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Classic Pad Thai from Grace & Grit’s pop-up. (Photo credit: Nicholas Grasso)

On a recent cold Friday afternoon, things were heating up at Grace & Grit in Southold. In the kitchen, Chef Adam Kaufer whistled along to The Clash’s “Clampdown,” but almost any tunes — old country, ’80s new wave, swinging New Orleans jazz — can power him through his day.

In the midst of prepping his kitchen for a 4 p.m. onslaught of hungry customers, he heated up the stove, readied his wok and gathered all the ingredients for his classic pad thai.

After a quick prep of the ingredients, it took Kaufer only five minutes to make the meal, but this is not surprising. The professional chef of seven years has cooked this same recipe on his own time for 25 years.

While the recipe itself hasn’t changed, Kaufer’s pad thai is much better today than it was over two decades ago. A single burner in his professional kitchen cranks out more heat than every burner on the average kitchen stove ever could. This powerful heat makes all the difference.

“It’s impossible to make almost any Asian food that’s cooked in a wok taste right when you’re at the house,” Kaufer said. “Almost nobody has a stove or designated wok burner that’s hot enough as those in restaurants. If you try to make fried rice, it’ll never taste the same because it can’t get hot enough.”

Kicking off the dish, Kaufer tossed chicken, tofu and shrimp into his wok. He stirred in an egg, sprinkled in scallions and poured in a dark brown concoction made from fish sauce, tamarind paste and palm sugar. Shrimps go airborne as he tosses the ingredients into his wok.

The chef then threw in a fistful of peanuts and plopped a heaping of rice noodles. He tosses and stirs his work, ensuring classic Thai flavors will seep into every bit.

As he poured his masterpiece into a bowl, I was blown away by how quickly and effortlessly Kaufer worked. He dazzles the dish with a few extra scallions up top, but it’s not as if there were any blemishes in need of concealer.

The crunch of every sweet and salty peanut popped out from the softness of the rice noodles. Crushed red pepper flakes brought the heat, while Kaufer’s dark brown concoction made from fish sauce, tamarind paste and palm sugar brought sweet and sour elements to the dish. The tender shrimp provided umami flavors, heightening the overall savory profile of the meal. The tofu and the chicken offered a welcomed heartiness and made the dish feel substantial and filling.

To balance out the palate with a final touch, Kaufer points to the lime on the side.

“Squeeze the lime over it,” he advised, “It’ll brighten things up a little bit.”

Grace & Grit’s pop-up schedule is ever-changing and typically only offered during the off-season, so, while I was thrilled to indulge in this delicious and comforting dish I know I’ll be longing for it until the next time I see that they’re offering a Thai pop-up. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of this dish and checking out their roster of other tasty events to come