Until very recently, Femme de Joie’s only visit to 970 Hartnell was about seven years ago when a vintage furniture store was there; she and Amico del Signore picked out a leather couch which went from “this great oxblood sofa” to “that Godawful purple couch” in just a few short years. The sofa found a new home about the same time Kanya Market replaced the furniture store.
Femme de Joie had originally planned to write about another Asian restaurant (which shall go nameless); unfortunately, the beef pho she ordered turned out to be Ptomaine Pho. After a dreadful night on the bathroom floor, she elected to not make a second visit to that establishment. But then Amico del Signore discovered that Kanya Market not only sells Asian groceries but also has a small cafe and persuaded her that this might be worth checking out. And so it was. In addition to a wide variety of the usual items – soy and fish sauces, sesame oil, canned lychees, curry powder, teas (including “Sliming Tea” and no, that is not a typo), gigantic bags of rice – Kanya also carries some fresh greens, fresh noodles, and the delightfully-named Snake Brand Prickly Heat and Baby Face with Aha.
Due to the dark window tint film, it’s impossible to see inside; instead, look for the neon “open” sign on the front. When you walk in, you are entering the grocery side of Kanya. Walk straight ahead toward the cash register, then turn right into the restaurant. You can order to-go at the counter, pick up some already prepared food from the refrigerators or the racks nearby, or sit down at one of the snappy black and white tables to dine in. Each table is stocked with a roll of paper towels, a stack of deep bowl spoons, and containers of forks and chop sticks. Service is friendly and helpful.
Bahn mi, $3.00
Bahn mi – Vietnamese sandwiches – are available on the to-go rack to the right of the cash register. They include pork, “meatloaf” (more like pâté), pickled daikon and carrots, and cilantro on a sliced, mayonnaise-spread French roll. It wasn’t bad but it would have been fabulous if it hadn’t been so flabby in texture; more crunchy vegetables and a crustier roll would make it sing.
Mango drink out of the refrigerator, $1.25. Not quite as mango-y as the name suggests, but a very good foil for the spicy food to come.
Fresh spring rolls, $5.50
M. de Joie was surprised at the generous serving of spring rolls – there was surely enough to share. Accompanied by tiny cups of sweetish peanut sauce and bottled Thai sweet chili sauce, the rolls were like small portable salads. Filled with lettuce, rice noodles, cilantro, and shrimp, these were wonderfully refreshing and crisp.
Papaya salad Lao style, $5.00
Most shoppers have seen the giant overripe papayas in supermarkets here; their musky scent and perfumy taste is loved by some and reviled by others. But in places where it grows freely, green papaya is treated like a vegetable and made into salads. Kanya’s papaya salad is offered in Thai style or Lao. Both use fish sauce in the dressing but the Lao version uses fermented fish sauce (padaek) which has a more pungent aroma and taste. Green papaya was shredded and tossed with peanuts, tomatoes, green onions, and the padaek-infused dressing, served with a wedge of raw cabbage and plain rice noodles.
Femme de Joie ordered the salad with “medium” heat but either she was misunderstood or Kanya has a wicked idea of what medium heat is. It was fiery. She does enjoy hot food, but this was a challenge. The raw cabbage and noodles helped tame it, as did that mango drink. Still, she’s unsure if she actually liked the salad or not, since she was mostly concerned with not spontaneously combusting.
Yellow curry with pork, $8.00
This smooth curry with potatoes, onions, carrots, and cubed pork also carried its own measure of heat, though not as pervasive as the papaya salad. The creamy texture and warm spiced sauce were delicious eaten as a soup or poured over steamed rice. This would be excellent comfort food on a cold day.
Yum Nam, $6.00
If there was a Thai version of a chef’s salad, this would be it. It contains sour pork, AKA naem, a fermented Thai sausage, which explains the somewhat earthy smell of the dish.. Mixed with “meat loaf” (again, strips of pâté), celery, cilantro, green and red onion, and roasted rice seasoning powder, peanuts on the side, this was wonderfully crunchy with soft porky bites, hot and sour – one of the most interesting and exciting dishes M. de Joie has come across in recent memory.
Khao Soy, $5.00 for small bowl
This might be the Thai version of grandma’s chicken soup – broth filled with Ho-fun noodles (made from rice and looking like a wide egg noodle), a very generous amount of white meat chicken, bean sprouts, shards of cabbage, and fermented bean and ground pork. It might remind you slightly of pho but has its own savory taste and textures in a rich chicken-y broth.
M. de Joie likes Kanya very much. The portions for the price are excellent value, service is fairly fast and friendly, and the cooking is usually spot-on and high quality. She also enjoys prowling around in the market, picking up various jars and bottles of condiments to try out, and suggests that if you stop in to have lunch, that you also look through the grocery and maybe pick up some chile-garlic sauce (which Amico del Signore and Femme de Joie love more than Sriracha) or some pork buns to go. It won’t cost much and it’s a good introduction to Thai cuisine.
Kanya Market and Thai Video, 970 Hartnell Avenue at Churn Creek Road (across from the fire hall), Redding, CA 96002. 530-222-7609. Open daily, 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Cards and cash; no checks. No alcohol. Vegan and vegetarian options. Parking lot.