Thursday, November 8, 2007

New award!

The actual certificate is being framed and isn't on display yet, but the Ministry of Commerce of the Thai Royal Government has awarded True Thai Restaurant their Thai Select Seal of Approval for Thai Cuisine. (Note: this link goes to an Australian website. The program is more developed there, and there isn't a USA site yet, although that's coming.]

Our thanks to Mr. Rachane Potjanasuntorn, Director General of the Dept. of Export Promotion. We are very proud of this award because it is awarded for more than just the authenticity of our food.

“Thai Select” certifies that the food, the hospitality and the atmosphere of the restaurant is authentic.

I am grateful that the Royal Thai Government has committed itself to letting Americans know which U.S.-Thai restaurants reflect true Thai culture and dining standards. In the U.S., it is very common to hear people come back from a vacation to Italy and then comment on how Italian food is nothing like American Italian food. The Royal Thai Government understands this, and by giving their seal of approval, they are trying to help ensure that Americans and other non-Thai patrons of "Thai" restaurants learn the difference between Thai style food, and authentic Thai dishes.

Our expansion continues, but because of all the delays in getting into the new space, we don't know yet when the new, larger True Thai Restaurant will open. All I know is that when it does, the food, hospitality and ambience will all reflect true Thai culture. I love my country of birth, and will always strive to make True Thai as authentic as possible.

Monday, November 5, 2007


A quick word about "authenticity." In Thai cooking, the emphasis is on fresh, tasty ingredients. When a chef goes to the market, it is always to find pi-sed (the best ingredients). As a result, Thai dishes prepared in America may use produce that wouldn't necessarily be used in Thailand. Carrots, for example.

The most common question I'm getting from customers lately is, "where do you get your red, yellow and white carrots?" Well, they come from our suppliers, and they're grown in California. They're crunchier than most carrots, which is why they're called "Rainbow Crunch Carrots." Rainbow is part of the name because these carrots come not just in orange, but also in white, yellow and red. Each day before our customers come in for lunch and dinner, our staff spends time carving flowers from these rainbow-hued carrots so we can make your entrée look more interesting and appetizing. (Parents know that True Thai works hard to trick children into eating vegetables, and we're finding that kids like red carrots better than orange ones!)

Do they use red carrots in Thailand? No, not yet. But Thai chefs are always looking for new ways to "improve" their presentations, and new, colorful vegetables quickly find their way into Thai dishes. Every time I fly back to Thailand my first question is, what's new?

At True Thai Restaurant, what's new is the carrots — they're not just orange anymore.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

New appetizer big hit!

Regular customers may already be familiar with our newest appetizer, 'Palace Style' Wontons.

Fried wontons hand tossed in a sassy sweet and tangy sauce, then drizzled with fiery sriracha sauce. This is our kitchen staff’s favorite new snack!

Well, 'Palace Style' Wontons aren't just our kitchen staff's favorite new snack. Customers are coming in just for this appetizer, and many are demanding that we make it available for takeout.

I have given this a lot of thought, but I simply do not know how we could prepare this dish for takeout. Palace Style Wontons need to be eaten immediately. Without the crispiness of the wontons, this appetizer just isn't the same. So, if you want some 'Palace Style' Wontons, come in, sit down and order some!

Our photographer should have a picture to upload to our onine menu soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Eat Shop Twin Cities

Last May a charming young woman named Anna Blessing stopped by the restaurant and took some pictures. Now they're in a book she wrote called "Eat Shop Twin Cities."

In case the name isn't convincing enough already, this place truly is the real deal. The food is authentic, but on top of that, you feel like royalty being served fried rice in half a pineapple. Minneapolis is a great place to eat Thai food, and while everyone has a favorite local spot where they get their fix, you'll hear it from many that True Thai wins the top prize. You've heard the saying, the proof is in the pudding? Well, in this case it's the truth that is the pudding — the honestly supreme, sweet sticky rice with fresh mangoes — it's the perfect end to a Thai meal.

