Thai Basil Kitchen
written & photographed by CARL DANBURY
Nicha Pramrutairat grew up in Khon Kaen, Thailand. She and her father opened Thai Basil Kitchen two years ago, in a space where several former restaurant tenants failed. Chef Carlos, Nicha’s husband, grew up in Puebla, Mexico about two hours southeast of Mexico City. One bite of his food, however, you might believe he was trained in Bangkok. “He is both a blessing and a curse,” Nicha said with a big smile. “My husband is a perfectionist.”
I had made one other visit to Thai Basil after it had just opened, prior to it obtaining its alcohol license. I was recently reminded by a neighbor that I should return, and am glad that I did. Lunch specials include choice of soup of the day or salad. As it was Friday, I chose the Tom Ka soup, a flavorful mixture with coconut milk simmered with lemon grass, galangal, kaffir lime leaf, Thai chili, grape tomato, green onion, cilantro and mushroom. It provides a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. For my entree I chose my favorite curry, Massamun, which includes coconut milk, potato, carrot, onion, peanuts and avocado. It is served with jasmine rice. I ordered the Thai hot version, and found that the hot spices provided a great balance for the sauce, which can otherwise be a bit sweet. Other options are hot, medium and mild. Even with two starches, potato and the rice, the dish is not too heavy but can be a bit rich, which is perfect for the onset of cooler autumn and winter temperatures. All four curries served at Thai Basil Kitchen, (Massamun, green, red and Panang) are gluten free.
One of the most popular street food dishes in Thailand is Pad Kra Pow. Nicha said that her husband’s version is excellent and well worth trying. Bell pepper, green beans, onion, Thai basil leaves, Thai chili and garlic provides the base for ground chicken. While Thai Basil Kitchen offers sliced chicken breast to accompany this dish on the dinner menu, the ground mixture of white and dark meat chicken provides more flavor, according to Nicha. Another entree suggestion that customers enjoy is the spicy catfish and the traditional Pad Thai. For an appetizer, choose the shrimp cake, which is an authentic dish in Thailand. Minced shrimp are lightly coated in bread crumbs and served with a sweet plum sauce. For dessert, try any one of these three great options: traditional Thai fried banana with coconut ice cream, coconut cake or sticky rice with coconut milk.