Siam Orchid: Kang Kai – The Bite

Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

Ah, Siam. I’ve been enchanted with Siam ever since I watched Anna waltz with the King. You know the scene, the King finally breaks the tension between the two by grabbing her waist and leading, no commanding, her into spirited waltz. Well,  Anna waltzed and the King bounced. Something stirred within me when I first saw that. But what? I was still too young to understand.

Siam and “The King and I,” would play a pivotal role in my childhood development. My first school play in kindergarten — “The King and I.” My first solo piece at my first piano recital — “The March of the Siamese Children.” My first experience with Thai food — Kang Kai.

Kang Kai from Siam Orchid (2259 Emmons Avenue) is sliced white meat chicken with bamboo shoots, green beans and green bell peppers in a coconut red curry sauce. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite Thai dishes.

Thai food is a dance of its own as most dishes are a complex blend of sweet and salty, sour and spicy. Or maybe not. Sometimes a Thai chef will put together a meal where one dish is sweet and salty and it is to be followed by a dish that is sour and spicy.

Kang Kai, to me, is a mix of sweet and salty and a bit of sour and salty. The bland chicken plays off the heat of the red chili paste as it bounces up and down on my tongue, while the coconut milk waltzes in sweetly and demurely, soothing my excited taste buds. The fresh Thai basil (not mentioned on the menu but an important ingredient) keeps the beat while the green bell peppers swing along. The only wall flowers in this dish are the green beans and bamboo shoots, which never quite make it to the dance floor, but make their presence known with crunchy bites like chaperons who disapprove of the dance.

Siam Orchid’s Kang Kai is on the mild side of the Scoville scale for Thai dishes. It packs some heat, but it is nowhere near as hot and spicy as you’ll find elsewhere. Thai curries traditionally have a high heat punch, which quickly dissipate and here it just misses the mark. The dish is very flavorful and nicely balanced,  but if you seek out Thai food for the heat, keep looking.

If you’re just beginning your love affair with Thai food, this dish would make an excellent introduction. Like a child being taught the simple steps of a waltz, the Kang Kai ($11.95 at dinner, $5.95 at lunch) of Siam Orchid is an easy step  into the much more complex dishes of Thai cuisine. Shall we dance?

Siam Orchid, 2259 Emmons Avenue (718) 302-4203

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