Menu Please: Lao Meets Thai at Kanya Market

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Femme de Joie
Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.
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9 Responses

  1. name says:

    I could have sworn that you already reviewed this place some time ago??

    • Femme de Joie Femme de Joie says:

      Dear Name,

      Perhaps you are thinking of Thai Hut, just a couple of blocks east of Kanya?

      Thanks for reading,

      Femme de Joie

      • EasternCounty says:

        I, too, thought you had reviewed Kanya some time ago.  It could have been a review by the local paper; however, I haven’t read that bird cage liner since Doni left; so that doesn’t seem likely because I don’t think Kanya has been in business that long.  What I remember about the review was that the firefighters across the street really liked it.

  2. A. Jacoby says:

    Had no idea there was a restaurant in the back of the market. Looks good enough to try!!

    thanks . . .

  3. Frank Treadway says:

    Sorry, there’s only two authentic Thai restaurants in Redding area:  Racha Noodle on So. Market and Thai Cafe-Butte St.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    OK, a new one on Churn Creek also.

    Now, that’s not to say that the others are not good, they all provide there ethnic flavors that make Redding a delight to eat.

    • Valerie Ing says:

      Unless Thai Cafe has changed ownership, it is also Lao from what I recall. At least that’s what I thought they told me when I asked one time. Maybe I misunderstood. My favorite is also Racha Noodle (Khao Soy is my favorite thing on their menu, and it’s radically different from Kanya’s dish of the same name). My husband likes to call it “Rock-A-Noodle.” Kanya is my second favorite Thai food joint in town, although for the last few years I’ve been making most of my favorite dishes at home, thanks to the helpful women who run the Kanya grocery store and the little store just a few doors down from Racha Noodle. Opened up a whole new world of international cuisine in my own kitchen!

  4. Kanya is my favorite Asian market – such a treat to find all the good stuff we need for a Thai meal in one spot – including all the produce. Don’t know why I ever buy cilantro at the supermarket – at Kanya it’s fresh and very reasonably priced. The fresh spring rolls make a wonderful light dinner.  Now I’m hungry.

  5. Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    I’ve shopped at Kanya, but I didn’t know there was a restaurant in that establishment as well.  Thank you for an excellent review Femme de Joie.

  6. K says:

    I love Femme de Joie’s reviews!  So helpful.

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