Papaya Thai Bistro - Irvine
Papaya Thai Bistro operates not unlike the Pei Wei's of the world. Order almost any dish and you have the option of the protein you want to put in it, whether it moos, clucks, oinks, or...whatever the sound a shrimp makes. The interchangeable meat is like a character you create for a role playing video game. Both the game and the overall dish remain the same, but who the protagonist will be is up to you.
The vegetables and seasonings are the NPCs (that's non-player characters for you non-gamers). These are the constants that its creators include to propel the story.
And it's the vegetables that Papaya respects most. Whether sliced, julienned, or chopped, anything that once came out of the ground tastes as though it just did. Carrots snap, verdant Chinese broccoli bites firm and crisp, and everything plant-based appear on your plate just barely cooked, as it should be. This is Thai for the person who isn't afraid of chewing their veggies. Some dishes are better than others. Some actually use a bit too many veggies for my taste. But the green curry is the best thing I've had in a long time.
As far as I'm concerned, Papaya Thai's only purpose is to cook this dish. Here the matchstick thin bamboo shoots, green beans, cucumbers and peas join forces to occupy a bowl of liquid comfort. The veggies are welcomed as liberators by a gravy that hugs everything together and makes your meal. From its coconut-milk thick and creamy depths wafts up scents of kaffir lime, galangal, coriander and cumin.
You need rice, plenty of it, to sop it all up. Every time I order this dish for take out, I plan ahead to be sure I have the rice cooked and ready at home. I require mounds and mounds of it on which to spoon over with curry, and to soak up every drop. Slightly sweet, slightly spicy, but altogether magical, it's one of those toe-curling meals you want for a cold, rainy night.
When you're asked for the meat to include, don't get anything but the pork. Their slices of pig are so silky and tender it's obscene. Coated lightly in cornstarch (I think), each pinkish piece melts with barely a chew.
Papaya Thai Bistro
2700 Alton Pkwy. Ste 141
Irvine, CA 92606
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