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By Steven Li on 2005-11-20

November 20, 2005

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Not authentic, but good Thai at Saladang
Saladang in Old Town Pasadena was recommended to me by many friends. The restaurant started off as a small operation but business grew so quickly that the owners opened up Saladang Song right next door. Song is a more upscale (aka, pricer) version of the original. Since this was our first time here, we decided to have dinner at the original Saladang.
I knew I not to expect authentic Thai cooking the moment I walked. This place was much too “cool” and modern looking. I find that my favorite Thai places are often grungy run down, hole in the wall spots, but hey, the place was packed and restaurant smelled wonderful. I suppose that Thai cooking, even when not “authentic” has potential to taste good.

We started off with an order of Salad Rolls with peanut and honey mustard sauce ($4.95). Hahaha. These were just Vietnamese spring rolls! The skin was much too thick and chewy but there was a generous amount of fresh veggies. A sweet and tangy honey mustard sauce was a nice change from the traditional peanut. The rolls were not rolled up tightly enough, so everything more or less fell apart by the second bite. Next was the Spicy Shrimp Fried Rice ($9.95). A huge plate of sizzling hot fried rice with shrimp, green beans, mint leaves and chili. This was the best dish of the night. It had a really spicy heat that kicked in right after you swallowed. Upon closer inspection of the rice I found lots and lots of tiny chopped up chili peppers as well as chili flakes. Rice dishes are so comforting and satisfying!You can always judge the authenticity of a Thai restaurant by their Pad Thai ($6.95) and I believe Saladang is proud to say that although they don’t do authentic Thai, they do good Thai that pleases the average palate (but sometimes I just want realThai food!) The Pad Thai was presented in an egg omelet. When the server brought it to our table we couldn’t figure out which dish it was until we saw noodles poking out from beneath. The presentation was beautiful, but tastewise, the overcooked eggs did little to enhance the dish. I enjoyed the sweet sour balance of the pad thai but the noodles were slightly soggier than expected. Pad See Iew ($6.95). This is similar to local chow funn dishes you find all over Hawaii. Stir fried noodles with chicken and broccoli in a sticky, shoyu based sauce. It’s hard to mess up and Saladang did a decent job – noodles were soft and fresh and the overall dish wasn’t too oily. I wonder if the local choy suey places back home know that their chicken/beef chow funn is actaully Pad See Iew? :) I love how Hawaii is such a melting pot of cuisines – we’re cooking Thai and we don’t even know it!
My camera just does not like to photograph Thai food (as evidence by my post at Thai Paradise), which is rather unfortunate because I have a soft spot for Thai cuisine. The yellow curry ($6.95) was delicious, although it may look like crap in the picture. A bowl of very tender chicken, potatoes and carrots was served in a rich coconut fragrant curry. It went very well with the spicy fried rice. I usually prefer fish curries, but quickly forgot about that as the chicken here was so tender. Resting in a bath of hot thick curry, it tasted as if it had been lovingly stewed until soft and sweet with it’s own juice. The place was full by the time we left at 6:30 pm. There was a line of people outside browsing the menu as well as families coming in to order takeout. Service was friendly and efficient. The employees were Thai and spoke English with a strong accent. The waitresses were all provocatively dresses females. Provocatively dressed females with a Thai accent? That explained the large group of guys waiting for a table! Just an observation. The dessert menu boasting pumpkin custard and Khao Neow Dum Piag (black rice pudding) was tempting, but I need to demonstrate some self control, right?

Saladang
363 South Fair Oaks
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 793-8123



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