An Amish woman passed us carrying a wide- and teary-eyed baby on her hip. Sad babies always amuse me so I nudged my companion who immediately leaned forward and joked “guess William James was right, ‘To children the world is a blooming buzzing confusion.'” Hardly just for children though, especially at Reading Terminal Market during the holiday season. The aisles were packed with cranky families from out of town, jockeying for a view of the railroad display, old ladies stopping suddenly in the middle of traffic to switch direction and lovers engaged in snippy discussions about where to eat.
We found an island in the storm, a tiny table, the last one available it seemed, to eat our lunch from Little Thai: shrimp lemongrass soup, cabbage salad, a vegetable curry and a salmon curry. At worst Thai food can also be blooming buzzing confusion, as the four flavors of Asian cuisine (sour, sweet, salty and spicy) vie for place of prominence. But Little Thai mostly kept them all in correct proportions.
The cabbage salad and lemongrass soup seemed to me like the best soup and salad combo in the world–the cabbage, crunchy and sweet, was paired with julienned red pepper and swimming in a dressing that tasted of fish sauce, ginger, lime. Ground salted peanuts and cilantro added texture and contrast. The soup broth was dominated by lemongrass, with its flavor of lemon’s funky cousin. Scallions and mushrooms floated throughout, with a couple rosy shrimp bobbing the surface.
The salmon curry was bland, however. My companion liked it–a hefty filet of grilled salmon over a bed of blanched broccoli with a curry sauce daubed on top. Nowhere near enough of it, and I’d rather have had the salmon on a roll from the Metropolitan Bakery with a bit of arugula from Iovines and my homemade pickled red onions for a sandwich. Had Little Thai want to avoid confusion by erring on the side of caution? Perhaps, but dredging the salmon in the leftover cabbage salad dressing helped raise the flavor profile. Full and satisfied, we sat back and watched the chaos swirl around us.
Recommended: definitely the lemongrass soup and cabbage salad. Vegetable curry was pleasant enough.