I found myself in New York City for New Year’s during winter break and was sure the Big Apple would have good Thai food. For those of you fortunate enough to live in the city, be sure to check out Pure Thai Cookhouse in Hell’s Kitchen.
This place had the complete authentic Thai package. Whacky, wood-toned interior, songs sung in Thai and, of course, delicious Thai cuisine. It felt like I had stepped off 766 9th Avenue between 51th and 52nd, right into bustling Bangkok.
Now I’m back and my search for authentic Thai food is continuing here in Buffalo. Located at 1460 Hertel Ave., Taste of Thai’s dimly lit, crimson red walls contain a huge selection of Thai dishes. Appetizers from Satay to Spring Rolls to Thai Fried Wonton, Tom Yum soup, varieties of fried rice, stir-fried rice, salads, curries – if you have a hankering for Thai, you’ll find your fix here.
I chose a variety of stir-fry called Pad Ka-Prao. This is my favorite dish for investigating a Thai restaurant’s authenticity. It’s a wonderfully simple entrée with all of the staples of Thai cuisine: garlic, chilies, and fish, oyster and soy sauces. While a simple meal this recipe makes, it is very easy to cut corners without the indispensible ingredient of Pad Ka-Prao: holy basil. This variety of basil native to Southeast Asia is difficult to acquire just about anywhere else, as it’s typically only used in dishes from this region. It contains earthy, clover-like flavors accompanied by a quick spicy kick.
The Pad Ka-Prao with pork came with Jasmine white rice, two fried eggs, onions, napa and mushrooms. The stir-fry was slightly oily. Also, I’ve found that pork is very often overcooked in local Asian restaurants. This held true with Taste of Thai’s pork, but this definitely wasn’t the worst that I’ve had. It was slightly chewy, but the extra oil seemed to soften it a bit (even more so when it was reheated).
After sampling the basil leaves – drumroll – they really did use holy basil. I could taste clove and feel the quick heat after singling out the leafy-green with my fork. The dark soy sauce provided a slightly sweet and malty taste to the dish, while the fish sauce and garlic offered a pungent reminder to you and everyone you met for the next five hours that you ate Thai food. The fried eggs were a welcome addition. The yolk added a creamy texture to the stir-fry.
Their prices are reasonable, with meals ranging from anywhere between $7.25 for noodles to specials that could go up to $16.95 for a dish of Chu Chee, which contains a special curry sauce with lime leaves. Appetizers are reasonably priced as well, so anyone daring enough to try something new won’t break their wallet.
Appetizers vary anywhere from fried tofu to tod mun, which is a chicken, fish or shrimp cake. The menu itself is packed with options, including salads, soups and special entrees.
I did enjoy Taste of Thai’s Pad Ka-Prao. But it isn’t in the spirit of the Thai food that was served to me on a wooden picnic table from a jolly Thai mother in the middle of an elephant sanctuary outside of Bangkok. It’s good Thai food for Buffalo. I’ll have to keep chasing that first high and I keep getting closer.
Tyler Walters is a contributing writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org