Tasty Thai, Kittery Maine

by Monique Meadows
(York, Maine)

I had a 5th grade teacher from Thailand that introduced our class to dishes of her country, Thai flavors broadened my then culinary knowledge of Asian dishes ( sweet and sour pork, chow mein and egg rolls) with dishes like Tom Yum Gai soup - a Thai hot and sour soup with chicken, mushrooms lemongrass and lime juice. A slight variation with Thai spices and coconut milk made it Tom Khu. It was all delicious and new.

Now, I am always excited when I find authentic Thai cuisine in my travels, the incredibly fragrant, often spicy, dishes that make use of ingredients such as coconut milk, lemongrass, chiles, peanut sauce, lime and curries. It’s a given that I can find Thai food in a big city, but in Southern Maine?

Kittery is gaining a reputation as a foodie destination and has a Thai restaurant to be celebrated. Celebrated it is, having recently been awarded Best Thai Restaurant in Best of Taste of the Seacoast 2010.

You may have driven right by the restaurant, a small storefront in a small strip of shops just north on the exiting curve of the Kittery traffic circle. You’ll see it the first time out of the corner of your right eye and say “What –Thai!?” You’ll do that a few more times when exiting the circle until, like me, you’ll take a dining recommendation, aim your steering wheel for the parking lot, turn off your cellphone, block out your calendar for an hour or two and enter a little slice of Thailand. You can be “back in Maine” soon enough. For the moment, enter a Thai escape complete with the rich décor colors of reds, yellows and golds, walls complete with art from the country.

This is the real deal, not a Thai add-on to a Chinese menu. The chef is Nok Raynard, who received her culinary diploma in Thailand. She and her husband Dan offer a delicious Thai cuisine experience not to be missed as you sample the area’s restaurants. Several of the House Specialties are all about duck (what is not to love?) - Spicy Duck, Red Curry Duck, and Tamarind Duck - sliced boneless half duck in a delicious tangy tamarind sweet and sour sauce with pineapple, mushrooms and cashews. Looking for a new way to enjoy haddock (locals take note) - Chile Fish is your dish – a crispy haddock fillet topped with vegetables and Thai basil in a chili sauce. I stopped in for lunch with a friend one Wednesday (closed Tuesdays) and introduced my dining partner to all things curry. Three different curries are on the Lunch Specials menu, 15 lunch choices in all at a great price of $7.95, $8.95 if you add shrimp. If you're not a curry fan, try the Pad See Ew - stir fried rice noodles with egg, vegetables in a sweet soy sauce, the Praram - seafood sautéed in peanut sauce or Pad Thai - the famous Thai dish of thin stir fried rice noodles tossed with egg, bean sprouts, scallions and peanuts. Back to that curry - there are five curries on the dinner menu – Red, Green, Yellow, Massaman and Panang.

Coconut milk is a star in many Thai dishes and all five of the curries here have an infusion of it. All dishes can be enjoyed at a spicy/hot level of your choosing. I like my Thai food “Spicy”- that’s baby steps on the spicy/hot scale and the first of four increasing levels. “Thai Hot” is the hottest, proceed with both caution and your own exuberant anticipation.

Nok Raynard is creating authentic dishes of Thailand, including those soups, and we in Southern Maine don’t have to wait for a trip to Boston to enjoy such fare.

And dessert, did someone say dessert? Coconut ice cream is a tradition in Thai restaurants, a cooling treat after a meal of spice and tantalizing flavors. No exception here, deciding on dessert will have you considering the Ginger ice cream, Mango sorbet and Honey Banana with ice cream as well. Stay a while and savor Thailand.
TASTY THAI www.tastythaikittery.com, Kittery Center Circle, 182 State Road 207 439-9988 Dinner Mon – Sun 5 p.m - 9 p.m., closed Tues; Lunch: M-F 11:30 - 2, Sat 12 – 2.

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