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Lunch, Anyone? Giggling Rice

South Campus’ best kept secret

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BU fans of Thai food can reel off the many restaurants around campus that serve up the popular cuisine. From Brown Sugar Cafe on West Campus to Noodle Street on East Campus, you don’t have to walk far to get your fix. But one eatery, sandwiched between an unassuming dry cleaners and the ever-popular Tatte Bakery on Beacon Street in South Campus, is often overlooked and that’s a shame, because Giggling Rice is a real standout.

With only a few tables, the place is known best for takeout. Call your order in ahead and you’ll be off the phone in under 30 seconds. The efficient service will have you in and out almost as quickly. But you might want to stick around for the warm and homey ambiance of this no-frills restaurant. The casual, relaxed vibe makes you feel you could walk in wearing pajamas and no one would bat an eye.

The adorable mascot is first thing you notice on the restaurant’s exterior: a joyous and laughing grain of rice adorns the sign, window, and takeout menu, a promise of what’s inside.

You’ll find lots of expertly prepared traditional Thai dishes. Appetizers like crab rangoon ($5.95), Chicken Sa Te ($6.50), and scallion pancakes ($5) are a great start. Or pick one of the classic soups, like Tom Ka Gae ($4.25), a coconut soup with chicken, mushrooms, and scallions. There are many special native dishes, like Ga Pao Gai ($8.95), ground chicken paired with a Thai spicy basil sauce, or Khao Pad Jungle Beef ($9.50), spicy beef and fried rice with egg, onion, pepper, crispy shallot, and a house chili paste. On the menu are numerous noodle, fried rice, and curry dishes, too.

The chicken pad thai is one of eight variants of the traditional Thai dish on the menu. Photo by Maddie Malhotra (COM’19)

The chicken pad thai is one of the menu’s eight variants of the traditional Thai dish. Photo by Maddie Malhotra (COM’19)

But if there’s one dish synonymous with Thai cuisine, it’s pad thai, the popular stir-fried rice noodle dish. And at Giggling Rice, it’s a cornerstone of the menu, with a whole section under the heading Pad Thai Corner enumerating the dishes. You’ll find eight takes on the classic entrée, including chicken ($8.75), beef ($9.25), and shrimp ($9.25), as well as more exotic specialties like Gai Grob Pad Thai ($9.25), which features crispy chicken, and Crispy Pad Thai ($8.75), with crispy rice noodles replacing the familiar soft ones.

We opted for one of our favorites, the traditional chicken pad thai, a delicious concoction of noodles stir-fried with small pieces of chicken, scallion, and peanuts. One bite and you’ll want to slurp the whole dish down at once. To be successful, pad thai has to balance sweet and savory. Unfortunately, many Thai restaurants lean too heavily on the savory flavors. But Giggling Rice gets the chemistry just right, and it’s delicious. And where too many Thai restaurants crumble uncooked peanuts to their pad thai, here they are added to the stir fry so their earthy tones and crunchy consistency blend with the sweetness.

Moo Gra Tiam, a simple dish of pork, rice, cucumber, and tomato, with Thai sweet chili sauce, is one of Giggling Rice’s most popular items. Photo by Maddie Malhotra (COM’19)

Moo Gra Tiam, a simple dish of pork, rice, cucumber, and tomato, with Thai sweet chili sauce, is one of Giggling Rice’s most popular items. Photo by Maddie Malhotra (COM’19)

We also ordered one of the most popular entrées, Moo Gra Tiam ($8.95). Home-style garlic pork served over jasmine rice, cucumber, tomato, and a side of thai sweet chili sauce, it’s a mixed grab bag of a dish. The trick here is the pork, which is stir-fried to a slight crisp, seasoned with a savory blend of garlic and soy sauce. The caramelized pork fat adds flavor, and the cucumber is an excellent addition as well, with its much-needed bit of freshness. But the tomato feels out of place, served in big chunks as if it was an afterthought, and their size makes it difficult to taste of all the plate’s subtle flavors. The tomatoes should be diced and mixed together with the cucumber in the Thai sweet chili sauce. Served over the jasmine rice, the pork wouldn’t have to carry the rest of the dish as it does now.

But that’s a minor quibble. There is so much more right about Giggling Rice and that outweighs the occasional miss. Since many of the entrées are spicy, we recommend the Thai Iced Tea ($2.75), a deliciously sweet and refreshing blend of tea and half and half, to help balance the heat.

All in all, this South Campus gem is worth a visit. The warm and welcoming atmosphere, reasonable prices, and efficient service make it a standout.

Giggling Rice, 1009 Beacon St., Brookline, is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant accepts all major credit cards and is wheelchair-accessible. Order for delivery or pickup at 617-232-9888. Take a MBTA Green Line trolley to BU Central and walk down St. Mary’s Street to Beacon Street.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston lunch and brunch spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the Comment section below.

Alex Pena (COM’19) can be reached at alexgp97@bu.edu.

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