Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year's!


Happy New Year from Anna!


Remember, True Thai is open for New Year's Eve, but will be closed on New Year's Day.

Have fun, drive carefully, and watch out for the other guy!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Anna's Christmas Story (part 2)

Christmas in Thailand means it's time for daughters to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with their moms. Our household was no different except the Prasomphols were even busier than most families. In addition to all the traditional dishes and special desserts for our family and friends, we would put together baskets of food for the prisoners in the local jail, which was less than a mile away from our home.

It was not a very big jail, but it held 800 prisoners. Thai jails and prisons are not like the ones in America. In Thailand they give the prisoners broken rice, and not much else. Your relatives and friends bring food to the prison for you. If not, you get very skinny.

Because my parents came from families who had been refugees from Vietnam, my mother felt that we had an obligation to help feed these prisoners at Christmas time. But 800 prisoners is a lot of mouths to feed so a tradition began in which we would get a water buffalo from my cousin and then make it into dried beef.

One water buffalo makes a lot of dried beef, and we would spend a full week preparing and sun-drying the meat before packaging it up with sticky rice to take to the jail for the prisoners.

Last August I told you the first half of my Christmas story about the crocodiles. Now that you're done with your Christmas holiday I think maybe you are ready to hear the rest of this scary story.

To recap, Little Anna was awoken by her mynah bird Koon Tong and then went downstairs to eat breakfast only to find that the house was flooded and there was a crocodile in her living room!

Because of the flooding there was no electricity and we didn't know what was going on. We did not learn until later from the radio that a crocodile farm upriver had been flooded and all the crocodiles had escaped. We just knew that we had a crocodile in our living room.

We could not cook, but we did have all the dried beef we had made for the prisoners. One of my brothers snuck down to the kitchen after the crocodile left and brought back a bag without any other crocodiles catching him. Then, as we were held prisoner in our own home for three long days, we ate the dried beef we had made as a Christmas gift for the prisoners in the Chanthaburi jail.

Later, after the waters receded and the crocodiles were all rounded up, we took the rest of the dried beef to the prisoners who were still glad to get it even though Christmas was over.

It was not the best Christmas ever, but it was the one I remember best because it was the only Christmas I ever celebrated with a crocodile.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

TRUE THAI IS CLOSED!!!




We will be closed on Thursday, December 24th, and Friday, December 25th, for the Christmas holiday. We will be open again this Saturday and Sunday, and look foward to seeing everyone in their new Christmas clothes.

Please accept our best wishes for a very Merry Christmas! Drive carefully, watch out for the other guy, and remember the point is to get there safely and in one piece.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Best Thai!

Thank you to the editors of Mpls-St. Paul Magazine for naming True Thai Restaurant their Best Thai Restaurant award for 2009! I am doubly grateful to them because the ads we ran in their magazine shortly after we opened helped establish us with Twin Cities' foodies — so much so we stopped running ads this year and yet we are still winning awards thanks to all our loyal fans.

I think this should help put an end to the myth that food critics only give awards to people who advertise in their publications. This is our seventh "best of" award in 2009, and our fifth from a publication we did not advertise in this year.

I'm afraid you'll have to buy a copy of their annual Best of the Twin Cities issue to read about our award, but it's on the newstands now and is filled with great suggestions for where to go for any kind of food you're interested in. And isn't it good to know that there are magazines that give out awards for being best, and not just as a reward for running paid ads?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Street food

I think maybe True Thai needs a truck like this one. Yes, that's a portable grill sticking out of the back of that truck!

I have often thought about how much fun it would be to honor my street vendor relatives by getting a permit to sell satay and egg rolls on Nicollet Mall with a tuk tuk, but it seems that getting a tuk tuk to obey U.S. emissions standards is even harder than getting a license to sell street food in Minneapolis.

Ever since Prasomphol women first came to Thailand from Vietnam, we have sold food in the streets. Great grandmother Mai sold fried bananas, and my mom and aunts all sold different food items at different times.

Do you want to know a secret? A lot of True Thai's menu items got their start as Thai street food! Maybe you can guess which ones but if not, here's a list:

  • #2 Fried Egg Rolls — Golden Kingdom Style
  • #3 True Thai Vegetable Fried Egg Rolls
  • #6 Satay (on a stick!)
  • #9 Royal Thai Fish (or Shrimp) Cakes
  • #11 Fried Chicken Wings
  • #12 Thai-riffic Fried Tofu
  • #16 Bangkok Crispy Sweet Beef
  • #17 Wonton Soup
  • #22 Aromatic Rice Noodle Soup
  • #24 Green Papaya Salad
  • #25 Southern Thai Bean-Thread Rice Vermicelli Salad
  • #26 Laab
  • #27 Fiery Beef Salad
  • #33 Sweet Green Curry
  • #38 Wok-fried Green Chilis & Fresh Sweet Basil
  • #53 The Ultimate Pad Thai
  • #54 Drunkard's Noodles
  • #55 Pad See Yew
  • #56 Rad Na Delight
  • #58 Classic Thai Fried Rice
  • #63 Holy Basil Fried Rice

So if you want your True Thai to be even more authentic, get some of these items the next time you order take out and then eat them in your backyard.

Hmm. [looks outside] Maybe this experiment should wait until next June. Snow is not part of the authentic Thai experience!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Anna's first book review

This is so exciting! I just received my very first "reviewer's" copy of a book. It's written by one of the Twin Cities' best known food critics, Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl. Dara has written a new book on wine called, Drink This: Wine Made Simple.


You may know that I do not drink wine but I still found this book to be fascinating. Dara not only tells you "the nuts and bolts of drinking, buying, and tasting wine," but she also has a chapter on each of the best kinds of wine and how to save money on wine.

