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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: November 5, 2018

Fresh-tasting Thai comes to South Portland in big portions

Written by: Ray Routhier

Ron Swanson would love the satay at Hana Thai.

On NBC’s sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” Swanson (played by Nick Offerman) was obsessed with and often distracted by large portions of meat in various forms. So I thought of Swanson immediately when I opened an order of chicken satay from Hana Thai recently. Usually when my family gets satay – meat on a stick, basically – we often find it’s not enough. Sometimes the meat barely covers the stick.

But the ones from Hana Thai were unusually large. They were also well-spiced, juicy and tender. You can have one and feel satisfied. One order of four skewers is $7.95.

Hana Thai opened in August in a retail plaza on Broadway, which is just a few minutes from the Casco Bay Bridge and is also home to Willows Pizza. It’s run by chef/owner Than Pham, who had previously managed his brother’s restaurant, Veranda Thai in Portland. Inside, the place is bright and cheery, with plenty of seating and a bar, a good place to wait for a takeout order and have a beer.

My family and I – four of us in all – got take-out from Hana Thai for dinner recently. For appetizers, in addition to the chicken satay, we tried the fresh veggie spring rolls ($4.95 for two) and the Thai rolls ($5.95 for two). The spring rolls, with veggies, mint and rice noodles, were nice. But I really liked the Thai rolls, with cabbage and other veggies in a spring roll wrapper fried light golden. It was light and crispy. Sort of like an egg roll but not as hard or deeply fried.

Our main dishes were a chicken pad thai ($12.95) and an order of larb gai ($13.95). All the rice and noodle dishes, plus the stir-fry dishes, are cheaper at lunch than dinner. Chicken pad thai, for instance, is $9.95 at lunch.

The pad Thai was among the freshest I’ve tasted. By that I mean it didn’t taste like someone had made 100 pounds of pad thai ahead of the dinner rush and then let it sit around in a pan. It also had thinner noodles than I’m used to in pad thai, which I think gave it a lighter taste. The chunks of chicken were also larger than I’m used to seeing in pad thai.

The larb gai was a pleasant surprise. It’s salad, basically, of ground chicken, cabbage, onions, red peppers, mint, lime and lemongrass on a bed of lettuce. It had just a hint of heat to it, countered by the lime.

Between our two entrées and three appetizers, we had enough leftovers for lunch for three of us the next day.

The extensive menu includes curry dishes, stir-fry, noodle and rice dishes, soups and appetizers. There are also a half dozen or more kinds of pho, Vietnamese rice noodle soup, for $10.95 an order. Each comes with bean sprouts, basil leaves, sawtooth herbs, lime and jalapenos. The choice of meats for the soup include rare steak, well-done flank steak, meatballs and chicken.

HANA THAI

WHERE: 740 Broadway, South Portland; 799-9997, Hana-Thai.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WAIT: About 30 minutes for a phone order on a Saturday night
PARKING: Yes
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

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