Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Pai Northern Thai Kitchen with Chef Nuit Regular

Named for chef Nuit Regular’s hometown in the northern Thai mountain valley where she grew up and met a backpacking Jeff on the back of an elephant, Pai celebrates the traditional dishes from the country’s far-northern tip, which is known for its particularly fragrant and spicy food. Designed to capture the look and feel of the town with intricately carved teak panels from a 20-year old house in Chang Mai, artwork and prints from the area, and an open kitchen that looks much like a traditional Thai market stall, Pai celebrates the most authentic Thai street food experience so far. Originally trained as a nurse in Thailand, Nuit and Jeff opened a humble Curry Shack in the small town of Pai, then made a life changing decision to come to Toronto so that she could share her passion and life experiences through family recipes and street market dishes — and their dream has come true. 

In the last ten years, Chef Nuit and her husband Jeff have transformed Toronto's Thai food scene with their mini-empire of restaurants: Sukhothai, which now boasts 4 locations, Pai and most recently Kiin inspired by Royal Thai Cuisine. Arriving for an early dinner before going to the theatre, we thankfully arrived just before a long lineup of eager diners trailed out the door and onto the street above. Already fans of Sukhothai, we were equally enchanted with the authentic Thai dishes at Pai, such as the outstanding Northern Thai Sausage with sticky rice that we enjoyed in Chang Mai a few years before. With a hip energetic bohemian vibe, deliciously authentic Thai dishes, friendly staff and efficient service, it's no wonder there's a lineup a every night.

Located on the lower level of a heritage building on Duncan Street, Pai Northern Thai Kitchen is one of the latest restaurants from chef Nuit Regular and her husband Jeff

Single Northern Thai beer

Pai's menu of Northern Thai street-style food

Gai Satay: Grilled curry-marinated chicken skewers with peanut sauce 
and Thai-style cucumber dressing

Sweet and spicy Thai chilli sauce

Northern Thai Sausage, made with grilled pork belly, fresh turmeric, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, garlic and shallots with sticky rice and northern Thai relish

Pad Cha Hett: vegan king oyster mushroom stir fry with house-made red chilli paste, snow peas, bamboo shoots, basil leaves, wild ginger, peppercorn and black jasmine rice

Khao Soi: fresh egg noodles, golden curry, crispy noodles, coriander, green onions, with choice of braised beef, chicken breast or chicken drumsticks

Fresh mango with Thai sweet coconut sticky rice

Nuit Regular is Executive Chef and Co-Owner of PAI Northern Thai Kitchen, Sukho Thai and the newly opened Kiin which serves Royal Thai Cuisine

Thai Pad Kee Mao or “Drunken Noodles”
Serves 4-6
Recipe courtesy of Chef Nuit Regular

1/3 of a one pound package of long rice noodles, such as stick vermicelli
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetarian oyster sauce
3 tbsp vegetables or grapeseed oil
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1/2 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
3 white mushrooms, sliced
8 stalks asparagus, cut in half lengthwise, then into 2″ pieces
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Thai bird’s-eye chili, finely sliced - optional

Place rice noodles in large bowl and cover with room temperature water. Soak until soft, at least 1 hour. In separate bowl, stir sugar with water until dissolved. Mix in soy sauce and oyster sauce, and set aside. In large pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant but not crispy, about 1 minute. Drain the noodles and add to the pan. Add the sauce, peppers, carrots, mushrooms and asparagus and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until vegetables are just tender. Add the Thai basil leaves and cook 1 minute. Turn off heat. Sprinkle with black pepper, mix well and serve. For extra spice, top with Thai bird’s-eye chili.

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