But my favorite chapter is the one called, Restaurant Confidential. It begins with a long reader letter to Dara that ends with:
Oh, and while I got you on the line: What's the best wine to order at my favorite Thai place, the cheap one by the park?
Well, the wines Dara mentions are not ones we serve, but I asked Jason, our wine guy, and he said ours are quite similar. So maybe Dara was or was not writing about us. I do know that True Thai is not in the index, but that Trader Joe's is. But I doubt very much that Dara mailed a copy of her book to Trader Joe's with an inscription like this one:

I do not drink wine so I cannot judge Dara's book, but I do know green curry and if she knows as much about wine as she does green curry, I think this is a very good book indeed.

Chef Anna gives it 4 stars and recommends you give it as a gift to your wine loving friends.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

True Thai's #1 Red Curry fan

American moms tell their kids to eat their spinach because it helps build strong bodies. I think they should tell their kids to eat red curry with lots of meat!

That's what Benjamin Loehrer does. He special orders our red curry with "lots and lots" of meat. Ben loves our lean cuts of chicken, beef and pork, but in my opinion he puts them to good use. Here is a recent photo of Ben having his picture taken:



Ben gets his picture taken a lot, and it is easy to see why. Ben works very hard at what he does, and people always appreciate it when you do your very best.


That's why Ben appreciates True Thai, and he is not the only one. More kind words from Mpls-St Paul Magazine who has just chosen us for their Best International Eats honor roll:
New Thai restaurants abound, but none of them seem as enthralling to us as True Thai. Owner Anna Prasomphol's menu of Thai dishes never waivers on exotic flavors. Every dish is executed with the kind of care that comes from an owner who believes, heart and soul, in the food she's setting in front of you.

Mpls-St Paul Magazine
This story is not online yet, so you'll have to buy a copy of the December issue if you want to read about the other restaurants on their list. Mpls-St Paul Magazine has been very kind to True Thai over the years. When we were just starting out and had to buy ads to let people know where we were, some of our best and most loyal customers came from people who learned about us from Mpls-St Paul Magazine.

Whether you were born in the Twin Cities, moved here from Thailand like I did or South Dakota like Ben, this is a metro area we can all be proud of. The Twin Cities are increasingly diverse and each new group of "immigrants" brings with them the best of where they came from. Countless magazines and websites are devoted to what's happening in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Every night I see people grabbing a bite to eat at True Thai before going out to a ball game, concert, play or maybe even a bodybuilding competition.

And the rest of our customers? I'm happy to say that for many people, sitting down for a meal at True Thai is the perfect night out on the town all by itself.

With or without red curry.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A True Thai Thanksgiving


This is a traditional Hmong costume worn for Tsa Hauv Toj, or Hmong New Year's, but it is also good for Thanksgiving because Hmong New Year's always comes in November or December. This year it is being celebrated at the Saint Paul River Centre from November 27th through the 29th (this Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

I have been giving some thought to the American custom of giving thanks on Thanksgiving. Usually I do not think about it until suddenly — without warning — someone at the table says, "this year I'd like to give thanks for..." and then it is my turn but I'm not sure what to say!

So this year I have thought a lot about it and I have decided that I am most grateful to Carla, my personal trainer, for making me healthier and giving me the energy to work 105 hours a week. But I am also grateful to all of True Thai's customers. You are the reason I work so many hours. If you were not so wonderful I wouldn't want to spend so much time at True Thai.

I am also grateful for:

True Thai's cooks for fixing tasty, healthy meals

Mickey my cat who is also my therapist because he listens to me

All our customers who voted for us in the Zagat poll

All of our customers who did not vote for us

All of my blog readers

My family

My friends

America, my adopted homeland


And I am always grateful to Thailand, the country of my birth.

I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday. True Thai will be open as usual tomorrow, Friday the 27th. Stop by if you'd like to eat some food that does not have turkey in it, or just to say hi!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lost


You may not recognize the person in this picture. It is me, and this picture was taken a year ago. While it is true that eating Thai food will not make you fat, I used to eat lots of other kinds of food as well, and eating at steakhouses, Italian restaurants and Boston Market was not good for my waistline.

Losing 40 lbs. helped motivate me to become a better blogger. Well, a more frequent blogger at any rate.

Eating more Thai food helped me lose weight, but most of the credit belongs to Carla at Los Campeones Gym. Since this is Thanksgiving week, I should probably say that I am very grateful to Carla for helping me lose that 40 lbs. through exercise and better eating habits.


They say that losing weight will change your life. Well, it changed mine. I have more energy for one thing. In fact, Susan Pagani's profile of me at The Heavy Table talks a lot about my energy levels.
Anna Prasomphol Fieser is indefatigable.

The woman is tiny, she’s over-worked by anyone’s standards, but at the end of a long week she seems to have more energy than a 2-year-old after a dozen powdered donuts.

....contagious energy and enthusiasm....
Believe me when I say that in my entire life no one ever called me tiny before! They called me short, but not tiny.



Thank you Carla.

I also don't remember people talking about my energy levels. How hard I work, yes. Energetic? Not really.

Thank you Carla.

I have always believed in eating the right food, but hanging out with fitness buffs I have learned a lot about food. I now better understand why I am healthier when I eat more Thai food, and heavier when I eat other stuff.

Thank you Carla.

If you would like to thank Carla for turning your life around, call Los Campeones Gym at 612 333-8181. Then you too can say, "thank you Carla."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mmmm, fish cakes!



True Thai's customers love our appetizers but seem to order the sames ones all the time. Spring rolls, egg rolls, satay and shrimp are very popular. Our Southeast Asian customers love our Bangkok Crispy Beef, and guys in general like chicken wings.

Our customers who order fish cakes are harder to categorize. The only thing they have in common is the fact that they keep ordering fish cakes each time they come in. It is clear that they love True Thai's Royal Thai Fish Cakes (#9 on our menu).

It may be that you have never heard of fish cakes. Many people have not. But if you put "fish cakes" into Google, you will get almost 8 million matches! And no, they do not think you are searching for a cake with a picture of a fish on it!

Fish cakes remind me of my home in Chanthaburi. When Anna and her brothers would come home from school, fish cakes were our favorite after-school snack. Our mom's were best because she made the best fish cakes and the best fish cake sauce and that is why I use my mom's recipe for True Thai's Royal Fish Cakes.

