As good (and as varied) as Nava Thai’s regular menu is, I am happiest when they offer massaman curry as a special. Nava’s version is delicious and authentic, with fatty beef in dark rich peanut-anise-cardamom gravy, with potatoes. Ruan Thai always has massaman (“Mussa Mun” on their menu, I think) and it is in our regular rotation there, but it isn’t as authentic as Nava’s — too sweet, not enough fat or exotic spicing, or any discernible peanuts. Still good, but not as good.
(Let’s pause for a moment to appreciate how lucky we are to have two awesome Thai restaurants a couple of blocks apart right here in little old Wheaton. Maybe back to three again with Thai Taste open behind Hung Phat)
In all my years of Nava dining, dozens of visits (including takeout), they’ve only had massaman curry twice. Could be purely user error: I might just not go on the right days. Recently, though, they had another special I’d not seen before (again, maybe I’ve just been missing it?), the northern Thai khao soi noodle curry soup. I think this is also an authentic version, though perhaps not as robust as some. Then again, there are many different variations on khao soi — see these beautifully photographed entries on Austin Bush’s website, for example.
The Chinese might call it “Curried Rice Noodles Two Ways” — the main ingredients are boiled rice noodles, fried rice noodles, and chicken in a curried coconut milk sauce. Usually there are shallots or green onions, too, and cilantro.
Since I had read about khao soi but never eaten it before, I was eager to try Nava’s version, and I liked it a lot. The curry sauce was nearly as rich as the massamun sauce, and the flavors were explosive (though I admit adding a little extra hot chili). The only trick was that the boiled rice noodles were bungee-like in their springiness, splattering sauce all over the table and a little on me. I don’t think I doused Mrs. Me at all.
I still prefer the massaman, but I would gladly order either dish whenever available. And if they are on offer on the same visit? I will order them both and eat the whole thing. I will probably order two of each and take some home. Because that’s how we roll here at Chez Me.