Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 18th
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Thai for Two

dining_sawasdeeThe bright colors of lightly cooked vegetables sparkle in Sawasdee's uniquely flavored dishes

We occasionally visit Soquel on our errands day. It's either the dentist, stylist or CPA that brings us into the town, and even though my husband and I differ wildly on Scoville index tolerance levels, Sawasdee Thai Cuisine's huge menu satisfies us both.

Sawasdee's home is bright and cheerful, with lavender, white and paprika walls and an occasional fanciful carving. Gilded pottery lined the counter, which was busy with take-out orders, and colorful woven runners gleamed from under glass tabletops.

Weekday lunch specials ($6.95 to $9.95) include either fried eggrolls or chicken satay and Tom Kah vegetable soup. This soothing hot and sour soup was mildly spiced and more tinglingly tart than I've recently come across, with lemon grass, cilantro, green onions, tofu and a colorful medley of still-crisp vegetables.

Two thin, turmeric-yellow chicken breast skewers of satay were nicely grilled and served with a ramekin of thick, dark, sweet peanut sauce. The tidily packaged deep-fried egg rolls, lightly browned, were filled with shiitake mushrooms, vegetables and served with sweet chili sauce, a syrupy blend of sugar and fresh red hot chilies.

Fresh (meaning not deep-fried) spring rolls were also available. A half order ($3.95) held two rather large open-ended rolls filled with sprouts, crisp cucumber, tofu, fine matchstick carrots and cilantro, with more luscious peanut dipping sauce.

B.B.Q. chicken with a hint of ginger and the color of the satay was skinless, lean, tender, and served atop lightly steamed vegetables with sweet chili sauce.

I pleaded for a very spicy Pad Prik Sod Gai and was not disappointed. It was a very tasty sauté of chicken breast, fresh mushrooms, vegetables and Thai basil in a savory brown sauce. It was served with two hemispheres of white rice.

The green chicken curry was spiced up perfectly with an extra sprinkling of finely ground dried red chilies.  A pretty green stew of coconut milk and curry paste held chunks of chicken breast, green beans, corn, red and green bell peppers and a big slice of lavender-skinned eggplant. I tasted a faint hint of fish sauce in its richness, and it wasn't as sweet as others I've tasted locally. It was served with rice and a tiny salad of red onion, cucumber and carrot in a sweet vinegar dressing.

For insurance I had asked for a condiment rack, the essential accessory for fire-tolerant foodies. In addition to pickled jalapeños, it held vinegary srirachi (coarse, fresh chili paste), a smoky and fishy sweet chili sauce as well as ground dried chilies.

I ventured into the regular menu seeking Thai salad, usually quite different from our American favorites, and found Silver Noodle Salad ($10.95). It featured translucent rice noodles and coarsely ground chicken breast with hearts of romaine lettuce, mint, cilantro, red onion and raw vegetables in lemony tart-spicy dressing. It was topped with two fat prawns.

Sawasdee Thai Cuisine, 5050 Soquel Drive, Soquel, 462-5051. A selection of beers is available. Open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. until 9:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Visit

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