It makes me happy that the food on our menu makes our customers happy.

You all like the same food I do!

I think that is the basis for a long and healthy relationship.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Metro Magazine likes our chilis & basil!

Chef Anna here to let you know that Twin Cities Metro Magazine has reviewed True Thai's #38, Wok-fried Green Chilis & Fresh Sweet Basil!

I like what Jamie Thomas has to say about our entrées and our commitment to hot and spicy food.
"Thai hot" is mouth-scorching, but even so, owner Anna Fieser says many of her regulars have gotten used to this level of spice thanks to regular exposure to her fare. Begin your quest to become one of the seasoned pros by ordering the Wok-friend Green Chili and Basil dish, which contains jalapenos and Thai chilis.
That almost makes up for Twin Cities Metro Magazine's Chris Clayton and Mecca Bos-Williams telling the world that True Thai has the Twin Cities' "Stinkiest Salad."

I do not think our laab is stinky! Even if they did mean that "in a good way."

But Chef Anna knows that what smells like heaven to some can be pretty stinky to others. Our wok-fried chilis and basil is not a stinky dish, but it is very intense. Here is a close up:



This is the "hot" version of this entrée. You can tell because we used red jalapeños instead of green ones. If red jalapeños are not hot enough for you, we can always make yours "Thai hot" and use green or red Thai chili peppers.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Anna's Garden


Soooo beautiful! Have you ever seen such a large or bountiful cherry tomato plant?

It's late in the season now and it's getting cold at night so we are moving Anna's Garden inside for the winter, but I am still shocked by how large this cherry tomato plant grew up to be. I have been looking and looking for pictures of other cherry tomato plants online to compare mine to, but this sad specimen is the best I could do:


In my opinion, there is no comparison. This one may be a little older and bigger, but it doesn't have cherry tomatoes like Anna's does.

I think I am going to award myself a black belt in tomato growing!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Enjoyed by kings and peasants alike


All my life when people asked me, "Anna, what is your favorite Thai curry?", I would say Choo Chee Curry, #35 on True Thai's menu. We ate seafood all the time when I was growing up and no Thai dish has more seafood in it than Choo Chee Curry.

But that was before I discovered Red Curry with Kabocha Squash (#F). It is #F on our menu because we added it after we opened. In fact, we added it to our menu almost immediately after I first tried it. Kabocha squash adds an addictively creamy, deliciously natural spicy flavor to red curry.

Growing up in Thailand, I do not think I ever had red curry with Kabocha squash. Two hundred years ago this was a very special dish served only to the Royal family. Then Kabocha squash became more common but for some reason Thai restaurants never served it. But rural people did, and red curry with Kabocha squash became known as an ethnic dish from northern Thailand.

Red Curry with Kabocha Squash is not just my personal favorite. If you read blog reviews of True Thai there is almost always a glowing mention of our Red Curry with Kabocha Squash, and I know many customers who order it almost every time they come in. And it is not just True Thai that serves it now. If you go to Asian food warehouses they have all started to carry Kabocha squash by the case, and not just in the Fall for table decorations.


Once served to kings, then found only in rural areas, and now served at True Thai Restaurant: Red Curry with Kabocha Squash!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong is Thailand's most beautiful holiday. It is best known for floating Krathongs in banana leaf cups on the closest river or lake. Each year little Anna would stay up late the night before and then get up early to finish making her own banana leaf cup and Krathong, much like American kids carving a jack-o-lantern and making cookies for Santa all at one time. Then that night as Loi Krathong began, Little Anna would take her banana cup and Krathong to the Chanthaburi River where she and her friends would set them on the river and watch as they floated away with our sins from the past year.



My mom would never go with us. She would always said she didn't have that many sins and wasn't worried about it. I think she just liked having some time to herself which is hard to come by in a house with twelve kids. We were taught that the banana cups would take our sins away because we were Catholics, but Loi Krathong is a Buddhist holiday and so most Thai would say that they are ridding themselves of their "bad luck" by putting it into banana cups.

You can see pictures from last year's Chiang Mai Loi Krathong festival here . Many festivals also feature an illuminated boat procession.

Loi Krathong is soooo beautiful! Many people wear red costumes. Here is a picture of Anna in her grownup Loi Krathong clothes:

Friday, October 30, 2009

True Thai Halloween



Ooooo — creepy! No, we don't celebrate Halloween in Thailand, but we do have lots of creepy movies. Here are some posters from some Thai horror classics:


Oooo, scary!

No tricks just treats at True Thai this Halloween. Stop in and let us see your costumes!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween vs Loi Krathong


Getting ready for trick or treaters!

If the Zagat Twin Cities' Top Ten rating was our treat, I'm a little worried about what tricks may be coming Anna's way! But no tricks for you at True Thai this week: just the usual great tasting treats.

There is no Halloween in Thailand. If you are in Thailand or will be there on Saturday, many cities will be celebrating Loi Krathong with a festival. [In Thai, วันลอยกระทง, also spelled Loy Krathong in English.] It usually comes in early November but it is early this year because the twelfth lunar month came early in 2009.

I will write more about Loi Krathong this Sunday but right now I'm busy figuring out what to give trick or treaters. (I'm thinking persimmons.)



Better for you than candy, and just as sweet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thank you again Zagat!

Omigosh I can hardly believe it! Rick Nelson says that Zagat has listed True Thai as one of Minneapolis' Top Ten restaurants. I don't know why I'm surprised — I've got the award hanging on the wall. I guess I should have read the letter that came with it!

Who got the top rankings in the annual Zagat "America's Top Restaurants" guide ($15.95) in the Twin Cities?

The top 10 food rankings (in order, from highest to lowest) are:

OK, maybe we are not first but we are on the list. All of these restaurants are famous in the Twin Cities. True Thai is very honored that Zagat thinks we belong on a list with these outstanding restaurants. I'd like to do better than #10 but for those of you who do not know, #9 is Wolfgang Puck's restaurant.

