or dinner if you still have room (sorry, this means you’ll have to dine in), you need to try the homemade coconut ice cream with sticky rice. The combination of hot and cold, creamy and sticky … words do not adequately describe its awesomeness. I hope you enjoy!

  4. I'm going to have to check this out later. Thanks.