Blessing's book is part of the popular Eat Shop series from Cabazon Books, and the Twin Cities edition is a great gift item. Barnes & Noble has copies on display at all of their Minnesota locations.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Eating locally is healthy eating

Recently there have been many people writing about eating locally. While much of the produce used at True Thai Restaurant cannot be grown this far north (pineapples, limes, papayas, etc.), during the summer a surprising amount of our vegetables show up in our buffet less than eight hours after being picked.

Chef Anousone's sister goes out to the Hmong farmers markets at six each morning to buy bell peppers, greens, jalapenos and other fresh produce and herbs picked earlier that same morning. She then delivers them to the restaurant and by 11:00 they're in the buffet and on your plate. Thai cooking prizes fresh vegetables and nutritionists have found many health benefits in the herbs used by Thai chefs.

Raw foods in Thai cuisine supply valuable nutrients from fresh fruits and vegetables, protein and nutrients from organically-grown tofu and added benefits from a diversity of special herbs. Each is excellent for supporting various aspects of health, such as the immune system, circulation and digestion.

Here are some of Thailand’s most common herbs and their health benefits:
  • Alteratives cleanse and purify the blood and tend to restore normal health: cilantro, coriander, garlic and turmeric.

  • Stimulants increase internal heat and strengthen metabolism and circulation: cardamom, cloves, garlic, ginger, galangal (relative of ginger), tamarind and tumeric.

  • Expectorants promote discharge of mucus and phlegm from the throat and lungs: cardamom, cloves, garlic, ginger and kaffir lime leaves.

  • Carminatives relieve intestinal gas and pain and encourage muscle contractions: cilantro, cardamom, coriander, cloves, garlic and lime leaves.

  • Diuretics support kidney and bladder function while increasing urination: cilantro, coriander and lemon grass.


Fresh does taste better, fresh vegetables are better for you, and in Minnesota summer is the best time to eat locally.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Homegrown Thai

If you've ever seen the back of True Thai Restaurant, you've seen lots of potted plants. Both at work and at home in my backyard we grow cherry tomatoes, basil and Thai prikki-nu hot peppers. While we only buy the freshest produce, nothing is fresher than just picked cherry tomatoes.

We use our cherry tomatoes in our Green Papaya Salad (#24), which is why it tastes maybe just a little bit better in the summer than it does in the winter. The basil we use in all kinds of dishes, but the prikki-nu peppers are special, and not just because they grow upwards, towards the sun.

If you take a scientific approach to your hot peppers, Thai prikki-nu peppers are rated at 100,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units). By comparison jalapeño peppers are rated 3,000-5,000 SHU. The infamous orange habañeros, on the other hand, are rated at 300,000 SHU, which is why they are used to cook with only, and never served fresh.

Our Thai hot peppers are hotter than what we can buy locally, so if you love hot, hot food, ask if you can have fresh prikki-nu peppers with your entrée and we'll run out back to pick some just for you!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Long Beach now has Cambodia Town

There are only a few hundred Thai living in the Twin Cities, so I doubt very much we'll ever have our own business district. Not so in Long Beach where there is now a Cambodia Town. The Los Angeles Times has a nice write up including a picture gallery.

I promise I won't promote Cambodia very often, Thailand and Cambodia having a relationship much like that of Sweden and Norway. Both Thailand and Cambodia think of each other as the junior kingdom. In Cambodia's case that means a history going back to the 3rd Century AD; Thailand traces its development as a nation back to 1238, but archeologists say that people have lived in Thailand for 500,000 years!

There have been numerous wars between Thailand and Cambodia, but now Thailand is home to many Cambodian refugees as a result of their recent troubled history.

As a Thai I am happy to see Cambodians in American earn this recognition, much like the long-established Thai Town in Los Angeles. Southeast Asians may never come to dominate the United States like Germans and Italians have, but we promise keep working to improve the quality of American restaurant food!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Any buffet requests?

I know many of you miss having us post the weekly buffet menu on our website, and I'd like to explain why we no longer do so. Finding and having fresh produce, meat and fish on hand each day isn't always easy, especially when you're fixing Thai food in Minnesota. Our cooks need some flexibility with the buffet menu because we don't always know a week in advance if there will be a shortage of Thai eggplant or kaffir lime leaves for our curries.

