Monday, October 12, 2009

Once You Go Crispy, You Never Go Back

A few weeks ago, my coworker McK arranged a little workday-lunchtime field trip to his favorite Thai restaurant in West Seattle- Buddha Ruksa. Sure, we can get Thai a block away from the office, but McK assured us that Buddha Ruksa was well worth drive, and that their Crispy Garlic Chicken would change our lives forever. I believe his actual words were "once you go crispy, you never go back." Dreamy thoughts of an afternoon away from the office and life-changing chicken swirled in our heads, pushing out the ever-exciting images of technology case studies and white papers that usually take precedence on a weekday afternoon.

When Friday rolled around, a group of 8 ravenous office dwellers entered the midday sun, mouths watering and stomachs growling, blinded by the natural light that was replacing the comfortable glare of our computer screens. We loaded into two cars, and took off in a frenzy for what Buddha Ruksa regulars have coined "Crack Chicken," for its addictive qualities. McK warned us in advance that the life-changing crack chicken wasn't going to be on the lunch menu, but he assured us that he had the hookups.

I was in a daze, waiting to get my hands on the goods, so I'm not sure how it all went down. I think McK might have whispered something in the waiter's ear, and slipped some money in his hand via a nonchalant-but suspicious handshake. Or maybe we just sat down and asked for the Crispy Garlic Chicken, I can't be sure. As a first time user, I proceeded with caution, asking for only one star. Other coworkers were wreckless with abandon, throwing caution to the wind and diving headfirst into a seedy underworld of fiery chicken fiends, asking for 3... no 4 stars! As we waited for our 'stuff' to arrive, my palms sweated, and I giggled nervously, trying not to look like a newbie.

When my plate of Crack Chicken came to the table, I pushed it around on the plate a little, not wanting to look overly-ambitious. I also knew that there was a risk of getting hooked from the first bite, the gateway bite, if you will. My plate was really a huge serving bowl (all for me!) filled with crispy chicken pieces, chewy little chunks of garlic, and crisp fried basil leaves. It looked and smelled amazing. I went in for the first bite. It was... good. But nothing to get addicted to or anything. Sheesh. The chicken was crispy without being breaded or overly oily, with a gooey garlicky glaze, dotted with chewy, crispy pieces of garlic and crispy basil- fried to bring out a whole new flavor, unlike any other basil flavor. I ate a few more bites- I mean, it was pretty delicious. After eating over half of my Crispy Chicken platter, I was in a food coma, licking the spicy garlic sauce off my lips and wishing I had room for more.

I packed up my leftovers and headed back to work- crack schmack. I wasn't addicted. After an hour, I was still full, but I couldn't stop thinking about that takeout container of crispy goodness in the fridge. My mouth started watering, yearning and aching for a bite of the chicken with its caramelized garlic and crispy basil. I couldn't concentrate on work. After two hours, the Crispy Chicken was all I could think about. No longer able to focus, I packed up, grabbed my chicken, and ran for home. Must. Get home. To eat. Chicken. Need. Chicken.

Evan walked in and found me huddled in the corner, licking garlicky sauce off my fingers... just one little morsel left for his tasting. He ate it. He snatched the box from my hand as I frothed at the mouth and nipped at his fingers. He tilted it back to his mouth, pouring in the last bits of garlic. He licked the edges of the carton. He was hooked. It got us both.

We sat there, fiending for more Crispy. Unable to escape from its grasp, we did the only thing we could think of to get our fix. We made our own.

We cooked cubes of chicken up in spicy oil with little chunks of garlic until it was crisp and chewy, we topped it with quick fried basil and sesame seeds. We mixed it with Chinese long beans from Mel and John's garden.

The beans were fantastic. The chicken was a little too oily. I burned the basil. It wasn't Buddha Ruksa's Crispy Garlic Chicken, but it was good enough to hold us over.... until next time.

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