14 July 2010

A real hot act

Aside from burgers, hot dogs, and chicken, sometimes it is awfully hard to find meals at home that are similar to dishes found around Walt Disney World, or vice versa. So, imagine my surprise when I ventured into Sunshine Seasons and found Spicy Cashew Chicken, a companion to one of my local Thai favorites, Chicken in Cashew Sauce. I thought to spice things up today I’d see how the dishes stack up against one another.The local cashew cuisine comes from a restaurant called Thai Citrus (coincidentally, if you are in the WNC/Asheville area I think Thai Citrus has the best Thai fare in the area) and is served a heaping helping of rice. The chicken itself is a jumble of chicken, cashews, fresh vegetables, and peppers. The heat level here isn’t enough to make my nose run, but the spice combination definitely puts me into a sweat.

Sunshine Seasons version of the cashew dish comes with a choice of two sides. The four options are garlic Udon noodles, stir fry vegetables, rice, or broccoli. On the day I tried the Spicy Cashew Chicken, I opted for the noodles and broccoli, although the combination of rice and stir fry vegetables probably would have made for a better comparison. The spice factor here is not extremely high, but the elements to kick up the heat definitely exist.So, where do these two Thai terrors intersect, and where do they diverge? Well, the vegetables and broccoli found in the Sunshine Seasons version are not mixed in with the sauce, and are not permeated with the same flavors as the dish found around the corner. The noodles themselves are utilitarian, the same as the rice at Thai Citrus. The portion sizes, however, are very similar and, even though they are cut up into different sizes, the amount of chicken in both meals is comparable. The cashews at Thai Citrus seem to have more of a crunch to them, while Sunshine Seasons tend to be a bit more on the chewy side. It should be noted that both meals are made to order.

Overall, both meals provide precisely what I expect. Thai Citrus offers up family recipes that have been handed down and serves up a winner in a highly competitive market. The Spicy Cashew Chicken at Sunshine Seasons is prepared continuously throughout the day for a massive throng of guests, time is of the essence, and a sweat-inducing level of heat could very well turn families off to the eatery. No matter where I find the dish, Cashew Chicken is well worth the time it takes to consume this flavorful fare.

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