As a result, sometimes there were changes in the buffet not on our website. We didn't think this was a big deal but we received many complaints until finally we took down the menu. We still plan our buffet menus in advance, but now that Chef Noi is fixing daily dishes based on available ingredients, it's even harder to guarantee what will be in the buffet each day.

But it bothered me that so many of you wanted to know what we were serving. Then I thought, why not take requests? If there is a standard buffet item you'd like to see on any given day, email me and put BUFFET REQUEST in the subject line. Give me at least a day's notice and I will do my best to honor your request.

Part of Thai culture that I most want to keep alive at True Thai is that we are here to make you, our customers, happy. So if you have plans to visit us for lunch next Tuesday and want to be sure we'll have green curry for your friends to try, just email me by Monday morning and I will do my best.

Friday, July 13, 2007

More about Chef Noi

Already regular buffet customers are expressing interest in Chef Noi and the new buffet dishes. Back in Thailand, Chef Noi owned her own restaurant in Aytthaya, the ancient Thai capitol. While Aytthaya is in the central part of Thailand and not far from Bangkok, rural cuisine is much more popular there. Noi's restaurant was very busy and it was hard for her to leave it to come to America with her family.

Before coming to work at True Thai, Noi was head chef for a popular Thai restaurant in Las Vegas.

Food can help bring up old memories, and since Noi joined us there has been much more talk about Thailand, our families and happy memories. We hope Chef Noi's new dishes help create many happy memories for all our guests and your families and friends.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New chef brings talents to daily buffet

We are very excited by the addition of a new cook to our kitchen staff. Chef Noi will be in charge of adding new dishes to our lunchtime buffet menu. Chef Noi specializes in rural cuisine and time-honored recipes, some dating back well over one hundred years. While True Thai has always prided itself in serving only authentic Thai food, Chef Noi is teaching all of us a few new tricks to put even more Thai into True Thai.

Buffet fans will be well advised to pick carefully as some of the new dishes will be very hot. Chef Noi cooks for the Asian palate and does not compromise when a recipe calls for fiery hot spices. But not all of Chef Noi's dishes are hot, and even our patrons with thoroughly Minnesotan taste buds will enjoy her Sour Soup or Royal Son-in-Law Eggs. Other new dishes include Jungle Curry (no coconut milk), Beef Ball Soup, and others to be introduced.

Traditionally lunchtime buffets are geared for American tastes, but over the past few years we've noticed that the more authentic dishes always disappear first even as we remain puzzled by the popularity of the cream cheese wontons. And we have been impressed by the growing demand for spicier items.

We will continue to provide a balance of dishes in the buffet as we do in our menu so the whole family can enjoy dining at True Thai whether you come for the fried rice in pineapple boats or Chef Anousone's "Thai hot" la'ab. And yes, we still serve cream cheese wontons.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th of July

As a naturalized citizen I would like to wish you and yours a very happy and safe 4th of July!

— Anna Prasomphol Fieser

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

True Thai: giving back to the community

Congratulations to all the seniors who graduated from the Ramsey County Public Health Teen Parent Program! The dual high school graduation - program ceremony took place earlier this month, and True Thai was happy to provide food for the reception.

This year's guest speakers were very special indeed, and included Ramsey County Commissioners Toni Carter and Janice Rettman, and State Senator Mee Moua. Sen. Moua is the first Hmong-American elected to higher office, and she has been a role model to many of the young women in the program.

This is the fifth year I have worked with this program, and the first year True Thai made an in kind donation of food. I look forward to continuing to work with program participants, helping them to be the best parents they can be.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Thai food just keeps getting better

From the China Post:

The Thai capital is building a reputation for the quality of its local and international cuisine, and the food alone is luring well heeled gourmets, mostly from Asia's burgeoning economies.

"Almost every cuisine is available here. I think the scene is very metropolitan and international, it has become a dining destination in Asia," says Cheryl Tseng, author of the bar and restaurant guide "Chic Bangkok".

Optimistic hoteliers and restaurateurs are hoping that Bangkok will soon rival Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo as the culinary capital of Asia.

"Bangkok has started knocking the world's culinary cities and telling them, look at us," says Deepak Ohri, managing director of Lebua Hotels, who thinks Bangkok will rival Singapore and Tokyo in just five years.