But next year, True Thai will do better. Anna will have her entire restaurant staff working out at Los Campeones gym, training to beat Wolfgang Puck.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October 27, National Potato Day

I.don't.think.most people realize that the potato was unknown to most of the world until the Spanish conquistadors brought them back to Europe from Peru. Almost immediately chefs from around the world began to develop recipes featuring potatoes.

The British celebrated their National Potato Day last February 3. Peru celebrated their most famous vegetable on May 30. The Irish celebrate taters every March, but South Dakotans celebrate National Potato Day in August while Coloradans spud out in September. Williams, Minnesota, has been celebrating the lowly tuber every October since 1953. To their credit, spud loving Minnesotans in Williams have their own Potato Parade, complete with contests for best potato sculpture and spud decorating.

The potatoes shown above are not from Williams but as you can see potatoes have great potential for art. You might want to warm up your pumpkin carving skills by working on a potato!

Thai cooks mostly use potatoes in curry dishes. At True Thai Restaurant our Magnificent Masaman Curry combines potatoes with peanuts to create a heavenly comfort food.

But our most popular potato dish is one we invented ourselves: Thai Potatoes, Country Style:


Potatoes sliced thin and then wok-fried until they are crispy. Yum!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

WELCOME TASTE OF THE TWIN CITIES!



True Thai welcomes Taste of the Twin Cities to our party room tonight!

If you have a group that likes to eat out, remember that True Thai Restaurant does not charge a fee to reserve our party room.

UPDATE: Wow, what a great bunch of people! Taste of the Twin Cities had True Thai rocking last night.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

True Thai



A new award for True Thai Restaurant! This one's still at the frameshop but you will be impressed to note that it has been signed by the Thai Minister of Industry and the President of Thailand's National Food Institute.

Thailand takes great pride in the quality of their cuisine. Our food is the #1 reason why we are the most popular tourist destination in Asia. I cannot imagine the government of Australia inspecting Outback Steakhouses to make sure they are true to Aussie cuisine!

The National Food Institute focuses on authenticity, and recognizes "foreign" restaurants that use authentic Thai products and ingredients. Thailand is famous for much more than just our restaurants. Thailand is the only country in Asia that is a net food exporter.

Authenticity is very important to Thai cuisine, and the Thai government recognizes that bad "Thai" restaurants damage Thailand's reputation. This is our second award from the Royal Thai government. I am proud to be from a country that takes its food very, very seriously.

More proof that True Thai Restaurant is the place to go for true Thai food!

Friday, October 16, 2009

World Food Day

Today is World Food Day. I like to think that every day is World Food Day at True Thai Restaurant. It is not just Americans who borrow food from other countries.

True Thai is perhaps best known for its curries, but I have to admit that India invented curry first. Thailand just made it better, and Japan helped.

Japan? Now I know you are curious because the Japanese are not exactly famous for their curries. But kabocha squash originated in Japan, and so True Thai must share credit for our Red Curry with Kabocha Squash (#F) with Japan, as well as India.

Wikipedia also gives Laos co-credit for Panang curry (#32). And while most people do not think of Thailand as a Muslim country, our Masaman curry (#31) is very, very Muslim. Masaman curry has many Middle Eastern ingredients (cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, cloves, nutmeg) and the cardamom often comes from India or Mayalasia. But the potatoes (Peru), peanuts (Latin America), and bay leaves (Asia Minor) are anything but Muslim.

And that is just our curries! Here are some other True Thai items that did not originate in Thailand:
  • Curry Puffs (#A): Malaysian/Singaporean/Thai
  • Sweet Purple Yam (#B): The Philippines
  • Plum Sauce (many dishes/dipping sauces): China
  • Egg Rolls (#2 & #3): China
  • Spring Rolls (#4 & #5): Vietnam
  • Satay (#6): Java
  • Imperial Fried Wontons/Wonton Soup (#7 & #17): China
  • Tofu (many dishes): invented by the ancient Chinese and then immediately "borrowed" by every other Asian country
  • Deep-fried foods (many appetizers): European and brought to Asia by the Portuguese
  • Fried rice (many dishes): China
  • Iced tea and coffee: France
So you see, every day really is World Food Day at True Thai. We even have food that is American in origin!

Well, OK, one item that is partly American. Imperial Fried Wontons (#7) with cream cheese. Cream Cheese was invented by an American dairyman from New York in 1872. His name was William Lawrence and to this day nutritionists hiss when they say his name. As a Public Health Nurse I cannot argue with them.

Cheese is very un-Thai. Cream cheese is very very un-Thai, but cream cheese wontons are very popular.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Old-fashioned chicken wings, True Thai style


A friend just forwarded me a funny story about chicken wings from the New York Times. Many restaurants are now selling "boneless" chicken wings. The funny part is that they are not chicken wings at all, but "a little chunk of chicken breast that is fried and sauced."

Chicken wings are messy to eat and the cheaper ones have little meat on them. That is why they have traditionally been very inexpensive. But because they have been so cheap, restaurants have worked very hard to make them tasty. We have them in our lunch buffet every day, and some customers fill up their plates with just wings and sauce. Hey! Vegetables are good for you, too!

I think restaurants have been too successful at promoting chicken wings. Wings now cost more than chicken breasts! If that were not true, no one would be selling fake "boneless chicken wings." Not that this is a new thing. One famous chain whose name I will not mention calls their batter-fried boneless pieces of chicken "nuggets."

I do not think True Thai will be selling boneless chicken wings any time soon. We are very happy with the jumbo chicken wings we get from our suppliers. Our "Yummy" wings are covered with a delicious house sauce, and our "Fried" wings come with a spicy chili dip. Our wait staff can always bring you a finger bowl and a towel if you find the sauce to be a little messy.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month


Anna the Public Health Nurse blogging today, reminding you that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

One of my relatives in Thailand came home one day and her dog jumped up on her, scratching her breast. She went to her doctor and while treating the scratch he discovered she had breast cancer. She was lucky. Thanks to her dog her cancer was found early and she responded well to treatment.

