Everyday Eats: Pad Thai Perfection at J Wok
J Wok's delicious pad thai proves that sometimes it's best to leave certain dishes to the pros.
Pad Thai: $8.75
744 Market Street,
Let's face it, often the three most important parts of the day are breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And that's why here at SanDiegoMagazine.com, we're beefing up our food and restaurant coverage by shining the spotlight on tasty meals under $10. Foie gras and Kobe beef still have a place at our table, but these meals are so reasonably priced, you can eat them every day.
After discovering J Wok's pad thai last year, and quickly realizing that I had become a slave to it, I embarked on a quest to create a reasonable facsimile at home. After a trip to Kearny Mesa to secure the raw ingredients, I started cooking. It did not go well. One time, the noodles were gummy, another time, they were mush. And, despite trying different recipes, I never nailed the sauce. After four failed attempts, I packed it in. The beauty of Thai food is its perfect balance of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors, which can also make it really tough to duplicate.
Luckily, there's no need to fumble with the fish sauce when J Wok makes a knock out pad thai. The mound of rice noodles is tossed in a tamarind rich sauce that's sweet, but also has a spicy kick. It comes with crunchy sprouts and shredded red cabbage, plus a lime for infusing refreshing notes of citrus throughout. You can get it with tofu or chicken for $8.75, and shrimp or beef is a dollar more. The portion is generous enough that I always have leftovers when I'm dining alone, and the dish stands up very well to a quick nuke (though you might want to remove the green onions first).
If you arrive with a sumo-sized appetite and suspect that you'll need more fuel, check out J Wok's Asian tapas menu, and add small portion of dumplings, seaweed salad, or masaman chicken curry as a side dish or starter.