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One of my favorite five bucks worth of tastiness is mee krob, a crispy rice noodle appetizer at Jasmine Thai Restaurant (1330 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda, 838-3011, jasminethairestaurant.com).

Buffalo’s longest-running Thai restaurant can be chaotic at times. Despite that, the kitchen consistently delivers a plate of crunchy, sweet and salty rice noodles tinged with smokiness, fortified with a little sliced chicken and shrimp, and topped with scallion, cilantro and bean sprouts.

Think Thai kettle corn, or Cracker Jack for adults. “It’s crispy, and then it melts in your mouth,” said owner Virawat “Tim” Thavisin. The price: $4.99.

Thavisin said he got the recipe from his grandmother in Thailand. Rice noodles are puffed in hot oil, then set aside. A sauce of sugar, funky fish sauce and ketchuplike tomato sauce go into the wok and is fired at 250,000 BTUs until it’s caramel. Crispy noodles, tossed in the sauce, take on a lovely glaze and “a little bit of burning smell,” said Thavisin. “A little touch of that, you have to have it.”

That’s why it’s so hard to make at home, unless you have blowtorches mounted under your wok, and a fantastic exhaust system. Even Thavisin won’t cook it in the house.

“I have a wok at home,” he said. “I cook outside.”

– Andrew Z. Galarneau