Not everyone is so lucky. Early detection is your best defense against breast cancer but as Americans like to say, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

You are less likely to get breast cancer if you:
  • don't smoke or use any kind of tobacco products
  • limit your alcohol intake
  • maintain a physically active lifestyle
  • watch your weight
  • avoid menopausal hormone therapy
  • avoid certain foods
A healthy diet is important. Cancer experts suggest eating no more than four ounces of red meat a day, and avoiding processed meats (bologna, sausage, etc.) entirely. Non-starchy vegetables and fruits are good. Sweetened drinks and juices, desserts, candies, refined breads and chips are not so good. [link]

Thai dishes have lots of ingredients that are thought to help fight cancer. Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, chili peppers, kale, garlic, mushrooms, nuts, oranges, papayas, tofu, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes are all thought to be helpful. Turmeric, which is found in most kinds of curry, has also gained a reputation for its cancer-fighting qualities.

Anna could have opened a hot dog stand or a pizza parlor, but why? Why go to the trouble of preparing unhealthy food when there are so many healthy dishes that taste good and are good for you?

Once people have Thai food, it seems they are hooked for life. And, if they keep eating Thai food, that might be a very long life indeed. Don't forget that Anna's great grandmother Mai lived to be 107 years old! In Thailand, even our desserts are healthy!

Share the secret to long life with all your friends, especially the ones who eat hot dogs.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fitness trainers' True Thai favorites


I cannot tell you that if you eat True Thai's Southern Thai Bean-Thread Vermicelli Salad (#25) you will lose weight, be stronger or fitter. But I can tell you that it is our most popular dish with the fitness trainers over at Los Campeones Gym. Full of quick energy carbs and lean protein, this "salad" is served at room temperature and can be served with as few or as many Thai chili peppers as you like.

At $8.50, it is also an inexpensive and healthy meal that can help you lose weight while building muscle. If you are a vegetarian, you can substitute tofu or mock duck for the usual pork and shrimp. Another dish popular with the Los Campeones folks is our Tofu Laab (#26).

Both dishes are great for get-togethers. More and more often I have people ask me about vegetarian dishes not because they are vegetarians but because their friends are. When you have a party and vegetarians are coming over, you can either label everything or just go meatless. In Thailand our vegetarians are very good at telling dishes apart but in America it seems wise to use labels or tent cards.

If you would like True Thai to help you plan a party, email me your contact information and I would be glad to help.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My first birthday party

I never never never celebrate my birthdays, but a friend has convinced me that I should be like everyone else and admit to having one. But because I'm way, way behind, this year I'm celebrating my 24th birthday.

I didn't celebrate when I turned 24 because I was in Thailand on vacation and caught the Bangkok flu!

So this Sunday I will have a birthday cake to share with some of you. No gifts please.

And please do not come if you have the flu — I'm not scheduled to get my shot for another week!

And do not ask me how old I am. I will only admit to having been born in the 20th Century, and that's all I have to say other than to say point out that Anna shares her birthday with Rachel Leigh Cook, Alicia Silverstone, Russell Simmons, Armand Assante and Susan Sarandon.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Setting the mood


The art of flower arranging is to accent the space you're in. If you are sitting at a table in a restaurant, a small vase and a flower or two can help set the mood, but a bigger display gets in the way of both verbal and nonverbal communication.

Maybe you have noticed this, but it often seems that True Thai's happiest customers are the ones who do the least talking and the most looking, as in looking at each other.

I discourage wait staff from gossiping about customers, but I do not object to hearing comments like, "oooh, table eleven is sooo in love!" Restaurants are all about romance because with romance comes the reservation for "the table in the corner by the window." And sometimes maybe some catering for weddings and receptions, not to mention big tables for groups celebrating special anniversaries and birthdays.

The top picture shows some of the smaller flower vases I've been using at the restaurant. You should know that not everything at True Thai is Thai. I bought these vases at the State Fair because they were just the right size for our booths and smaller tables. The larger arrangments are for larger tables and window ledges.

Because I did not run a picture in the last post, I will run two pictures today so you can see a close up of these Minnesota-made vases (click on the picture to see a larger image):


I think they look better with flowers in them. I bought lots of them so yes, if you like the flower vase on your table and it's one of our State Fair vases, we'll be glad to sell it to you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fishy business

There is a new scam going around. Con artists pretend to be deaf so they can use the Internet Relay Service. I'm not exactly sure why they do this unless it is to confuse the merchant a little bit and "Dyer" was very confusing to deal with.

Dyer called on Saturday night when we were very busy, and said she was getting married on Tuesday and needed 200 orders of tofu Pad Thai. It is not uncommon for people to order some food from many different restaurants so that did not seem very unusual but I was very busy and asked Dyer to please use her email to make the arrangements. That is when things got very confusing.

Hi,
Thanks for the conversation via phone here is my order Okay fine,I have a wedding coming up on the 30th of Sep and I have some In-laws from my Hometown in Japan so I will like to order for Pad thai with Tofu for 200 peoples as well and this is a picked up order so it will be picked up by a Private shipper I can give you the card to charge through and I will have my private shipper pick that up at your shop at 3 pm on the aforementioned date.
I awaits your responds back with the total cost of all the order plus tax.

