Amazing Medley of the Best That Asia Has to Offer….
January 21, 2011
There is no shortage of excellent Asian Cuisine in the Duke City. Among the very best (and most popular on Urbanspoon as of January 21, 2011), we have Budai (#20), Siam Cafe (#11), Saigon, Viet Taste (#8), Pho #1, and Sakura (#19). Who would have thought that the cuisines represented by these restaurants would be as wildly popular as these are right here in the High Desert, home of the chile-based New Mexican Cuisine.
There is now a new restaurant in the rising gastronomy of International Zone, Nang Thai’s Asian Grill, that combines the best of the above places, adds some innovative twists and combinations, and is destined to take its rightful place among the best in Albuquerque.
Jane and I ate there last night with 19 of our friends. The owner, who wishes to be called by his last name, Thai, prepared a sumptuous feast for us consisting of
- Summer Rolls with Grilled Pork
- Pork Wonton
- Beef with Pineapple
- Lemongrass Chicken
- Pork Chow Fun, and
- Rice Vermicelli with Egg Roll and Grilled Pork
Jane and I both agreed that the star of the evening was the Lemongrass Chicken. Small boneless chicken pieces stir-fried with onions, spring onions, and garlic in a thin lemongrass-flavored sauce that is both tart and piquant at the same time. The piquancy is from the oil in a chili paste that is house-made by the owner, Nang Thai, and uses (probably) birdseye peppers — พริกขี้หนู –, Thai peppers with a heat rating of 50,000 – 100,000 Scoville units. There is a container of this paste (as well as a garlic-containing version) on every table in the Asian Grill.
This was my favorite dish at our sumptuous feast. Jane’s too. Complex taste that explodes inside the mouth.
I have been a Chow Fun fan ever since I discovered it during my misspent youth. Jane, on the other hand, has never met a Chow Fun that she could stomach.
Chow fun is wide Chinese rice noodles. There are many different variations of chow fun that are sold fresh in Asian supermarkets. Some are rolled with tiny shrimps, sesame, and scallions while others are plain flat rice noodles. Most restaurants offer “wet” and “dry” chow fun dishes. “Wet” style chow fun has either white or brown gravy sauce. “Dry” style chow fun has a smoky flavor to it due to the heat or “wok hay” of the wok. A good plate of chow fun should not be greasy but rather have just enough oil to lightly coat the noodles.The version served at the Asian Grill is the “dry” style and has generous pieces of thin-sliced pork, which is why Jane, a Chow Fun denigrator, loved it. She abhors the greasy brown gravy version served in lesser restaurants that slimes her mouth. Thai’s version is excellent, and has converted Jane. Wonderful taste and mouth feel. Hats off.
Thai has been around, and has absorbed the secrets of many Asian cuisines during his travels. His special skill lies in the blending of all his knowledge and lore into a cohesive and surprisingly rich menu. And he loves to talk about his work. As he talks, his hands dance through the air punctuating and emphasizing his words. He clearly loves his work, and so will you.
There is, BTW, a “second menu,” much in the spirit of that at Budai, listing dishes that Anglos might find weird. Talk to Thai; he will carefully explain what all that stuff is about, and show you pictures. That’s where I’m going next time.