Pad Thai, mangoes, sticky rice and everything nice


When my uncle traveled abroad to serve in the Peace Corps during the ‘90s, he met a Thai woman who generously taught her language to the Americans. He fell very in love with his teacher; the rest is history. As a result of this global love story, I was exposed to a sliver of Thai culture as a child and got to try homemade dishes with curiosity and delight. While many things have blurred with the decades since then, one truly special dish stands out in my memory: mangoes and sticky rice.

So, when I saw Eato Chef post this delicious dish for dessert, I thought back to those good times, told my dog to clear my schedule and high-tailed it out to its Airstream trailer on the edge of Horrocks Farm Market.

Eato Chef, in its fourth year, is a much-loved and highly rated local business serving “Gourmet Chef Inspired Thai Food & Fusion.” Its social media pages are the best places to find information on the food, but there’s no need to chase it from location to location. You can reliably find it in Horrocks’ beer garden from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

I started my meal with the signature pad Thai with shrimp. Emboldened by the special treat that was to come, I stretched my spice level up to a three. Nose running just a little, I ate slower than I normally would of the plentiful noodles and long strips of green onion, letting the spice die a bit between bites. The tangy, vinegary and spicy dish primed my palate for the sweet and earthy dessert.

The rice was mild and tinged with a honey flavor. The texture was chewy and moist and had a subtle crunch from the flecks of sesame seeds. Then I took my first bite of mango, and after about 10 seconds, the flavor nearly exploded. It was so powerful — it almost tasted like candy, or a memory. The fruit was perfectly ripe, so soft it was practically like mousse, but not yet falling apart or getting fibrous. Simple, sumptuous and so sweet as to almost be tart, but not sour.

Perhaps it was my dinosaur brain unlocking an old time with this special dish from my childhood. Maybe it was the spice levels in my mouth making everything that much more intense. Whatever it was, that mango was unforgettable. I finished the dessert with a smile and an ever-renewing appreciation for the local joints that make Lansing a great place to dig into a special dish.


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