I’ve been hot on Sherwood Park’s tail about the chain restaurant blight that has pervaded the town’s culinary scene forever. Very rarely does a good independent restaurant make the Park its home, and if it does, it doesn’t stay for long.
Thankfully, things are changing. The Park is becoming more vibrant thanks in whole to a slew of restaurants featuring Vietnamese, Indian, Mediterranean, Sri Lankan, Japanese and Thai cuisine.
I noticed Sawaddee several times as I wound my way through a commercial area off Wye Road. It had replaced an Italian restaurant that had, for a surprisingly long while, made a go of offering over-steamed pasta to harried parents and pallid palates. On this day though, I was hungry, and, Sawaddee, in Thai language, means ‘hello’, so no time like the present, I thought, to stop in and say hi.
What was once a dark and droll space has come alive with bright colours of purple and fuschia and white accents. Green plants make the space feel tropical and the server, Bunny, makes you feel welcome, as if you were entering her home.
Bunny is a friend of the Thai family who owns Sawaddee, and she is as blessing to the service and hospitality industry. Bunny doesn’t talk, she sing-songs, and, she loves to laugh. She’s also very knowledgeable about the food of her homeland.
I became a fan of Sawaddee at first bite. Here’s what I’ve eaten so far:
Four grilled meat skewers (chicken pictured above) come served with a peanut sauce, something that is more North American than Thai, says Bunny. Thai people prefer to eat the satay with diced cucumbers, red onions in a light, sweet sauce.
Tom Yum Goong is a popular Thai soup of shrimp and mushroom in a spicy lemongrass broth. There is a beautiful balance in this bowl: hot and sour with chilies, lime, galangal, lemongrass and fish sauce. Feeling flu-ish or down in the dumps? This is the Thais’ version of grandma’s chicken noodle soup.
Chu Chee Goong is shrimp in red curry and (makrut) lime leaves. Thai curry is not necessarily spicy, but more on the complex, robust side of curries. Tons of flavour here. You might want to order a side of rice to help soak up that sauce.
Khao Soi is a popular street food dish in Northern Thailand. The dish contains egg noodle with chicken in a red curry sauce; it’s sort of a soup, sort of a saucy noodle dish. Above all, it’s delicious.
These little leaf-wrapped bundles are what keeps me coming back to Sawaddee. The fragrant pandan leaves are stuffed with marinated chicken flavoured with soy sauce, garlic, cilantro, sesame oil, and white pepper. The packets are first steamed, then deep fried and served with a thick soy sauce.
Gai Yang, is another popular street food usually served with sticky rice and papaya salad called Som Tum (pictured below). The chicken is marinated for 24 hours in garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, tumeric and coriander resulting in a sweet and salty wonderful dish.
The ubiquitous noodle dish that is Pad Thai: soft rice noodles, crispy bean sprouts, tofu, flavours of sweet tamarind pulp, fish sauce, chilies…it’s popular for a reason: a good Pad Thai can change your whole outlook on life. Sawaddee does a very, very good Pad Thai.
Pad Kra Pow: minced chicken, peppers, sweet onions and fried basil.
Thai food is all about market fresh ingredients, intricate preparations of foods and complex yet harmonious flavours. The pairing of the fundamental elements of sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy is paramount. Common ingredients are cilantro, ginger, fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, makrut (sometimes called kaffir) lime leaves, lime juice, chilies, garlic, lemon grass, palm sugar, amongst others. The use of fresh herbs (as opposed to dried) results in the food tasting as good as it looks.
Sawaddee isn’t doing anything fancy; they’re just doing Thai food the way it should be done.
Head out to the Park and find this lovely Thai restaurant at #190 , 664 Wye Road.
Read more about Sawaddee here on CBC’s website.