I like to think of myself as a loyal, committed kind of girl, but when it comes to Thai food, I'm a bit of a serial monogamist. Since moving to Boston in 2004, my love affairs with stir-fried noodle dishes have totaled close to a half dozen, and each one has a special place in my heart—and my stomach. This post is a retrospective tribute to the first plate of pad ki mow I ever loved.
I took up with Dok Bua's version ($8.95) back in 2006, when a couple friends and I had a regular Sunday lunch date at the Brookline restaurant. Coming off of a relationship-gone-flat with Brown Sugar Café's pad si ew noodles (Had the sauce lost its white pepper bite? And why must they put that lettuce leaf underneath the noodles? Nobody likes soggy romaine), I was on the hunt for something bolder, with more punch and heat. When I heard office chatter about the unusually good ki mow noodles at this quirky Thai joint in Coolidge Corner, I got myself over there in a hurry to get a good look for myself. (I believe the conversation I overheard went something like, "...yeah, I don't know why it tastes so good. They must put crack in the noodles there.")
You hear people say it all the time: I never knew I could love something as much as I love this. That's how I felt; it was love at first bite. Instead of adding heat to the dish by merely shaking hot red pepper flakes over the stir-fry like most places do, the folks at Dok Bua toss the fresh chow foon noodles with a chili paste that fuses roasted sweetness with heat that builds and burns steadily as you eat. The best bites were when the paste and the sweet, wilted Thai basil sprigs caught a piece of scrambled egg. I wish that those super-savory morsels came packaged like pretzels.
It didn't even matter that the vegetables were not my favorite; in fact, most of the time I upgraded the classic green bell pepper strips and unripe tomato chunks for Chinese broccoli. Besides bright color, the cut-up stalks added their characteristic mustardy bite and fresh crunch, which mingled perfectly with the chewy rice ribbons and my protein of choice: creamy, slightly springy fried tofu wedges.
Of course, that was five years ago, and minus the occasional fling (such as this past weekend), I've moved on. These days, my seemingly fickle heart belongs to the wok-charred pad si ew and the pork tom yum noodle soup at S&I Thai in Allson—a true hole-in-the-wall with rock-bottom prices and food so well executed that I can't imagine ever straying to another restaurant. Famous last words.