Knockout Noodles: Yaya Noodles at Thalia Spice
When I last paid a visit to Thalia Spice, the "Asian fusion" bistro and bar in River West, I was knee-deep in research for Serious Eats Chicago's monumental feature on the city's best pad Thai. Thalia Spice's pad Thai turned out to be fairly middle of the road stuff, good but lacking any real flavor fireworks to set it apart. But I recall at the time seeing another noodle dish that caught my attention. I couldn't diverge from my mission then to try Thalia's Yaya noodles ($11), but I promised myself to return to the restaurant to give this intriguing dish a try.
What drew me to the dish was its key ingredient: stir-fried spinach-flavored noodles. How would these green guys impact a Thai stir-fry? I wondered. Turns out, their impact is all positive. The linguini-like noodles arrived firm but nicely chewy, with a delightful doughy consistency and a subtle green-vegetable flavor. Spines of napa cabbage, garlic, onions, scallions, carrots, wok-seared egg, snap peas, and bean sprouts rounded out the stir fry, adding juiciness and crunch to the textural spectrum. The carrots, crisp and sweet, were particularly good.
I chose pork as my protein, which seemed to lend the dish the salty seasoning and meatiness it needed to be robust and balanced. The pork itself could have been a litte more tender and juicier, but otherwise the Yaya noodles came together beautifully. And not once did I feel the need to slather on the sriracha or red chili; the inherent flavors were more than satisfying without any help from heat.