Jhanthong Banbua

You know things are bad when the sound of your own wheezing and sneezing wakes you from a NyQuil-induced blackout. Trouble looms when Jell-O and applesauce sounds reeeeally good and a Kleenex box becomes your sleeping partner.

Yep, I’m wading through an eater’s worst nightmare: The dreaded head cold. Because it’s not just the aches and pains, the stuffed up head or the red eyes that are so bad. It’s the fact that you can’t taste anything. Which kind of makes eating a moot point in my book. And without some serious daily grubbing-well, I shudder to think about it.

Hankies in hand, pajamas tucked under my jeans, Panang curry seems the only solution. The hotter the better. And don’t spare the coconut milk.

Jhanthong Banbua, the long-time Santa Rosa Thai fave that fronts the seedy Gold Coin hotel on Mendocino Ave., is the closest bet. And, despite a couple of ho-hum take-out experiences there recently, the combination of elegant presentation and skillful combinations of lemon grass, fish sauce, lime and coconut milk makes this a favorite feast of the senses. Even if a few of mine are still home in bed watching Ellen.

Sniffling through lunch, my sick-day lineup goes like this:
Salad rolls: Wrapped in a spongy, crepe-like casing rather than rice paper, salad rolls are layered with crisp, cool, veggies like cucumber and lettuce.
Spicy green papaya salad: A sensory overload with pungent fish sauce and tangy lime juice–an air horn to sleeping senses
Gang Panang (which, honestly, is just fun to say): This creamy, hot, sour mixture of lime leaves, sweet basil, red curry paste and sneaky little green chilies is both soothing and invigorating. (Take extra Kleenex, you’ll need it when your sinuses drain).

Five tissues later, my lips are prickling with heat, my nose clearer and my belly full. So it ain’t Jell-O. Call it comfort food that refuses to be comfortable. Call it just what the doctor ordered.

Jhanthong Banbua, 2400 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707.528.8048