Since its doors opened in April, The Honey Paw has been impressing everyone from designers and local reviewers to Eater restaurant editor and roving critic Bill Addison, who called its food and drink menus "skillfully calibrated." The Asian-leaning restaurant, sister to Hugo's and Eventide Oyster Co., even garnered national buzz early on when respected restaurateurs Mike Wiley, Andrew Taylor, and Arlin Smith publicly banned a local blogger. Whether the controversy helped or hindered their reputation with out-of-towners, it didn't stop locals from voting the "non-denominational noodle" bar Maine's Restaurant of the Year in the 2015 Eater Awards.
Chef de cuisine Thomas Pisha-Duffly, who was a runner-up for 2015's Chef of the Year, shared with Eater the process of preparing one of his most iconic dishes, the Coconut Chicken Curry with the intriguing inclusion of fermented rice noodles. The soup has a Thai-inspired chicken-based broth with flavors of lime, lemongrass, ginger, tamarind, kaffir, coconut, fish sauce, and nutmeg. "It is not a thick curry, but thin, sweet, slightly sour, with some real heat from Thai bird chiles and dried Chinese chili," Pisha-Duffly described.
The Honey Paw makes all of its noodles in-house; the process for the fermented rice noodle in this dish is a three-step process. First, Pisha-Duffly explained, "The rice starch sits in salted water overnight to develop some lactic acid, similar to the bread proofing process. This creates great depth of flavor and tang. Second, we gel the starches by pressure-steaming the rice flour and water at a high temp, causing the starches to gelatinize. Third, we take the rice gelatin, mix in raw rice starch and tapioca starch, and mix this dough in our extruder. Then we extrude the thick noodles through a copper die, giving it amazing texture."
"At this point the noodle is very fragile," the chef said. "But when it hits hot water, the raw starches gel and the final product is chewy, slippery, and delicious — all the hallmarks of a superior noodle." The chicken meatballs have a slightly springy texture that contrasts the potatoes, charred zucchini, and turmeric-pickled cauliflower. The soup is garnished with basil, chili oil, and kaffir lime leaf oil; fried shallots finish the dish. Watch sous chef Lars Taylor prepare the tart, satisfying meal in the photos above.