When our weather was unseasonably hot (that was just days ago, remember?), I was on the hunt for something light and refreshing that required minimal effort. I found what I was looking for at Chada Thai in Uptown. While I often begin a Thai meal with curry puffs or spring rolls, I traded in those choices for the meang kuam, a rudimentary lettuce wrap.
The appetizer was so simple I did a double take when I opened the to-go box. Here were four leaves of lettuce, each weighed down by a small pile of toasted coconut, roasted peanuts, dried shrimp, tiny triangles of lime (rind and all), cubed ginger, onion, and jalapeño.
I gathered the goods into a little pouch and took a bite, and then another—the flavors and textures distilled the very essence of Thai cuisine. Crunch came from the peanuts, sweetness from the coconut, fire from the jalapeno, bite from the onion and ginger, and slight funk from the dried shrimp. The tiny bits of lime added a bright zest that pulled it all together—and that's before I dipped it in the sweet and tangy tamarind sauce.
So simple and so multifaceted, and even though the weather has changed, I can't stop thinking about this dish.