I can't wait for my next trip home so I can try some of these new restaurants!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A "blast from the past"

Whew — things have been very busy at True Thai since Dara named us City Pages Best of the Cities Best Thai Restaurant. Taking a break the other day, a friend pulled up what she called "a blast from the past" from the St. Paul Public School System's Cleveland Middle School newsletter.

St. Paul Public Schools are still serving True Thai's Sweet and Sour Chicken to their students. Oddly enough, when those students come to eat at True Thai with their families, they usually order the Sweet and Sour Chicken!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A vintage review from one of our patrons

Thanks to Doug Mack for this online review of True Thai Restaurant that dates all the way back to our opening in 2004!

When Americans speak of comfort food, the items contained within the category are generally agreed to be chicken noodle soup, meatloaf, grilled cheese sandwiches and other unthreatening selections from the Stereotypical Midwestern Cookbook, 1958 edition. Comfort food, by the culturally-accepted definition, is bland, usually warm (although I supposed Jell-O qualifies) and made up of a minimum of ingredients.

I’ll have none of that. For me, the ultimate comfort food is number 34 at my local Thai restaurant, True Thai. Number 34 is also known, more descriptively, as Pineapple Curry; by way of introduction, the menu offers this helpful explanation: “Highly spiced pineapple and coconut make this curry a sweet adventure.”

-- Professor Yeti

For the record, Pineapple Curry (#34) is one of my favorites too!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Closed Monday for Memorial Day!

I know we don't have many readers yet, but I just wanted to remind everyone that True Thai Restaurant will be closed Monday, May 28th, for Memorial Day. We will re-open Tuesday at the regular time.

Please enjoy your extra day off!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sushi scandal in Chicago

Here's some interesting news from Chicago!

Some sushi eaters in the Chicago area might not be getting what they ordered.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported today that red snapper sushi meals ordered from 14 local restaurants weren't actually made using the pricey fish.

The newspaper had DNA tests performed on the sushi it got from restaurants in Chicago and its suburbs. Nine of the 14 samples turned out to be tilapia, which sells for about half the price of red snapper, and others used red sea bream....

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, said substituting fish is like buying a cheap knockoff of a designer product.

"It's fraud, and it should be stopped," he said.

Restaurants owners told the Sun-Times that they're not trying to mislead customers.

Some said they ordered red snapper from suppliers and were surprised to find they had received tilapia instead.

"I never thought to look at the description," said Andrew Kim, general manager of Bluefin Sushi Bar in Chicago.

Others said they use "red snapper" on their menus instead of "red sea bream" because it's more recognizable.

-- Editor & Publisher

I have been very happy with True Thai's vendors, but it is always a battle to keep only fresh, quality food on hand.

Oh -- and before I forget, we're still getting those yummy once-a-year Haitian mangoes so stop by for some dessert!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Congratulations to Mpls-St Paul Magazine!

[T]he 22nd Annual National City and Regional Magazine Awards competition [award winners were] announced May 7th at CRMA’s annual conference in Denver....This year’s other big winners were Philadelphia Magazine with seven awards and Mpls.St.Paul Magazine with six. Philadelphia won the top prize in three writing categories (regular column, personality profile and feature story), as well as a gold award for spread design. Mpls.St.Paul Magzine captured a gold for excellence online and two marketing awards (ancillary publications and multimedia extensions).

-- Romenesko

Congratulations to Mpls St Paul Magazine. They are deserving of this recognition and remain one of my favorite magazines!


Our beer distributor just told us that we now sell more Singha beer than any other Thai restaurant in Minnesota!

Those of you who know me, know that I don't drink alcohol. Still, I appreciate customers who let me know about the good job Jason does with the wine and beer, the wine especially. Sometimes it's difficult to pair a wine with a Thai dish, and many critics think Thai food goes best with beer, unless the right wine is available!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Vacationing in Thailand this year?

Thinking about a Thai vacation this summer? The New York Times has a good travel article on Hua Hin beach just three hours south of Bangkok by train. Thailand's oldest resort, is mostly favored by Thai families, and it's less noisy than Phuket resorts.

