asian food guide
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Asian Food Guide
Gwen Ashley Walters
May, 2013, Page 68
All Southeast Asian cuisines embrace a hot-sour-salty-sweet flavor mantra, but none more so than Thai. In-your-face flavors combined with high-contrast textures set Thai curries and stir-fries apart from their Asian counterparts. Typically, Thai is the only Far Eastern cuisine where the diner chooses the chile heat level, ranging from mild to “Thai hot,” sometimes represented by numbers. Unfortunately, there is no universal standard; one restaurant’s medium is another’s hot. Fragrant, long-grain jasmine rice, a staple at every meal, is often the only tame tiger on the table.
: Galangal (rhizome with similar flavor to ginger); lemongrass; Thai basil; coconut milk; kaffir lime leaves; chiles
Pad means “stir-fry,” and this national rice noodle dish plays up the sour-salty-sweet flavors. Not all versions are created equal, but Wild Thaiger gets the equation just right – the perfect balance of al dente noodles and crisp bean sprouts, egg, shrimp and chicken bathed in a sauce of tamarind, lime, palm sugar and fish sauce, and sprinkled with toasted peanuts for crunch ($11.95). 2631 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-241-8995,
Malee’s on Main
Behind every great Thai cook is a unique hot and sour soup recipe. Malee’s version ($5.50/cup, $12.99/bowl) is pleasantly pungent, swirling with lemongrass, galangal, garlic and chiles, and bobbing with mushrooms, chicken and shrimp. 7131 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480-947-6042,
Heat seekers are especially attracted to this warm, spicy salad of ground meat (traditionally pork but sometimes beef or chicken) mixed with toasted and ground rice, galangal, red onions and scallions, tossed in lime and fish sauce ($8.95). Cool cabbage and mint leaves offer welcome respite from the heat. 1601 E. Bell Rd., Phoenix, 602-971-4988,
Photo By Terri Lea Smith
Pad Kee Mao
Dubbed “drunken noodles” because the spiciness either cures a hangover or drives you to drink, this stir-fry ($8.95) starts with fat, wide rice noodles coated in a hot chile paste spiked with flavor bombs lemongrass and galangal. Traditionally made with thinly sliced beef, it’s also available with chicken, pork or mixed vegetables. 10880 N. 32nd St., Phoenix, 602-971-1293; and 7448 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 623-435-6949,
Nunthaporn’s Thai Cuisine
Served old-school style, with just meat and “gravy” – no vegetables – this russet-hued curry is silky smooth and rich from just a splash of coconut milk, and deeply flavored with chiles and kaffir lime leaves. Thinly sliced beef sirloin is traditional ($11.50), but Nunthaporn also offers tofu, chicken, pork and a variety of fish and seafood options ($11-$17). 17 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-649-6140,
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