Monday, April 18, 2011

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
(949) 502-4488

320 Main - Seal Beach


At 5:45 PM, Blogger Madison said...

First of all, I feel so star-struck because you left a comment on my of OCWeekly fame! That totally made my day.

Second, it's nice to know that this restaurant respects the veggie. A lot of places focus so much on the protein aspect that the veggie component get very little love. I actually didn't even know of this place but has never read anyone describe green curry quite like you did in this post. I will put this on my list.

At 1:05 AM, Blogger mark said...

Choose Your Own [Culinary] Adventure.

At 8:49 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Aw, well that's cool that it made your day. But I'm just me. Nothing special here! I was actually looking around in your pictures to see if I was in there...and darn it, I wasn't!

This place is good for this particular dish. I liked the pad see ew fine, but the tom kha gai uses tomato, which would be okay if I wasn't a purist when it comes to that soup.

But man, the green curry! So awesome!


I used to read those books too! It's also like culinary MadLibs.

_____ fried rice!

At 9:11 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Looking very tasty there. I like plenty of vegetables in my curry!

At 2:56 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


So do I! Potatoes are fine, but green beans are always welcome in curry.

At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only thing i've liked at Papaya Thai is their green papaya salad... what did you think of that?

I had their green curry... I thought it could use more spice but maybe i should order it again with more spice maybe?...will give it another try, and with pork :)


At 11:55 AM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

Making your own rice at home to avoid the extra rice charge. Nice!

At 8:54 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I hadn't tried their green papaya salad, but I didn't much like their pad see ew or their tom gha kai.

I can eat gallons of that green curry though. I asked to go easy on the hotness, but I can see this being spicy enough to melt my fillings.


That's just how I roll! Cheaply!


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