This was not really very confusing because Dyer obviously did not speak English as a first language, and I thought it was possible she was using online Japanese-English translation software. I sent her back a quote and got this reply:

Hi
Thanks for getting to me back Am so glad having your letter here with me and I like how you have selected the dishes for me and I will say The total price sounds good but before I can get you my credit card to pay for the grand total of the order,I would like for you to add $750 plus the total price of the order so that you can have all that charged on my credit card now and you will have the $750 sent to the private shipper agent in cash via western union Money Transfer as it is the fastest and safest way to receive Money and for them to be able to come for the pick up with their warmer truck so can you add it all and let me have the total price inclusive of the tax fee all together so that I can get you my credit card for you to have the total cost charged on it I will also like to know maybe you accept discovery credit card as payment.
I awaits your responds back.
OK, now it was starting to get kind of weird. $750 for shipping? Even if Dyer was getting married in outstate Minnesota I could not imagine the delivery costing that much. 200 orders of tofu Pad Thai is a lot of Pad Thai, but it would easily fit in the trunk of a car without having to stack any of the containers. I tried to get more information from Dyer and got this very strange email:

Hi
Thanks for getting to me back and sorry its takes me so long to reply back all i mean in the last mail was I like the price you putting down for me and am pled with it and I know U don't deliver thats why am setting my shipping my self with a private shipper and I would be glad if u can run the extra charges for me for the shipper to be able to come to pick the food and the total charges will be run on my credit card and as soon as my card is Thru with you the funds for the shipper will be wired them via western union money Transfer then they will get the funds cleared in western union near them so they would able to come to pick the foods up.
I awaits your responds back.
Like the stretch of highway between Chantaburi and Bangkok where all the fish sauce factories are, this was starting to smell very fishy to me. I asked Dyer for more information again.

Hi,
Thanks for your e-mail How are you doing How was your day like and hope all is well with you there I agree all the cost of all the amount you want to put on my credit card and you will have the card run manually Here is the credit card information for you to run for the total cost of the shipper fee as well here is the card info below :


Name on Card : Dyer XXXX
Card Type : Discovery Card
Card Number : XXXXX
Card Exp : 01/2013
Cvv:173


As soon as you run the credit card and it approved for the total cost of the towing and the storage charges with the shipper fee I will want you to go ahead and wire the 750$ to the Shipper via WESTERN UNION so they can be ready to pick the cars up from Texas and shipped them down to you also here is there info to send the money to below:

Name : XXXXX
Address : XXXXX
City : Rosharon
State : Texas
Zip Code : 77583


As soon as you wired the money you e-mail the MTCN NUMBER AND THE SENDER'S FULL NAME AND ADDRESS so i can forward to the shipper so they can get the money cleared off the way and get the food picked on the event day by 3pm.


I awaits your respond..

I read this, saw the Texas address and thought, "good, this is not Anna's problem. Dyer thinks we are the True Thai restaurant in El Paso!" 200 orders of tofu Pad Thai is a lot of business but I was getting very tired of dealing with the very confusing Dyer. I wrote her back and told her we were in Minnesota and I was sure she wanted to put her order in with the True Thai restaurant in El Paso.

Hi,
Thanks for contacting me back Yes I Understand they are already in Minnesota so they will be moving the foods in days time to Texas.
There is fishy, and then there is the smell that comes from the garbage dumpster behind the fish sauce factory. This did not smell like any kind of fish I wanted any part of. Tofu Pad Thai does not travel well, at least not when you drive from Minneapolis to Texas!

I did not reply to Dyer again. Instead I called the Discover credit card people who found Dyer's story to be very interesting and similar to other stories they have been hearing. It was a valid credit card number, but the name did not match, the expiration date did not match, and the CVV number was wrong.

I do not think I just ruined a wedding reception in Rosharon, Texas. And even if they had tried this scam on the True Thai in El Paso, Rosharon is just south of Galveston which is 677 miles away from El Paso! I do not think the other True Thai restaurant's tofu Pad Thai would travel any better than ours.

But this was not a total loss. At least I got a blog post out of it!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lime time!

Some time ago I mentioned lime leaves and how important they are to curry. Did I mention I have nine lime trees growing in my backyard? No? Then I probably did not tell you that my sister Som started these trees at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus many years ago. She has a Ph.D. in Soil Science and was trying to get Thai lime trees to grow in Minnesota.

Som did a very good job with her lime trees, but we still make sure we get them indoors before the first frost. I do not know of anything from Thailand that loves ice, not unless you are talking about a cold beverage!

I cannot imagine serving Thai food without having lime leaves in the kitchen. When Heavy Table's Susan Pagani interviewed me (link), lime leaves came up in our conversation four times! Even back in 2003 when Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl interviewed me for her first review of True Thai, we talked about lime leaves.

Lime leaves are an important part of True Thai's menu, and you enjoy their flavor when you eat many of our curries. But you never actually eat the lime leaves because they are too hard and would not digest well. Fortunately, their flavor infuses any food they are cooked with.

We make our curry stock downstairs but even then the lime leaves' distinctive odor makes it all the way upstairs through the kitchen and out into the dining area. Customers smile when they smell it because lime leaves smell as good as they taste.

If you go to Asian grocery stores and are lucky enough to find some lime leaves, wikiHOW has a good tutorial on how to use them.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Food Safety Month

September is Food Safety Month but it is Anna's job to make sure that every day is Food Safety Day at True Thai. Minnesota requires restaurants to have a Minnesota Certified Food Manager, so at True Thai you not only have a Public Health Nurse, but a Certified Food Manager as well. Our Food Manager makes sure all our food is properly handled and stored and that all our kitchen staff understand the rules for proper food handling.

Here are some professional tips to help you prepare safe meals at home.
  1. Wash your hands with soap and warm water before beginning to prepare food. Anna is very strict about hand washing at True Thai!
  2. Always use fresh ingredients. This is one reason why a busy restaurant is usually safer than one that is not so busy. The longer meat, eggs and produce sit around, the more opportunities there are for mold, bacteria and germs to work their mischief.
  3. Make sure you cook eggs, meat, poultry and leftovers at a temperature of at least 165°F. (Stir fry using a wok heats food to very high temperatures.)
  4. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish due to high concentrations of mercury. The best seafood for low mercury is shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.
  5. Use most meat within a day or two of opening the package (processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, luncheon meat are OK for a week but always keep meat refrigerated)
  6. Keep fruits and vegetables separate from meat, poultry and seafood in your refrigerator.
  7. Wash fruit and vegetables even if you are going to peel them.
  8. Keep your refrigerator set at 40°F, and your freezer at 0°F.
Another tip is to try to avoid overstocking fresh produce and meats when you go to the store. It is tempting to buy a week's worth at a time, but it's healthier to do your shopping 2-3 times a week. If it is convenient for you, shopping daily is best. When you really get to know a store it's easier to be a better shopper.

