Yum Watercress, Yum Ruan

Things that make you go “yummmm”…

We’ve been dining at Ruan Thai (11407 Amherst) for years, and actual bonafide restaurant critics have been raving about Ruan’s Yum Watercress appetizer for even longer.  We tried to order it once, but it turned out we were doing it wrong: pad watercress (what we ordered) and yum watercress (what we should have ordered) are not the same thing.  Pad watercress, by the way, is stir-fried in a black bean sauce and is pretty good in its own right, but it isn’t quite yum.

We finally, successfully, ordered yum watercress last week, and I can see why it gets so much love.  Watercress, shrimp, squid, shallots, and cashews are deep-fried, almost like tempura but with less batter, just enough to coat each piece and make it crisp.  The seafood is tender, and it all has wonderful texture, but really it is the sauce that makes you go yum: tangy with fresh lime juice, fish sauce, just a hint of sugar, and peppery heat, it has that distinct Thai sweet-salty-sour-spicy balance, and is the kind of dish that makes me want to lick the plate once the food has been consumed.  I restrained myself, barely.

We also feasted on pad prik khing — we are incapable of eating at Ruan without the PPK — and tom  yum soup, which we rarely order, but we enjoyed the clear fiery broth, rife with chicken and shrooms, hinting of lime and galangal.  Great stuff.  I know I’ve been on the Nava bandwagon, but this visit puts Ruan right back on a par with Nava in my mind.  Wheaton is so lucky to have (at least) two great Thai restaurants.  I really should hit Dusit again one of these days, I’ve not been for more than a year (and, other than that, not since about 2007) and I’d like to remind myself how they compare.

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