The Search for Thai
A student’s personal struggle to find good Thai food after an abroad experience
There’s a saying about two mice stuck in a barrel of cream – one drowns but the other starts kicking and eventually churns the cream into butter.
I can’t imagine that he kicked the whole time – even that hard-working mouse needs a break. So after a few weeks of kicking my tiny mouse legs in the creamy barrel of schoolwork, I was looking forward to trying a new restaurant to reinvigorate my motivation.
There’s something uniquely refreshing about a new experience after you feel like you’ve been kicking your feet just to stay afloat.
This past summer, I was fortunate enough to travel to Thailand during a study abroad session in Singapore. I can still remember having some of my favorite meals in tiny, shack-like restaurants – soupy green curry, hot basil pork, crispy fried chicken and mango sticky rice.
I was hoping to relive some of those experiences here in Buffalo. Shamefully, there aren’t many options. I found one Thai restaurant near North Campus: Jasmine Thai on the corner of Niagara Falls Boulevard and Brighton Road.
Jasmine Thai is a small, unassuming restaurant located in a strip mall across from Maple Road on Niagara Falls Boulevard. Inside, wood panels cover the walls from the floor to waist high level. Framed, embossed elephant tapestries selectively adorn areas above the wood panels. The interior shares characteristics with the food that is served – simple, well thought-out and a step above what you might expect.
My friend and I started our meals with Thai Iced Tea. This killer drink is made with some variety of red tea with a hint of vanilla, along with sweet and condensed milk, which gives the concoction a creamy, orange color. It provides your caffeine fix with an explosion of flavor that can’t be matched by any other tea or coffee concoction.
If you haven’t tried it, stop what you’re doing and buy some – you can thank me later.
For an appetizer, my buddy ordered steamed dumplings and I got spring rolls. There was nothing spectacular about either of these and if I went again, I wouldn’t order an appetizer. Your main dish offers so much food that it’s not worth ordering an appetizer on top of it.
With good timing, our entrees came out – his Chicken Pad Thai and my Pork Panang Curry with rice.
Panang is a mild curry, mixed with coconut milk that leaves the dish with an orange hue and creamy quality. The curry offers a very mild heat with loads of flavor. There was a welcome hint of ginger. I loved the curry but the pork was a bit tough and stringy.
I enjoyed my entrée, but my friend’s Pad Thai was another story.
The few bites that I had contained so much fish sauce that I could almost feel it breathing out of my nose. In fact, that’s really all I could taste in the dish.
On top of that, his chicken was very tough. I don’t understand how a restaurant that offers almost solely Thai food could make a Pad Thai so poorly. My buddy didn’t seem to mind, but that had more to do with his state of hunger than the taste of the food.
Would I go back to Jasmine Thai? Disappointingly, no.
Sure, you get about two meals out of the entrée, but if I were paying $12 for a Thai dish I’d rather have tender pork and chicken and a less fishy Pad Thai. My dish was good, but I want a more authentic Thai feeling to the food and the restaurant itself.
Smooth jazz should not be played in a Thai restaurant. I want to hear motorbikes and horns beeping and taxi drivers trying to coerce you into seeing ladyboys and “Ping-Pong shows.”
But, this experience gave me a mission for this year: find the best Thai restaurant closest to UB – or you’ll just have to meet me in Bangkok.
Tyler Walters is a features contributing writer. Features desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.