Edible South Florida Winter 2013 : Page 29

I:GR:IAHMHL3=:OB=KHL>G=HK? Lhfmnf ;^^_c^kdr MaZb]hgnml THAILAND IT’S EASY TO FIND A THAI RESTAURANT IN SOUTH Florida. It’s not easy to find a good one. Sometimes it seems that they’re all using one of two regulation-issue menus distributed by some Thai Restaurant Central Headquarters: the one with sushi, and the one without. Otherwise, it’s the same salads, the same bland sauces, the same ubiquitous, and usually sticky-sweet, pad thai. That’s not true at Panya, in North Miami Beach. Now, I’m cheating here some – Panya’s not particularly west, actually just east of I-95, and it’s not even in Broward County – but it’s so good it’s worth bending the rules. Their som tum, a salad of shredded, pounded green papaya that has a vegetal crunch and just a hint of sweetness, is tossed with fish sauce, lime juice, tomatoes, long beans, chiles and peanuts. But it’s the chewy dried shrimp and the diced bits of whole lime, rind and all, that provide exclamation points of intense flavor. Larb, a salad of minced pork (or beef or chicken) tossed with slivered onions and scallions, is brightened by fresh mint leaves and then anchored by the intriguing toastiness of roasted rice powder. Panya’s guay tiaw kee mao, also known as “drunken noodles,” features broad, thick rice noodles tossed with garlic, chiles, green onion, spicy Thai basil, and your protein of choice, stir fried in a hot wok that leaves a hint of smoke and caramelization, what the Chinese call “wok hei” or “breath of a wok.” Or for something clearly not on the “regulation” Thai menu, try the catfish pad ped – chunks of fish on the bone, tossed in a chunky, spicy red curry together with tiny, crunchy Thai eggplants, long beans, fragrant kaffir lime leaves, and potent clusters of pickled green peppercorns. It is a parade of flavors and textures. Most South Florida Thai restaurants are too timid with the spice; the result is dishes that are unbalanced, overly sweet or just insipid. At Panya, spice takes its rightful place. They will ask how spicy you prefer a dish. If you opt for “medium,” you’ll definitely feel it; if you opt for “hot,” you’ll probably feel it the next day too. At its best, Thai food is not subtle stuff: it blasts the palate with competing notes of hot, sour, sweet, salty and bitter. But while it may lack subtlety, it does not necessarily lack grace. When it really works, all those powerful flavors come together in fantastic harmony, like a multi-instrument jam band playing at full volume. That’s how Panya cooks. THAI FOOD IS NOT SUBTLE STUFF: IT BLASTS THE PALATE WITH COMPETING NOTES OF HOT, SOUR, SWEET, SALTY AND BITTER. IZgrZ .+)G>*/0Lmk^^m GhkmaFbZfb;^Z\a ,).&2-.&1.// VIETNAM Banh Mi – a Vietnamese submarine sandwich with a variety of fillings (for instance, grilled meats, Vietnamese pâté, sausage, eggs, tofu), served on a crispy baguette, typically dressed with mayonnaise, pickled carrot and daikon, fresh cilantro and cucumber. Bun – rice noodles, also sometimes called “vermicelli” or “rice sticks,” often the foundation for dishes topped with various grilled meats: “bun thit nuong” is grilled pork served over rice noodles; “bun tom nuong” is grilled shrimp served over rice noodles. Cha Gio – crispy fried spring rolls in a rice paper wrapper, usually filled with some combination of shrimp, pork and vegetables. Com Tam – rice plates, usually with similar toppings to “bun” dishes; fried rice is “com chien.” Nuoc Cham – a thin dipping sauce typically made with fish sauce, citrus juice, sugar and water, sometimes with additions of chile peppers, garlic or julienned carrots. Pho – a Vietnamese noodle soup, typically with a beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, onions and scallions, and various cuts of meat, garnished at the table with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, chiles, lime and various sauces. Iah edible SouthFlorida.com ∙ winter 2013 ∙ +2

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