Saturday, May 27, 2017     Volume: 18, Issue: 12
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Thai-licious: Try something new at Thai Hut in Orcutt

REBECCA ROSE

Aside from my native Southern food, there is no better comfort food in the world than Thai. Whether it’s platefuls of pad thai smelling of freshly squeezed lime and lightly toasted peanuts or big pots of tom kha gai, there is something inherently warm and inviting about the region’s cuisine. And Thai Hut in Orcutt serves up some of the best examples of these dishes that I’ve seen in recent years.


ART BASIL
Vegetarians can select from the ala carte menu and exclude chicken or beef in dishes such as spicy basil with chili (pictured with chicken), fresh ginger sautéed with soy sauce, or spinach with garlic and black bean sauce.
PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

But the embrace of comfort and familiarity can be a trap when you’re trying to make your bones as an adventurous food writer taking in the culinary landscape of the Central Coast. I rarely order anything outside pad thai with chicken and a bowl of soup. Even my fiancé teases me about being boring this way.

So when I went to Thai Hut, I made myself a promise that I would step outside that zone and try something new. Sometimes this can spell disaster (I still taste the pain from the one time I agreed to try a friend’s “octopus and bean stew” she just “whipped up last minute”).

But this time I wasn’t disappointed.

I came on a quiet Wednesday night, sandwiched between a heavy deadline and a long assignment. If there was anyone in Santa Maria in need of comfort, it was me at the moment I plopped myself down at the table and melted into the chair. I immediately turned down egg rolls and flipped past the delectable looking offerings of pad thai and soups I was so used to ordering, despite how desperately I wanted them.


APPETIZING
Along with dumplings like these ground chicken and veggie stuffed appetizers, Thai Hut offers a variety of meal starters, including fried shrimp, egg rolls, and deep fried tofu served with sweet dipping sauce.
PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

I started with a pot of steamed dumplings, listed on the menu as Thai Hut dumplings. They are wonton wrappers stuffed with ground chicken and water chestnuts. A sweet sauce accompanies the dish for dipping or drizzling over the dumplings. It’s a hearty appetizer for one and enough to give you a sense of what exactly Thai Hut is all about. The dumplings were meaty and tender and not too salty or spicy. The sauce adds a pop of sweetness and heat, but I recommend being restrained with it because it can be overpowering if you add too much.

For my entree, I settled on panang curry with beef, which I’ve had before but not enough to feel I’ve used it as my safety net. Thai Hut’s panang has a bright pop of coconut, which is balanced nicely with the nuttiness of the curry. For those wary of spicy curries, you can always ask them to turn the volume way down, but honestly I think the heat in a curry is what makes it so special. Thai chilies have a unique flavor that is very distinguishable from other types of peppers, which helps accentuate elements like coconut and lime. Anything too mild and you miss that.


CURRY YOUR FAVOR
Thai food fans will find plenty of options for the table at Thai Hut. Curry fans can select from panang, red, green, yellow, country style, and mussa mun, a thick curry served with potatoes and carrots.
PHOTO BY REBECCA ROSE

Then I tried a dish I had never sampled before, sautéed basil leaves in chili with chicken. This is a spicy dish that isn’t for the faint of heart. It also doesn’t come with a heavy sauce or rice; it’s served with vegetables and the intent is for you to savor the flavor of Thai basil with chili, a classic combination in the region’s cuisine. It’s also big enough for two, and at $10 it’s an absolute bargain.

I also devoured some of Thai Hut’s house-made coconut ice cream, which comes served with a cookie and a tiny piece of cake. Their desert menu is small but after eating a big dinner or lunch it almost feels like overkill.

See you there
Thai Hut is located at 120 E. Foster Road, Orcutt. More info: 925-1555.

Not only was I able to step outside of my Thai comfort-food zone, but thanks to Thai Hut I was able to find new dishes that were just as exceptional as my old standbys.

Rebecca Rose is supposed to be dieting for her wedding next year. Contact her at rrose@santamariasun.com.

 


2016 Dry Riesling from Solminer Wines.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SOLMINER WINES

Solminer Wines calls their new wine the “freshest, dopest Santa Barbara County riesling” (pictured), which should be enough to make you go try some. Give the call at 691-9195 or visit their website at solminer.com if you want to get your hands on a bottle (they just bottled 120 cases).

• Attention vegans and raw food enthusiasts: Plenty on Bell has a seasonal spring farro salad made with radishes, chives, farro, sprouts, beets, and just about every other delicious looking fresh ingredient you can think of. It’s seasonal, so don’t wait too long to pop in to try it at 508 Bell St., Los Alamos.

Santa Maria Brewing Company hosts live music on Thursdays. Check out Kate Steinway and Mary Bee performing an acoustic set on May 25 and try their New World American wheat beer, a half-and-half mix of wheat and barley that’s light on the hops. The Nipomo taproom is located at 115 Cuyama Lane, Nipomo.