Tropic of Capsaicin
An Exploration of the Hot Dishes in a Hot City, Or Where to Go When You're Not at Waterloo Park
Pud Ped Ga-Prao at Satay3202 W. Anderson #205, 467-6731
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11am-2:30pm
Dinner: Sunday-Thursday, 5-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 5-11pm
OK, while I love spice and heat as much as the next one, I confess that I do not gravitate to the incendiary for its own sake. Chile-heads can call me a wimp, but I simply don't consider seared taste buds as something pleasurable or desirable. For me, the best hot food is infused with complex, interacting flavors, and Thai cooking is one cuisine that sure fills that bill. One of my favorite hot dishes in town is Pud Ped Ga-Prao at Satay on Anderson Lane, a palate-stunning stir-fry of Thai hot peppers, holy basil, onions, and a vaguely sweetish sauce. You can get it with chicken or shrimp or beef or pork, but to my mind, it works best with tofu, that perfect foil for intense Asian flavors. The dominant note is Thai holy basil or ga-prao (Satay owner Foo Swasdee grows her own), which is stronger and more piquant than Italian-style basil; it forms a beautiful marriage with the powerfully hot yet sweet little Thai peppers, all properly attended by the soft, cooling cubes of stir-fried tofu.