It's hot. The sun beats down on my head like a smith in his forge, rhythmic hammer strokes sending sparks flying through my consciousness with each measured swing. The dry air wheezes through my parched lungs. I shade my eyes, soothing cracked lips with a tongue leathery from the lack of moisture. My throat works for a few moments as I try to swallow. Coughing, I spit out dust and pollen. Some days, Ultimate Frisbee can be damn brutal.
(Combination Seafood Soup)
There are times when food needs to refresh both the body and the spirit, to offer more beyond simple nourishment or pleasure. There are times when you need to be renewed. After a hard workout, I turn to Thai cuisine. With its emphasis on blending multiple flavors and textures, Thai food can clear the mind and return strength to weakened flesh. The key is, as with all good food, a sense of balance.
Unobtrusively located in a shopping center at the corner of the 405 and Beach, Thai Princess is easily overlooked amongst the popular chain restaurants that surround it. However, Thai Princess' refined dishes and peaceful ambiance make it the oasis of choice for the discerning diner. Located near my old office, it's where I dine when I'm in the mood for Thai.
Start your rebirth with a steaming bowl of Tom Kah Kung, a deceptively simple soup of shrimp, mushrooms, coconut milk, and spices that epitomizes the gastronomic harmony displayed in Thai cuisine. The heat of the chilies is tempered by the gentle coconut milk. The herbal aroma of lemongrass, brassy freshness of coriander, and sweet burn of galangal entwine with each sip.
To cool the bodies of those suffering from the heat, order Thai Princess' Papaya Salad with dried shrimp. The innocent-looking shreds of unripe papaya, lettuce, and other vegetables are laced with a fiery blend of fresh capsicums barely kept in check by the sweetness of the crushed peanuts, sugar, and dried shrimp sprinkled over the top. One bite is enough to make strong men sweat flames and weep blood. Yet after the initial sear, the effects of the salad can be appreciated. The sweat cools the body while the intensity of the chilies clears the mind.
Satay chicken, marinated before being grilled over high heat, is probably one of the most popular Thai dishes in the States. The peanut sauce served with the chicken is even more popular. However, don't ignore the small salad of cucumber, red onion, fish sauce, and chilies that's also included. Meant to cleanse the palate between bites of rich peanut sauce and meat, the cucumber salad is the key to deriving maximum enjoyment from your Satay Chicken.
The principle of harmony in all things is also employed with Thai Princess' Stuffed Chicken Wings. Entire chicken wings are laid out and generously filled with a mixture of glass noodles, meat, and vegetables, then breaded in Japanese panko crumbs and deep-fried. While the dish was undoubtedly created for the American palate, the sweet, sour, and spicy sauce is intended to cut the heaviness of the fried wings and prevent your sense of taste from being dulled.
Once you understand the undercurrent running through all Thai cuisine, the balance in each dish becomes apparent. Kana Moo Krob is a dish of stir-fried Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce with chilies and deep fried pork belly. The heat of the chilies is tempered by the sweetness of the oyster sauce. The fried pork belly lends flavor and body to the crisp Chinese broccoli. It all fits.
The same interplay is evident in Thai Princess' Roasted Duck. The Chinese-style roast duck is served over stir-fried bok choy and garnished with fresh coriander. The dipping sauce is a mixture of fresh chilies and kecap manis, a type of soy sauce thickened with molasses.
Although the concept behind the food seems simple, the complexity of the flavors produced shouldn't be underestimated. Take the Stuffed Calamari. Baby squid are stuffed with a seasoned mixture of ground chicken, lemongrass, ginger, and other spices to create chicken sausages with squid skins. The tender little nuggets are stir-fried with fresh Thai basil, onions, and bell peppers in a sweet sauce. The flavor? Indescribably good.
Spicy Catfish w/ Chili Paste is an eye-watering dish of deep-fried catfish slices stir-fried in a fiery sauce. I have no idea what all goes into that crimson elixir, but the resulting combination is sex on a plate. The sweep bell peppers? Think of them as a barely effective prophylactic.
However, the best dish in the entire restaurant is the Plar Dook Yang, a whole steamed catfish so fresh it threatens to leap off the plate and smack you with its tail for trying to eat it. The delicate green sauce served with the fish perfectly encapsulates the harmony in Thai cuisine between salty, sweet, spicy, sour, and bitter. Simply sublime.
(Roasted Duck Fried Rice)
Thai Princess - I know a number of enthusiasts, many of them friends of mine, are at this point jumping up and down and hollering "Thai Nakorn" at their computer screens. Yes, Thai Nakorn is the undisputed king of Orange County Thai restaurants. Given that, Thai Princess is, obviously enough, the princess.
Combination Seafood Soup - 12.95
Tom Kah Kung - 7.95
Papaya Salad - 6.95
Satay Chicken Wings - 6.95
Stuffed Chicken Wings - 6.95
Kana Moo Krob - 6.95
Roasted Duck - 8.95
Stuffed Calamari - 7.95
Spicy Catfish w/ Chili Paste - 8.95
Plar Dook Yang - 25.95
Roasted Duck Fried Rice - 7.95
16338 Beach Blvd.
Westminster, CA 92683