Crispy Chinese Watercress Salad at Sripraphai

After heading to Manhattan and walking/shopping off our Chinese lunch at Flushing’s Golden Mall, tired from the red-eye and eager to see Obama’s acceptance speech, we decided to head back to our hotel in Flushing fairly early. But not without first stopping off in Woodside for dinner at Sripraphai.

During our trips to New York, we’ve learned that you can stop almost anywhere along the #7 train and find fabulous food in Queens. Just last year we discovered Sripraphai and were delighted. Someone at an adjoining table had recommended the crispy Chinese watercress salad. We like crispy. We like Chinese watercress. And on the road, especially after eating lots of offal and other meat, we like a chance to eat salad. Should you not like salad, you might still want to try this one, as the watercress is batter-fried! And it’s got wonderful flavors, with the usual Thai harmony of sweet, sour, salty and spicy. (Well, this one’s not too spicy, but read on.) Red onion, green onion and cilantro contribute flavor, and the salad comes with shrimp, squid, chicken, and cashews. We loved it the first time around, and it was a must-have this time, too. (Next time, though, we might have to try the crispy thai catfish meat salad.)

We wanted some soup, and my love of the offbeat led me to the “beef’s offal soup.” This was delightfully spicy and sour, with lemongrass and cilantro stems and leaves providing nice herbal notes. While I was happy to see liver and tripe, it was the melt-in-your-mouth tendon that I liked the best. Then for an entree we shared the roasted duck in hot and spicy sauce. The duck was very tender, but it was the intensity of the spicy that impressed me most. No dumbing down the dishes here! I’ve cooked with Thai eggplant (green, golf-ball sized wonders) a lot, but I’ve never known them to take on heat like they did in this dish. It’s rare for me to be reaching for the rice as much as I did here—happily so.

Having had a week of Thai cooking classes with Kasma Loha-Unchit, I don’t go out for Thai food often, despite the ridiculous number of Thai restaurants in Seattle. The menus are similar and I find the food generally disappointing. What we need is a place like Sripraphai (or Las Vegas’ Lotus of Siam, which is also amazing). We need a Thai restaurant with wide variety in the menu, including preparations not normally found elsewhere. A Thai restaurant that offers an awful lot of offal. A Thai restaurant that’s reasonably priced for what it offers. A Thai restaurant that delivers the pepper power that it promises, without dumbing it down. Sripraphai is all those things. But, heck, I’d settle for a Thai Boat Noodle joint at this point. (I’ll try to remember to post about my noodle boat experiences in L.A. earlier this year.)

Sripraphai on Urbanspoon

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