Thai me up

Henri warms up to the House of Thai

Some Like It Hot Bev Marcum (left) and Tanya Heaston are delighted by the beautiful dishes presented by server Soawanee Kosaiyasailh.

Some Like It Hot Bev Marcum (left) and Tanya Heaston are delighted by the beautiful dishes presented by server Soawanee Kosaiyasailh.

Photo By Tom Angel

Get your Thai on! The House of Thai, at 121 Broadway, is open Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sun.-Thur. 5 to 9 p.m. and Fri. & Sat. 5 to 9:30 p.m. Dinner items and combinations run $1 or $2 more than lunch; nothing is more than $10. For more information, phone 343-6843.

Henri’s friends on the East Coast are constantly amazed—if a bit skeptical—to hear about the relative sophistication of your little hamlet. While nothing like New York City, the Chico area does indeed offer its fair share of culture—Dwight Yoakam concerts notwithstanding. Poetry at Moxie’s, symphonies at Laxson Auditorium, Shakespeare in the Park, foreign films at the Pageant, live jazz at several restaurants, art galleries, a new coalition of Chico’s live theaters—quite impressive, really.

Of course, you’re also behind the East Coast in terms of the ethnic diversity of your restaurants—excusez-moi, but 40 taco trucks do not ethnic diversity make. D’autre hand, Miss Marilyn and I are delighted that there is at least a bit of variety here, and in fact it seems to have improved just in the year and a half since we came out. Our new favorite? The House of Thai, where I stopped in the other day for lunch after purchasing some new measuring spoons and an All-Clad sautéing pan at Collier.

Thai food is characterized by ingredients such as lemongrass, coriander, ginger, garlic, tamarind, chilies and limes, producing pungent blends of spicy and sour, sweet and salty flavors. Common dishes include Jasmine rice (served with most meals), soups, seafood, beef, pork, and chicken, often cooked or served with coconut milk and peanuts—almost always with a decorative presentation, reflecting the importance of the meal to the Thai people.

Thai-food aficionados can identify which of the four main parts of the country—north, northeastern, central and southern—specific dishes typically come from. Pad Thai, for example, is from the central region, where eggs are often used in cooking, while curry dishes are typically from southern, Muslim-influenced Thailand.

Chico’s House of Thai is an unassuming little storefront restaurant whose gracious hostesses and waitresses happily explain and recommend items on the menu. Like many Thai restaurants in the United States, the House of Thai has a large and varied menu. The first time I stopped in I had the kang kaew wan (green curry) with chicken, simmered in coconut milk with eggplant, green beans and bell pepper ($6.95, with small salad). All the flavors blended together blissfully—I mixed my rice in with it—and two days later I was back again for lunch, this time ordering the kang dang (red curry) tofu combination ($8.95, with soup, salad and choice of appetizer). Again, trés bon. I managed to stay away for almost a week, and when I stopped in again I ordered the moo yang (barbecued pork), which was served with ginger, garlic and soy ($6.95). I topped one piece with a generous spoonful of red-chili sauce and the other with a mountain of diced hot green chili peppers. Sacre bleu! I could see clearly now, all obstacles in my way.

Note: Readers know that Henri likes it hot. The “spicy” at the Thai House—probably pandering to uncultivated palates Americain—is rather mild for my taste. I order my food “extra spicy,” and all is right in le monde.

Chaud off the press! Henri is now taking orders for his new book, Some Like It Hot: Dining In and Out in Chico, available in mid-November. A collection of more than 40 of Henri’s Chico News & Review columns—and handsomely designed by the paper’s Carey Wilson—the book is the perfect holiday gift and includes many of Henri’s favorite recipes, including cioppino, paella, clam chowder, green-chile stew, gazpacho, pasta salads, dolmas, mango salsa, coffee cake and many more, in addition to reviews of Teddy Malibu’s, House of Bamboo, Sharon’s Cookhouse, The River Glenn Grill, Christian Michaels, J.P.'s, the Lassen Steakhouse, Scotty’s Landing, Pasquini’s, Buz’s Crab Shack, and more.

Cost is $15, plus $2.50 for postage. Make your check out to Coq au Vin Publications and send it to Coq au Vin Publications, P.O. Box 3996, Chico, CA 95927. Order your autographed copy today!