Like most cuisines that arrive on American shores, Thai food has undergone a transformation in its new country. Flavors are adapted or softened for American palates, and hits like pad thai become mainstream staples. Yummy Thai on Royal Lane in Irving is a rare, but unconvincing, glimpse at the Thai food that American corner takeout places neglect.
Pad thai is here, of course, but the eye is quickly caught by more unusual items, like the appetizer list’s choice between two different kinds of Thai sausage. Sai oua ($8.99) is a pork sausage loaded with so much lemongrass and so many lime leaves that it takes on a surprising yellow hue. It’s an acquired taste, but the abundance of hot chili will appeal to spice lovers.
On the specialties list, a clay pot ($14.99) comes filled with glass noodles and a variety of seafood, including shrimp and shellfish. An unexpected, pungent twist comes from a truly bonkers amount of whole Thai white peppercorns — expect one or two in every bite. White pepper is the prevalent variety in Thailand; cookbook author Leela Punyaratabandhu says white peppercorns “are used almost exclusively in Thai cooking,” rather than black. She doesn’t say if tradition dictates using such huge quantities.
Of course, being truly Thai wouldn’t mean that such a huge helping of white pepper is a great thing. You’ll have to make up your own mind on that subject. Or don’t, by opting for one of Yummy Thai’s enormous curries. Roasted duck curry ($13.99) comes with diced pineapple, so the sweet acidity of the fruit can play against the fatty meat, in a sauce red with pepper. Yummy’s spiciness levels are not too intimidating, so feel free to level up from your usual.
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“Authenticity” is a loaded, often misguided term in food writing, since it’s frequently used by ill-informed eaters to denote what they think a meal should taste like. But there’s no doubt that Yummy Thai is unafraid to challenge North Texas diners with bitter, peppery or acidic flavors.
And there’s also no doubt that some of its dishes are just plain bad. “Thai escargot” ($11.99) promised grilled snails and a spicy dipping sauce. The snails’ alarming smell arrived at the table before the plate, and the animals themselves were, sad to say, cooked beyond edibility, so much that our forks and knives could not even cut the rubberized meat.
For eaters who’ve only tried takeout noodles, un-Americanized Thai spices and flavors can come as a shock. Yummy Thai might help Irving diners acquire those tastes, if it were a better restaurant.
Yummy Thai, 6421 Riverside Dr., Irving. 214-238-2449