Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a- no, it's squid. Jumping squid salad.

Image: Mark Hanna

Khun Kay Thai Cafe is perhaps best known for its well-priced Thai staples, most of which can be made to order according to patrons’ tolerance (or lack thereof) of heat. On a recent visit I diverted from my usual order of green curry upon spotting two of the more intriguing monikered items: the pad Thai burrito and jumping squid salad.

Khun Kay Thai Cafe obviously is utilizing two of the more common ploys to attract attention to these entrees: kitschy fusion (Thai meets Texican!) and whimsical Orientalist nomenclature (jumping squid ... hidden duck?).

Okay, I thought, I’ll bite (literally and metaphorically). I like burritos, I like pad thai; why wouldn’t I like a marriage betwixt the two? Well, it wasn't my favorite, simply because the addition of the tortilla disrupted the delicate interplay between noodles, bean sprouts, peanuts, and chicken. Each bite had a disproportionate amount of carbohydrates, necessitating too much chewing and distracting me from the more subtle textures and seasoning of the sprouts and proteins.

I fared far better with the jumping squid salad, a refreshing assemblage of scored hunks of grilled squid, baby tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and shaved cucumbers cloaked in a mae ploy that combined sly honey sweetness with an edge of spice from the speckles of chili flakes.  

While both strategies ultimately worked for Khun Kay Thai Cafe, since I was suckered into trying both dishes, only one out of two paid off for the consumer (me!). Going forward in 2019, I think I will try to eschew hybrid eating experiences in favor of purity. Unless, of course, someone in this town starts serving Burmese tea leaf salad with Texas-style barbecue brisket ... in which case, I am there.

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