Last Bite — Winter’s Don’t-Miss Dish in Edible Santa Barbara Magazine
Want the Wok-Fried Sweet Potato recipe? Get it here.
We’ve all enjoyed the sweet-sour-spicy-salty treat that is Thai food. It’s the perfect comfort food, complete with these complex flavors and textures, and so popular that it easily serves as the perfect date night dinner, quick take-out everyone loves, or end-of-the-weekend leftovers from the fridge. But Na Na Thai in Buellton is cooking up Bangkok street food like you’ve never had, and will surprise even die-hard Thai food fans.
Husband and wife team Nik and Ashley Ramirez opened this spot on McMurray Road earlier this year, after a successful run of cooking Thai food pop-ups with their friends at Bar Le Côte in Los Olivos. Na Na Thai took over the kitchen on Tuesdays nights when BLC was closed, beginning service at 4pm and frequently being sold out by 6pm. The couple’s painstaking attention to detail and commitment to traditional Thai cooking techniques paid off in flavor, and people loved it.
Now, we can all tickle our Thai tastebuds Monday through Friday, at both lunch and dinner service. Chef Nik’s kitchen makes all the curries, soups, marinades and sauces by hand, using a mortar and pestle, to preserve the techniques of the past instead of using modern appliances. This, along with real Thai spices, peanuts, chilis, fish and soy sauce, keeps the dishes authentic. And delicious.
The couple met working at the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, but soon job offers took them to Thailand, where they lived, cooked and ate for 4 years. After having 2 children, they decided to move back to Santa Barbara County, and quickly saw a need for ethnic food here in the valley. “This all started because we missed Bangkok’s food and flavors of the place we called home.” Ashley says. “It was hard to eat Thai food in the States. The spice and flavors were watered down; nothing tasted like it was supposed to. There was definitely a need for a Thai restaurant, but more than that, we needed to scratch an itch.”
Nik and Ashley buy most of their produce, whatever is in season, from Farmers Markets all over the County: fruit, vegetables and herbs from Finley Farms, pork and other meats from Motely Crew Ranch, plus sweet potatoes from Milliken Family Farms, which happen to be their favorite. The sweet, tender tubers are perfect in this Northern Thai wok-fried dish with shrimp paste, crispy shallots, garlic and chili. Winter squash will also work, so watch for this special at the restaurant throughout the season.
Wok-Fried Sweet Potato Recipe
Want the full recipe? Get and print it here.
To make Pad Man Thet, prepare the crispy shallots the day before (or buy pre-made crispy shallots). Thinly slice a few shallots and season them with salt. Refrigerate them overnight on a tray of paper towels. To make the paste, pound half a shallot and 1 Thai chili with a mortar and pestle until broken down. Add 1 head of garlic and 1 teaspoon gapi (Thai shrimp paste) and continue until a paste is formed, about 1 Tablespoon.
Peel 1 sweet potato (or winter squash), and blanche in boiling water for about 1 min. It should be slightly tender but still firm raw. Slice into rounds. Heat about 2 Tablespoons of pork fat in a wok on high heat. Add the sweet potato slices and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, until seared on all sides, then add the paste and cook about 30 seconds. Add 2 cups pork stock, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon oyster sauce. Let this simmer about 5-10 minutes, until it’s reduced to a glaze. Transfer to a plate. Heat more pork fat in another pan and fry some salted shallots to put on top, and serve.