It sounds like a Latin dance, but pad chaa-chaa is actually a Thai dish named after the sound that vegetables make when they hit very hot oil: “chaa-chaa.” It’s one of the many new dishes added to the menu at Am-Thai Chili Basil Kitchen in Kensington, Brooklyn, a tiny, stellar Thai restaurant that’s exploded in popularity. (Thanks in no small part to Our Man Sietsema’s favorable review of the place.)
The pad chaa-chaa is a simple stir-fry of bamboo, bell pepper, snow peas, galangal, and basil, but it’s elevated beyond the ordinary by small clusters of fresh peppercorns. The spices look like tiny clusters of khaki green grapes, and each one pops in your mouth with a sprightly, warming zing. Other new dishes include yen-ta-fo noodle soup, or “red sea noodle soup,” the name following from the crimson color of the broth; and spicy lychee curry.
Beyond the new menu items, the other big news from the diminutive restaurant is that the owner, Boonnum Thongngoen, or Nam for short, has opened a stall in the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, which is open now through December 24.
Reached on her cell phone at the market, Nam said that she had been “really, really busy,” turning out pad Thai, curry puffs, dumplings in peanut sauce, chicken sate, pad gra-prow (a stir-fry heavy with basil), and coconut crepes in both savory and sweet versions. “I had to adapt the food a little bit,” Nam said, “because it’s such a tiny booth.” Nevertheless, a break for homemade Thai food will certainly brighten the holiday shopping slog.
Finally, though they are neither new nor offered at the market stall, take a gander at Nam’s hot pot dumplings (no relation to the Sichuan dish), which are filled with a delicious mix of peanut and radish, and are some of our favorite things to eat at Am-Thai.
359 McDonald Avenue, Brooklyn