Get Your Fried Salad at Ayada Thai

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[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Is there anything New York's Thai restaurants can't make light and refreshing?

Spicy chopped meat? You got it. Fried vegetables? Those too.

Ayada, one of Woodside's better Thai spots (a personal favorite these days), does a fried salad of its own worth paying attention to, fried watercress ($15) decked out with big nubs of ground chicken, tender lengths of cuttlefish, and....cherry tomatoes? Just roll with it—their sweet-tart brightness does its thing, adding dimension to a sharp and pleasantly spicy (if you ask for it that way) lime dressing.

Ayada's watercress comes in firm, crunchy stalks and large leaves that lend a slightly more green, less fried flavor to the salad than Sripraphai's. As to which you prefer, it's a matter of taste. The cuttlefish strewn on top is pleasantly tender, though the ground chicken, as you'd expect from white meat, veers towards dry. The greens are definitely the star of the show.

I appreciate Ayada most for its hearty dishes, like rice cooked with funky shrimp paste or porky sausage with hot dipping sauces. This salad offers a lighter way to fill out a meal while staying true to those hearty principles.

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the editor of Serious Eats: New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

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