I grew up in a house where a meal was typified by dishes like “shoyu weenies” (I hear you snickering – stop it).
This Hawaiian-inspired recipe was something in my dad’s cooking repertoire and one of his favorite things to eat: an Oscar Meyer hot dog cut up and sautéed in soy sauce (shoyu) and served with steamed rice. Simple and bland, which typified the kind of food I was raised on – strange combinations of American and Japanese food, and none of it tasting very good.
So when I lit out for college in Southern California, I entered a culinary wonderland. My then-definition of ethnic cuisine consisted of Mexican, Italian, a little Filipino and Cantonese Chinese (as opposed to spicier and tastier Hunan or Szechuan).
In SoCal, I learned to appreciate and love Latin American beyond Mexican, Indian, Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian, especially Thai.
After Mexican and Indian, Thai is my favorite kind of food. It’s one of the most heavenly combinations of coconut, limes, lemongrass, peanuts and fresh veggies that make it so delectable. I now even prefer it over the more familiar Chinese and Japanese dishes I was raised on.
RAS and I have only one favorite Thai place in Denver, a city not really known for its abundance of long-drive-worthy Asian food. It’s called U.S. Thai, located in a little suburban pocket, Edgewater, and lacking in any kind of atmosphere. But the dishes, where even medium is way too spicy, are darn good.
After last night, we now have two.
Thai Diamond Café was once a dumpy fast-food-type joint called Jumbo Thai, until a little while ago. New owners took over, and now it’s elegant with dark mahogany tables and chairs, smooth table linens and classic dinnerware.
Our service was excellent. The staff would bend over backwards and sideways to make sure our meal pleased us. The server made sure we chose the level of spiciness for each dish ordered (mild, medium, hot and Thai hot – I don’t even want to think about what that’s like).
Then our food arrived and exceeded the level of the service.
We started off with spring rolls, the kind that bundles up shrimp, chicken and vegetables in a soft rice wrapper and served as is. Even though I’m not a big fan of seafood, and I’m more frequently eating less meat than I ever have, I really enjoyed these tasty starters. The freshness of the aforementioned ingredients made all the difference.
Moving on to tom kha gai group, we both enjoyed the fragrant mix of the lemongrass, galangal and coconut broth, tender chicken, chopped onions and just the right amount of red pepper flakes for a piquant kick. This is something we don’t normally order, but this might become my new “recovery soup” when I have a cold.
I’m numbingly predictable when it comes to ordering Thai – I always, without fail, have pad thai. There are slight variations, but it includes rice noodles, a specially made sauce, scrambled eggs, peanuts, bean spouts then any combination of proteins and produce.
While this pad thai was much simpler than countless ones I’ve tried, this unadorned version was quite yummy. It had the perfect balance of sweet and savory typical of Thai dishes, a nice contrasting crunch with the peanuts and sprouts, all tied together with the lime juice I squeezed on it beforehand.
RAS ordered a green curry seafood pot, which I did not try because I was so stuffed with the first three dishes…and just didn’t feel like tasting anything briny.
If you happen to be in Lakewood, just to the west of Denver, you just may want to try the Thai Diamond Café. I promise you, it will be better than shoyu weenies.