Kuai-tiao, which looks like Vietnamese pho, is Thailand’s most popular and ancient noodle street dish.
This is dangerous: Got a little jingle in the pocket. And stomach’s saying, “Spend spend spend!” And this is Coronado. Perfect storm. Hmm... Just curious to see if that fish place is open again. Had a great fish-and-chips there once, even though, well, Coronado prices.
1007 C Avenue, Coronado
Talking about the Fish Company, off Orange, the main drag, down by the Presbyterian Church at Tenth and C. Over the past few months, you could see they were building something new. Looked like a watchtower.
Now it looks like they’ve finished, and you can see green tables and the glint of glasses under the tower. Looks cool. I come down C just to check it out.
And, wow, we’re not talking tower, but a way-high solid canopy over an outside eating area. And yet the tables feel protected from the street by a balcony you can lean on and talk to passers-by from.
Moon view from the patio
Can’t resist. Sit down in this inside-outside patio and get caught up in the whole romance of it. Especially now, as the moon comes out with pointed horns behind a bunch of palm trees across C. Green table mats, pink and white live orchids on each table, napkins folded in glasses, the whole deal.
Cheap deal? Nuh-uh. But then I do have that extra lettuce. And it might be worth it. When I settle in with a Singha Thai beer ($5.95) and look out across C Avenue, you get free bonuses of atmosphere. And no traffic noise. Instead it’s the chat and giggle of kids and their parents as they come out from a karate class next door. And more from the gelato shop on the other side. Feels like a whole other village here.
But I know it’s late. Like, eight. Tasna, the lady owner, says I’m fine, till nine. She asks if I want to start off with an appetizer. Quick check. Hmm... Most stuff on the menu is around $13 or more. But the appetizers are half that. Gyoza are $5.95, dumplings $5.95, too, calamari are $7.95, and crispy crabsticks go for $5.95.
That’s what I go for to start off: crispy crabsticks. Partly because Tasna says they’re not “krab” but the real crabmeat thing, mixed in with onion, corn, and veggies. There’s six of them, like golden cheroots spread across a lettuce leaf. They’re not that filling, but they are delish. Just right with the plum-sauce dip you get to sweeten their tips with, and a good counterpoint to the Singha. Actually, it’s a pity they don’t have any local beer, like a stout from Coronado Brewing. Plus, now I see I could have gotten green tea for $2. That’d go well with these bad boys.
Now, of course, I’ve got an appetite for something bigger. But now we’re talking $13, $15. Their Monster Bowl has shrimp and chicken mixed in with spicy vegetables, sitting on rice. That’s $13.95. Salads, like the spicy seared tuna, are all around the $16 mark. Fish and chips look cheap at $12.95. For that you get four pieces of tilapia, fries, and salad. Six jumbo shrimp with salad cost $14.95. Then they have a section of “dinner from the land,” such as sesame chicken, teriyaki chicken, or chicken katzu (each $12.95). So, nothing adventurous, but good, solid stuff.
Tasha is Thai. Owns Swaddee two doors away. The big change here is she has gotten rid of the sushi part of the Fish Co.
“I let my sushi chef go,” she says. “Sushi is too iffy in the hot weather. Raw fish, high maintenance. People worry. So I just decided to drop it.”
I ask what she’s eating, and she says it’s a bowl of pho.
“Pho? Isn’t that, uh, Vietnamese?” I ask.
“Well, that depends,” she says. “In Thailand, we call it kuai-tiao. It’s about the most popular and ancient noodle street dish around. We’re bringing it in next winter. Because it’s a nice hot soup for when the weather’s cold.”
And the difference between pho and kuai-tiao? “Not a lot,” she says. “Except we Thai don’t like to use beef so much. We like cows. They pull our plows in the paddy fields. We play with them. Just like you don’t like to eat dog or horse. The older I get, the more I want to eat vegetables only.”
Tasna must see my nostrils twitching. “Want some? It’s not on the menu yet. We’re just experimenting for winter.”
So, heck, yes. I mean, t’ain’t fish. But a Thai pho?
Moments later, out comes this steaming bowl filled with roiling rice noodles, looks like lemon grass on top, plugs of beef meatball slices, scads of flank steak, another plate loaded with bean sprouts, basil leaves, sliced jalapeño chilies and limes. Plus a rack of dry and wet and pasted chilies to heat it all up.
It looks pretty much like any street soup you see in Asian eateries, but there’s something umami in the soup that keeps you slurping while the back of your neck busts out sweating.
“So, what is the difference between this and the Vietnamese pho?” I ask.
“Mainly it’s in the soup. The flavors we put in. But that’s our secret right now.”
She winks. Then she gets up.
“I’m sorry, but I have to start cleaning up.”
Oh, yeah. Time must have passed. The moon has already disappeared.
I pay up. She charges $12.95 for the pho, $25.28 total. One thing I know: Carla won’t let this rest. We’ll be back. Maybe she can get that soup recipe out of Tasna.
- Prices: Gyoza appetizer, $5.95, dumplings, $5.95; calamari, $7.95, crispy crabsticks, $5.95; Monster Bowl (shrimp, chicken, spicy vegetables, rice), $13.95; spicy seared tuna salad, $15.50; fish and chips, $12.95; six jumbo shrimp with salad, $14.95; sesame chicken, $12.95; pho, $12.95
- Hours: 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m., 5:00–9:00 p.m. daily (Sunday, 4:00–9:00 p.m. only); closed Monday
- Buses: 901, 904
- Nearest bus stop: C and Orange