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Food

Talay Thai: Coconut Milk, Peanuts & Chilies

Posted by Amie / April 3, 2012

Talay-Thai's orange-chickenSkip the pad thai in favour of Kai Himmaparn with fresh orange slices and sweet cashews and Panang Kai peanut and coconut milk curry at this MSG-free Thai restaurant in Montreal.

Balance - that's what Thai cooking is about: Hot, sour, salty, sweet and pungent (aka "umami" or "earthy") flavours that come from fish sauce, soy sauce, or shrimp paste. Generally "things fermented" do the trick.

Before you get all huffy about me saying to skip the pad thai at a Thai restaurant, just understand that the balance is off here. What there should be in Pad Thai is tamarind, lime, fish sauce, palm sugar, and a little or a lot of fresh red chilies. But at Talay Thai it's just kind of plain - there's no MSG, so there's nothing to make up for the lack of other flavours. Not that that's bad, since there are Thai afficionados who believe street-food style pad thai - dry pad thai - should be this underwhelming, but why make your tongue suffer when the rest of the menu at Talay Thai is so tastebud-tingling?

Talay-Thai-montreal-pad-thaiPad Kee Mao with fake crab, shrimp, green beans, cucumbers and lime

So your job has now become to inform the people you're sharing dinner with (and you should share because that means you can order more dishes...not necessarily because you like said people. Bonus if you do) that it would be a better idea to forego the noodle dishes (Pad Thai or bland Pad Kee Mao above) and spend your $9.95 on a few vermicelli salad rolls with chicken (Po Pia Sot - $3.75 each) and/or some of the vegetarian egg rolls ($5.95 for four) the staff were rolling by hand on a table in the front when I entered the restaurant.
panang-curry
Panang Kai
- Chicken curry with peanuts, coconut milk and chilies

Better yet, put your money toward the Panang chicken curry, which was enough to make me want to invest in a metro pass to get to Cote-des-Neiges on a regular basis (cheaper than a flight to Thailand). Though I'd probably bike instead to burn off the creamy coconut milk blended with roasted peanuts a small dose of chilies coating chunks of chicken, and red and green bell peppers. It's curry for wimps, though, so ask for some extra fresh chilies and lime to bite if you like it hot and want to balance the sweetness.

Don't feel like sharing? The table d'hote menus are a steal. But if you can't get the Kai Himmaparn - chicken with fresh orange slices and roasted cashews - get it for $12.95 à la carte. It's better than any Chinese sweet and sour chicken because of the fresh orange slices, but then the whole roasted cashews turn the juice into nutty cream sauce as you chew and they fall apart (take that, raw vegans).

It was the dish I was most craving for leftovers on day two, the fat globules clinging to the meat and deliciously bitter green peppers. I even saved the leftover sauce to simmer fresh swiss chard leaves, spinach and mustard greens in on day 3 after I'd eaten all the chicken. Waste = bad. Orange sauce overwhelming vegetables with sweetness = great.

Talay-Thai-montreal-eggplantPad Makheur - Eggplant with Onions, Green Peppers, and Basil

Thai food lovers without sweet teeth (tooths?) should stick with soy-heavy Pad Makheur eggplant with basil and pepper ($11.95). The small mushy and tender Asian eggplants are an oil sponge but, "Not too oily," was the response to my question of how greasy it was going to be, and it was sort of true. You still might want to be careful how much of this dish you inhale - another reason to share. And the almost raw green bell pepper chunks were bitter, especially with the fried basil and after having eaten the sugary orange-sauced chicken. But I hear vegetables are important, and slimy, squishy ones like these are pretty satisfying.

For dessert, there's the perfect 5-ingredient combination of sticky rice, coconut milk, salt, sugar, and fresh mango, or deep-fried apple topped with honey (both $3.95) if you're not stuffed yet.

So stay away from the Pad Thai and other stir-fried noodle dishes, and stick with anything with coconut milk, oranges, peanuts, and fresh chili peppers, and you'll be just fine.

What: Talay Thai

Where: 5697 Cote-des-Neiges (at Cote-Ste-Catherine)

How much: $12 for lunch specials catering to the nearby Jewish hospital crowd. $9.50 for an entire meal of green papaya salad (mostly just the unripe fruit - don't expect a cornucopia of colours and flavours) that doesn't seem as bad a deal as at dinner when $35 stuffs two people.

Why: Orange-cashew and coconut-peanut sauces. The food isn't made with low-quality ingredients - though the meat is far from organic and I do skip the non-sustainable farmed shrimp. There are lots of vegetarian options, from simple stir-fried veggies in oyster sauce to my favourite orange-cashew sweet-and-sour sauce over tofu.

514-739-2999

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