I was shocked to learn that Minnesota is the third most dangerous state for dining out. It is difficult to find information about restaurant health inspection reports in Minnesota, but I am very happy to say that a Google search for "True Thai food poisoning" pulled up no reports of anyone getting sick from our food!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Anna's 100th Post!


877 days ago I wrote my first blog post ever. I did not know it at the time, but April 25, 2007, was also the 500th anniversary of the first time anyone ever referred to "America" in a book.

I had a very good reason for posting. Dara Moskowitz (now Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl) had just named us the Best Thai Restaurant in City Pages' Best of the Twin Cities for 2007. Dara is very special to True Thai because her review of our restaurant has been quoted many, many times by bloggers and online restaurant search sites.

Since my first blog post I have learned a lot about a lot of things. It is one thing to think you know something, it is another to write about it. Thanks to Wikipedia and Google I have learned a lot of things I did not know about food, Thailand and even my old church in Chanthaburi.

Spending time on the internet has led to many new discoveries. I have now seen what my family's farm looks like from a satellite. For one terrible moment I thought the Bishop for whom I made chili sauce had died, but then I realized he had only retired. Whew — that was a close one!

When I did not post very much, hardly anyone ever read my blog. Now I can count on about 40 visitors every day. Mostly you are here in Minnesota, but Anna has readers in Thailand and other places as well.

I think this blog is best if you are here in Minnesota. That way if I write about something that sounds good, you can come in and order it to see if you like it too.

I like blogging. My next goal is to write another 100 posts before True Thai's eighth anniversary on December 1, 2010.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Something to perk you up

The other day I confessed that I do not drink beer or wine, even though True Thai serves very good beer and wine. Today I am writing about Thai iced tea and coffee, which I do drink.

Now.

When I started working out at Los Campeones, my trainer Carla told me that I needed to start drinking tea and coffee to "speed up my metabolism." Caffeine certainly does that.

Before I started drinking tea and coffee I wrote about 30 blog posts over two years time. Since I started drinking tea and coffee about ten months ago, I have uploaded another 70 posts! I think I better understand now why tea and coffee are so popular.

Thai iced coffee and iced tea aren't really Thai. Many people think of them as Vietnamese, but they aren't really Vietnamese creations either.

They are French, a legacy of their colonial years in Southeast Asia. The French are gone but you can still find French style coffee and iced tea throughout Southeast Asia. And croissants!

Most people enjoy our Thai iced tea and coffee after a meal because it is very sweet. (More proof it is French and not Thai!)

Monday, September 14, 2009

My favorite fruit

Asian pears, like Anna, aren't very big but do not be fooled by their size — they are one of the best fruits ever!

There are two kinds of Asian pears. Japanese or Korean pears are big and round and they are OK, but the pear I am holding in this picture is a ya pear, or Chinese white pear. They are soooo delicious!

Eat them like you would an apple. They are often quite green when you buy them, but still flavorful. Let them ripen and they get even better but watch out for mold as they go bad very quickly once you see spots on them.

We did not grow pears on our farm so ya pears are as exotic for me as they are for you. Their name in Chinese means "duck pear" because the Chinese think they look like ducks. The important thing is they do not taste like ducks.

Sadly, ya pears are almost out of season now, but the good news is that I've seen pomegranates at the warehouse. Still too early for them, but even unripened pomegranates are very good for you if you can get past the very sour taste. If you wait until early December, then they should be good to buy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

'Tis the season for handwashing

Chicken pox, mad cow disease, swine flu — we have odd names for serious and not so serious diseases. Swine flu is one of the more serious ones and as a nurse I encourage all my readers who work with kids or in health care, who are pregnant, elderly or in other high risk groups to get a flu shot. One should be enough according to the latest studies.

I have written before about eating soup when you are sick, but congee (rice soup) is a comfort food. Soup can do much more for you when you are sick than just providing you with salt, fluids and memories of mom taking care of you when you came down with something. Spicy soup like Tom Yum can help relieve congestion, clearing your head and easing your aches and pains.

Capsaicin, the hot in hot peppers, has been proven to reduce inflammation, relieve chronic pain and help prevent strokes and heart attacks. More and more research also shows that hot peppers help with cancer prevention.

If you do not get a flu shot, you should at least know the symptoms of swine flu. Everything you remember from the last time you had the flu is also a symptom of swine flu: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue. But with swine flu you may also get diarrhea and/or vomiting. In children abrupt cognitive or behavorial changes can occur, possibly due to Reye's syndrome (do not give children with viral illnesses aspirin, give them Tylenol instead).

If you think you may have swine flu, see your doctor! It's worth your time and the cost of a visit even if you find out you have regular flu and not swine flu. And regardless of whether you catch regular flu or swine flu, stay home and rest. If you want True Thai soup, send someone to pick it up for you. Do NOT eat out or go out in public unless it's absolutely necessary. Remember that illness is especially hard on people who live by themselves so do try to help friends, relatives or coworkers who may be sick at home without enough groceries to get by.

To avoid the flu, wash your hands. Yes, yes I know everyone says this but everyone tells you to wash your hands because it is the very best way to avoid disease. Especially if you live in an apartment building, attend school or work in a place with lots of other people. We touch everything with our hands, and then we touch our mouths and noses with those same hands and that is how germs get into our bodies. And the best places to get germs on your hands are hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and all the other places sick people go.

This has been a TRUE THAI HEALTH ADVISORY urging you to take basic precautions (handwashing!). Take care of yourself this flu season.

Friday, September 11, 2009

From the land of Thai blue waters...


I love this tank top my cousin Beth sent me from Thailand. But I have to admit that this is kind of a phony picture.

I don't drink. I have eaten everything on True Thai's menu, but I've never had any of our beers or wine. Never.

I tried to drink once at my 25th birthday party but it turned out I'm allergic to alcohol, just like my dad was.

