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Thai X-ing

Lofty curries from a basement kitchen.

Kitchen Confidential: the cooking at this tiny carry-out only kitchen in DC’s Shaw is sharper and brighter than that of many Thai restaurants. Photograph by Allison Dinner

Some of the city’s best Thai cooking isn’t being done in a restaurant. It’s coming from the English basement of a townhouse around the corner from Howard University Hospital—a takeout operation with a cult following called Thai X-ing.

Owner Taw Vigsittaboot has the work ethic of a short-order cook, but his cooking is as attuned to details as his mixed-media sculptures, on view in the tiny sitting room lined with art books and Buddhist texts. His larb gai is sharper and hotter than most renditions of this tangy ground-chicken dish. Spring rolls are rolled as tightly as Cohibas, producing a crunch even after they’ve been sitting in the takeout bag.

Curries are his specialty. A salmon in red curry proves the benefits of slow-cooking sauce and protein together, a method that high-volume Thai kitchens dispense with. The oils from the fish enrich the fiery coconut-milk broth while the broth infuses the poaching fish.

Prices won’t try your budget, but the waits—expect to sit a half hour or more, even after calling ahead—may try your patience. As the sitting room’s copy of The Dhamapadda urges, one must learn to perceive the world with tranquil serenity.

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