Because Thailand's revered royal family spends much of its time in Hua Hin — in a palace of marble and teak named, aptly, Far From Worries — developers may be reluctant to overbuild, knowing that the king has made sustainable development a centerpiece of his reign.

The laid-back, small-scale life has also made Hua Hin Thailand's pioneer in boutique hotels and spas. (The Hua Hin area set the world record for the largest group massage.) Thirty minutes south of Hua Hin town, I drive to Aleenta, an intimate boutique hotel in the beach village of Pranburi made up of bungalow-style buildings with gleaming white walls and thatched roofs. Aleenta seems to attract Thai artists seeking a private but avant-garde resort — I overhear two Thai men with thin goatees and long ponytails discussing the latest films to hit Bangkok art theaters.

Aleenta's burnt siena walls, curving outdoor staircases and crimson tiles give it the feel of a Mediterranean or Mexican beach resort. A resort at the end of nowhere: in the lap pool adjacent to a swim-up bar, I paddle around without seeing another guest.Aleenta also quickly coddles me with homey touches. My room, the size of a large New York studio and built from natural wood, thatch and smooth tile, looks out onto a lonely longtail fishing boat bobbing in the surf outside. The hotel staff has programmed an iPod in my room, and when I request coffee at bizarre, late-night hours, they laugh and bring Thai java. At the hotel's Frangipani Wing, where cooks teach Thai cuisine in an open kitchen, the chef takes time to demonstrate to me how she makes piquant Thai salads of fresh squid, basil and chopped chilies.

-- Joshua Kurlantzick, New York Times

I think I'm ready for a vacation. How about you?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Best food writer

The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies has announced the finalists for this year's AltWeekly Awards, and City Pages' Dara Moskowitz has been nominated for Best Food Writing/Criticism.

Congratulations to Dara and good luck!

Twin Cities gaining reputation

AS architectural buffs will tell you, downtown Minneapolis is the coolest place to build on the prairie. There's the gleaming blue Guthrie Theater designed by Jean Nouvel along the Mississippi River, the sharp-edged Herzog and de Meuron addition to the Walker Art Center, and Cesar Pelli's luminous public library, to name the newest.

But now foodies are talking about Minneapolis, too. In another sign of a cultural awakening, dining out in this city of sensible industry is no longer confined to steakhouses (though, this being the Midwest, the steaks are pretty good). Recently, a crop of innovative restaurants have expanded the city's culinary landscape with their cosmopolitan mix of celebrity chefs and appreciation of organic and regional ingredients.

-- Sunshine Flint, New York Times

While Asian restaurants have long provided some of the most affordable fine dining options, I noticed that Dara Moskowitz reviews some of the cheaper non-Asian fine dining options this week.

Since moving here nearly twenty years ago, I too have seen much improvement in the Twin Cities restaurant scene, and look forward to someday seeing True Thai Restaurant mentioned in the New York Times!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Best of the Twin Cities!

I wasn't planning to start this blog for a while, probably not until after our expansion later this year. However, I'm so excited by our Best of the Twin Cities award from City Pages that I wanted to make my first post a big THANK YOU! to Dara Moskowitz and City Pages for this honor.

There are a few dishes at True Thai that wake us with longing in the night. The royal Thai fish cakes ($5.50), golden, lumpen discs of fish, batter, curry, egg, and green beans that taste as fresh and big and exotic as a bouquet of orchids. The crispy catfish salad ($12.95), a zingy, lemon-lime sort of fireworks upon grated, salty, sour green mango. The lemon chicken soup ($9.95), as delicate as rain, as purely citrus-scented as a lemon grove. The green curry, as potent as a summer thunderstorm, as spicy as life in hot climates should be. Which is to say nothing of the toasty, roasty rama spinach curry, fresh with bright greens, generously sprinkled with pan-toasted peanuts. In short, we love True Thai because it gets under your skin and worms its way deep into your dreams. [City Pages' Best of the Twin Cities]

I can't write as well as Dara, but the poetry she brings to her words expresses well the passion we bring to our dishes. Thank you again for this award, and we look forward to seeing you all at True Thai Restaurant!