He never drank at all but on his 60th birthday he accepted a glass of Singha and discovered he was allergic to alcohol by breaking out in hives.

I think it is just as well. I've heard of many bad things happening because of drinking, but I've never heard of anything good happening because someone was drunk.

Sometimes when I see a table that's had one too many it's hard not to notice how much fun everyone is having. Then I feel a bit left out, but only a little. When that happens, I usually take a break and go over to the Los Campeones gym to work out with Carla.

So no, I cannot tell you from personal experience that I know Singha is a great beer, but I do know that everyone in Thailand thinks so.

That and they gave us some great free table umbrellas!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Singing to King Rama IX at 9:09 pm on 9-9-09


I tried to call home at 9 this morning but my sister said, "NO! Can't talk now, we all have to sing to the King!"

Thailand is exactly 12 hours ahead of Minneapolis, and at 9:09 p.m. Thailand time the entire nation sang the national anthem to King Rama IX to commemorate this being the ninth day of the ninth month of 2009. Already there is a video on YouTube of everyone singing to the King.

UPDATE: You can read about the sing-a-long at The Bangkok Post.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

You like us, you really like us!

Thank you all so much for voting for True Thai Restaurant again! This is Minnesota Monthly Magazine's 2009 Reader's Choice Award for Best Thai Restaurant and it will proudly go on our Awards Wall!

This is our second best of award in 2009, having earlier won City Page's 2009 Reader's Choice Award for Best Thai Restaurant.

Your votes gave us our 17th 23rd major award since opening in late 2002. Fifteen awards have been from Twin Cities magazines, five from online restaurant ratings services (City Search and Zagat), and three are from Thailand.

Each one is very special to us, whether it was awarded by a restaurant critic or from "foodies." Everyone at True Thai from our servers to our kitchen staff are very proud when their hard work is recognized with a new award.

If you haven't seen our Awards Wall, it's in the new part of the restaurant. Or you can see it on our Flickr page.

Again, thank you to Minnesota Monthly, and thank you to all our fans for again voting us Best Thai Restaurant in the Twin Cities!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day

As you may know, I am a full-time Public Health Nurse (P.H.N.) for the Ramsey County Department of Public Health. The career counseling service that prepared my resume told me I was the fastest hire they'd ever worked with. They mailed my cover letter and resume on a Monday night at the main post office and first thing on Tuesday morning the Dept. of Public Health called me in for an interview. At the end of the interview they offered me the job.

You must be thinking, wow, Anna must be a really great nurse! No, Anna speaks Hmong, and in 1994 I was the only R.N. in Minnesota who spoke Hmong! Tens of thousands of Hmong were immigrating to Minnesota, but no one at Ramsey County spoke Hmong. They put me to work immediately.

I like being a nurse because I like helping people. In addition to my work for the County, I worked as a volunteer instructor for the Baby Steps/Baby Ready program and the Face to Face Clinic. I also served on the Adolescent Health Work Team, and the Frogtown area Planning Committee for Children's Initiatives.

I spend the rest of my time at True Thai, but before we opened the restaurant in 2002, I moonlighted as an R.N. for several different home healthcare agencies, not unlike police officers who do security work in their off time. People need nurses and there never seem to be enough to go around.

While I was taking nursing classes at the University of Minnesota, I worked as a secretary for the Physics Department. Before that I was an accounts assistant for the University of Minnesota Foundation. Before I moved to Minnesota, I worked as an accounting clerk for Purdue University, and as a Statistics & Budget Clerk for Berea College's Labor and Student Life Department.

By now you must be thinking, Anna really likes working for universities! That is true, but there is a very good reason for that. My first job in the United States was working as a Lab Assistant in the Soil Science Department at the University of Kentucky. I arrived at the airport in Lexington at midnight, and went to work the next morning at 8 a.m.!


My sister was working on her Ph.D. there and got me a job working for her advisor. All day long Anna would look at dirt under a microscope.

I am posting this on Sunday because on Monday the restaurant is closed and Anna is going to catch up on her sleep!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Corn, but not on the cob or on a stick

Mmmm, fried corn cakes (khao pod tod)! Simple to make (corn, rice flour, seasonings) but so delicious to eat. True Thai Restaurant serves corn cakes with a tart and spicy dipping sauce as an appetizer. Along with satay, True Thai Restaurant serves this street vendor food because when the State Fair is not in town, Minnesota has a chronic shortage of street vendors!

Thailand is no stranger to corn, with almost 2.5 million acres of cornfields. That sounds like a lot, at least until you learn that the state of Minnesota has almost 7.2 million acres of corn.

While Thailand cannot match Minnesota for overall corn production, Thailand is the world's #1 exporter of baby corn. Many people think that baby corn is not corn at all, but it is in fact baby corn. Shortly after corn came to China, someone (I'm guessing a hungry farmer) discovered that baby corn can be eaten.

Most of the corn grown in Thailand is harvested early as baby corn. This permits a third more corn plants to be grown in each field, and more crops each year. The Thai have evolved their own varieties of corn which yield more ears of corn per stalk.

If you like baby corn you will also love True Thai's Wok-fried Crunchy Baby Corn & Snow Peas Supreme. Just tonight Joy, one of our staff, told me, "Anna, I just love American baby corn. In Thailand, it is too hard!"

Because that is very true I did some research. At first I thought it was because Thailand generously exported all our very best baby corn, but then I realized that we what we export is mostly canned baby corn. The baby corn we eat in Thailand is fresh, and has not been soaking in water for weeks or even months before being cooked.

Regular ear corn is also very popular, not just for corn cakes but in many different desserts, including ice cream. My mom used make roasted corn for us. Little Anna's job was to start the fire and make charcoal on which to roast the corn. My mom would remove the corn silk and then wrap the corn back up in its husk, roast it, and then serve it to us with a special salty sauce, there being very little butter in Thailand.

When I moved to the United States I saw many fields of corn in Kentucky where I was going to college. I was so shocked that I called my mom in Thailand to tell her about it!