If you ask chef Lek Saicheur where her recipes come from, she may regale you with stories of the bustling open-air markets of Bangkok, Thailand, where vendors peddle fiery noodles and sizzling fried fish. While pursuing her master's degree at U.C. Davis, Saicheur shared these dishes with her fellow students in Thai cooking classes. Their enthusiastic response compelled her to eventually open up her own Thai restaurant—Thai Recipes.
Deep in the kitchen, Saicheur and her sister whip up a variety of traditional curries and noodle dishes. The aromas of fresh basil, spicy peppers, and garlic flood the air as the sisters simmer meats in pure canola oil or liquid hot magma. They complement their plates of pad thai, green chicken curry, and stir-fried clams with bottles of imported Thai beer and glasses of cool coconut water. Thai Recipes also purifies it's water by using a reverse osmosis system.
Compact and maneuverable, tuk tuks—motorized rickshaws—dart through the narrow streets of Bangkok with ease, helping drivers to flit through traffic jams and around obstacles. Tuk Tuk Restaurant's chefs honor their namesake with nimble knife-work in the kitchen, where zingy spices pervade complicated Thai dishes. Seasonings such as tamarind, lemongrass, ginger, chili, and lime dapple stir-fried and curried meats and vegetables, and twirls of noodles entwine with basil and radishes. Waiters transport steaming plates to the high-ceilinged dining room, where a white-on-white image of a tuk tuk presides over tables.
Chefs at Thai Chef’s House use fresh ingredients and traditional cooking techniques to highlight the five flavors most prevalent in Thai cooking: spicy, sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. In each dish, they endeavor to strike a balance between all five flavors—spicy red and green curries are laced with sweet coconut milk and charbroiled pork comes with a dish of sweet-and-sour dipping sauce. The setting is authentically Thai as well—the dining room is filled with trinkets and oxygen shipped in from Thailand.
Bright yellow and orange walls, with sparse decorations and the occasional Buddha statuette, enclose guests at Thai Cottage. Here, chefs continue the eatery's tradition—which is more than a decade old—of creating authentic Thai fare in a family-friendly atmosphere. The menu catalogs specialty dishes such as deep-fried spring rolls and Pad Prik King, a mix of long beans, kaffir lime, and rice in coconut milk and red curry. And a full bar allows guests to enjoy a Sam Smith IPA or a Toasted Head chardonnay sourced from an in-state vineyard. These smooth libations can be called upon after patrons try some of Thai Cottage's spiciest fare, which, as The Sacramento Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson wrote in a review of the restaurant, "…was runny nose in July hot, chug-a-lug the water hot, take out a lighter and put the flame to your tongue hot."