Two of my favorite dining companions are my sister-in-law, the schoolteacher, and my 7-year-old niece, who is quickly outgrowing her nickname, The Beast. I enjoy breaking bread with the mother-daughter duo because the teacher and I have very different tastes so there's usually a variety of food before us, and the 7-year-old—besides being one of the cleverest, quirkiest people I know—always laughs at my jokes.
The three of us took an excursion to Nampa recently to sample the selections that the Chinese-Thai restaurant House of Kim has to offer. Both the lack of customers and the lack of ambiance were off-putting, but growling stomachs and a white-board listing a Thai yellow curry noodles special ($9.95) were enough to encourage us to take a seat at a high-backed booth.
The 7-year-old immediately dug into my purse for the notebook and pen I always have with me and started drawing. The teacher and I chatted about her recent trip to the Midwest to visit family while she sipped on a bright orange Thai iced tea ($1.95) and I savored a sweet Thai iced coffee ($1.95), one of my favorite treats.
As empty as the place was—we were the only table for about 20 minutes—we waited an inordinately long time for a simple appetizer of pork and sesame seeds ($6.95). The seeds were already sprinkled on the pork and the accompanying sauces included the requisite Chinese mustard and a sweet sauce (like one that may come with egg rolls) instead of ketchup. The slices of pork, often served room temperature at other Asian eateries, were refreshingly cold. Though I usually treat this particular appetizer like Fun Dip and try to completely cover the pork slices in sesame seeds, the sprinkled sesame was plentiful and the non-ketchup sauce was a interesting change.
Another long wait stood between me and the sizzling happy family—beef, shrimp, scallops, chicken, vegetables ($13.95)—I ordered, the ex-Beast's egg drop soup ($4.95) and the teacher's special. The loud snapping and hissing of my dish as it came out of the kitchen brought a scared look across the 7-year-old's face, followed by a refusal to even taste the dish. She was also shocked at the size of the peas in her soup, pulling a typical 7-year-old tactic by saying she didn't like them before they'd so much as touched her tongue. Some encouragement (OK, ordering) from her mother and I, and she not only ate the peas but loved them, claiming the soup to be the best she'd ever had. She's a picky eater but always orders egg drop soup when we eat Chinese, so she's certainly my resident expert.
The teacher's curry was served in a bowl so large, a description of it should have been prefaced by the word "mixing." The sunshine yellow color, plethora of long noodles and heavenly coconut smell made me wonder if I should have changed my order. But knowing she's a good sharer and not a very big eater, I was sure I'd get my fair share of her meal.
Once my dish stopped spitting, I forked a bright green section of broccoli and a scallop and knew I'd made the right order. The sauce was a bit tangy, a bit salty and didn't overwhelm the flavor of the items it covered.
But, oh, the Thai dish. I knew the teacher's request to "make it just a little spicy," evidenced by several little red chili pepper flecks, meant my forehead would bead with sweat, but I couldn't resist a taste. The noodles, bean sprouts, shrimp and pineapple were married to a buttery, creamy coconut-flavored broth, seasoned with what might have been Thai basil, and the whole thing just popped on my palate. It was simultaneously spicy, refreshing and incredibly delicious, but more than one bite would have had me crying in my coffee. The teacher has far more fortitude than I when it comes to hot food, and her watering eyes and constant reach for her water glass indicated that I should order it mild the next time I go to House of Kim. Really good curry can be a hard thing to come by, and when you find some, it's often worth a trip to indulge in it again. I wonder what the teacher and the 7-year-old are doing next week ...
—Amy Atkins loves her whole damn happy sizzling family.