Wailuku never ceases to amaze me. Because I work in town, I’m constantly lamenting that I have eaten everything edible within walking distance of my office at least one too many times. And then the unexpected happens–I find someplace new to enjoy.
My latest find is the family-run Saeng’s Thai Cuisine on Vineyard. Granted, it’s not new. In fact, I can’t remember when it wasn’t there, but for some reason it always flew under my radar and I’d never eaten there until this past week. I’ll admit that during the many times I’ve driven by it, I assumed that the interior would be small, dark and musty. Boy, was I wrong.
Stepping into Saeng’s Thai is like going through a portal that pulls you right out of Wailuku and transports you to someplace that’s not only spacious but also totally beautiful and exotic. You can eat indoors or out. My co-worker Wendy and I chose to sit outdoors, which is cool because it’s shaded and covered from the glaring sun, but still feels open and breezy. There’s also a koi pond outside and I’m a kind a sucker for big orange fish.
There are more than 70—yes, seven-zero—options on the menu, and that doesn’t even include daily specials. After much hemming and hawing, we decided to go with the Honey Lemon Shrimp, Stuffed Chicken Wings and the special, which was panko-crusted, deep-fried Mahi served with broccoli, rice and red panang curry.
Of course, it wasn’t until after we got our food that we realized that everything we ordered was fried. We felt bad for our hearts and waistlines for about a nanosecond, then dove in. All guilt was lost in the flavor… at least for the time being.
The shrimp was gorgeous, the batter puffy and golden. It was drizzled in a honey-lemon sauce, which proved to be quite tangy, and the batter-to-shrimp ratio was solid.
We had never heard of stuffed chicken wings before and frankly, didn’t know how this was even possible. They came out looking sort of like deeply fried drumsticks–deboned and filled with a mix of vegetables, long rice and spices. It almost tasted like a giant egg roll, though with a lot more crunch.
I love Thai curry and Saeng’s version was no exception. We had the fish served on the side. You can’t go wrong with fried Mahi, or with the panang curry, which is a red curry and peanut sauce with coconut, green peas, bell pepper and ground peanut.
The flavor was delicious and delicate. I’m pretty sure that our dish was served up mild. Next time I think I’ll go medium or hot.
Other things on their expansive menu that I want to try are the Bean Cake- deep fried or steamed tofu, served atop a bed of chopped cabbage and peanut sauce, Broccoli satay and the Pad si-iu which is stir fried rice noodles with egg, chicken, shrimp and vegetables. Saeng’s Thai also offers 14 specific dishes for vegetarians like the Coconut Tofu soup, Basil tofu and Evil Prince tofu.
Because we had to get back to work, we didn’t get to try any desserts, though I’m definitely going back for a serving of fried banana with ice cream or maybe even the Thai tapioca.
Decisions, decisions. MTW