Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day

From Wikipedia:

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit....

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

excerpted from General Orders No. 11, Grand Army of the Republic Headquarters

Every nation has such an order, proclamation or law requiring a day of rembrance for those who have fallen in battle. I am a nurse and have never been a member of any kind of military organization but I am well acquainted with war. Growing up in Thailand during the Vietnam War I spent my weekends helping my mother cook seafood dishes, vegetables and Pad Thai for the Vietnamese
refugees who were in a camp just half an hour from our home.

My mother's family came to Thailand from Vietnam and she believed that as Catholics we had an obligation to help these victims of a long and tragic civil war. Not all the refugees were Catholics but they were all in need and so each Saturday we would prepare food to take to the camp.

There were camps for Hmong refugees as well, and that is where I learned to speak Hmong. Later, after I emmigrated to the United States, I worked as a volunteer at the Center for Victims of Torture where I learned still more about the terrible things done to innocent people in times of war and political oppression.

Growing up in Thailand, a peaceful kingdom surrounded by the wars of others, I came to respect the teachings of Buddha. One of my favorite teachings of the Buddha is that you will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. Memorial Day is a good day to reflect upon the folly of war and the need for peace.

May this Memorial Day be meaningful to you, and guide your thoughts regarding the conduct of nations and the importance of finding non-violent solutions to the world's many problems.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Have a safe and happy weekend!


Enjoy your holiday weekend and remember True Thai will be open Saturday and Sunday but closed Monday in honor of those who died defending their country.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


True Thai's purple yams come from Hawaii, but I first discovered this tasty tuber by eating Malaysian food. The Filipinos call purple yam ube, and are using it as a popular flavoring in desserts, snacks, ice cream and even for milk! They also make snack chips from ube, which are then eaten during periods of religious fasting.

Sometimes if you can find purple yams at the store they will be from Okinawa where they are also very popular, not to mention adaptible. Purple yams are now popular in almost every kind of Asian cuisine. I shouldn't just say Asian as I recently found online a recipe for purple yam gnocchi!

Don't laugh, at least not until you've had a purple yam soufflé or — and I am not kidding — Purple Yam Porter from Laughing Cow Brewery.

Healthwise purple yams are chock full of Vitamin C, B6, potassium and antioxidants. That and their wonderful flavor has made them quickly grow in popularity. How popular? Google now comes up with 279,000 matches for "purple yam"!

I am still undecided as to whether or not to offer purple milk to our customers. That is a Filipino and not a Thai custom, but if it gets kids to drink their milk....

What's popular

We did some catering over the weekend and despite my concern a friend had us serve our Thai omelette to her gathering. I was not sure how well this dish would travel but she told me it was everyone's favorite dish. Minnesotans sure do love their eggs!

The Thai fortune cookies continue to be very popular, but we are still putting "traditional" Chinese style fortune cookies in our takeout orders. You can always ask for the Chinese kind with your check if you prefer. Chinese fortune cookies turned 90 years old this year, and you can read more about them at Wikipedia.

Rainbow carrots, the red and yellow carrots from California, are back. This means more colorful entrées and one more weapon in the war to get kids to eat their vegetables.

We are re-ordering the tiny candies by the cash register every month now. Even our employees can't resist these powerfully flavorful candies so no, it isn't just you.

This blog is more popular. More and more of you are reading it. Many of you tell me so when you come in, but I can also tell when I talk about a dish and we sell twice as much of it that night. I promise to use this awesome power only for good!

What's not popular? Our second week of being open on Sundays was a little bit slow thanks to the beautiful spring weather, but many of you came in later in the day and turned a slow day into a decent night. We are publicizing our new hours as best we can but word of mouth has always been True Thai's best friend so remind your friends we'll be open this Sunday but closed for Memorial Day on Monday.

I shouldn't admit this but when I look out the window and see a full parking lot at Perkins, I feel bad. For the same money those people could have had True Thai!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Frugal dining

We're reprinting the takeout menus so they have our new hours on them.
Sunday - Thursday, 11am - 10pm

Friday - Saturday, 11am - 11pm
But we did violate one time-
honored restaurant custom: we did not raise our prices. Our costs have gone up but thanks to our faithful customers we've stayed busy and volume is letting us keep our prices low. True Thai appetizers range from $3.75 for Vegetable Fried Egg Rolls to $8.50 for the Golden Wheel of Shrimp and Ham Delight. Soups start at $3.95 and are mostly under $10 except for our seafood-rich Potak Combination Seafood Soup.

Salads are from $5.50 for the tofu-lettuce Yala Muslim Salad to $12.95 for our signature Crispy Catfish Salad with Fresh Green Mango. Curries are in the $8.95-11.95 range, with Stuffed Squid with Panang Curry our most expensive menu item at $15.95. Wok items are priced much like our curries with some exceptions for pricier seafood. Noodle and fried rice dishes are $8.95 to $10.95.

There are cheaper "Thai" restaurants in town, but we think our prices are the most reasonable of all the fine dining Thai establishments. We are committed to holding the line on higher prices because we'd rather have a full house and modest profits over high prices and empty tables.

True Thai also understands that even our modest prices can be a little steep for some people in these tough times. Don't be shy about splitting an entrée if you're not big eaters, and recognize that the best values are always the vegetarian options. You can also buy our curry and sukiyaki stocks to fix at home.

And if you're still doing OK, think about your friends who are having tough times and maybe treat them to a meal at True Thai now and then. Gifts you get to share are the best kind.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Starting the day right

Reading an old newspaper I saw that a very bright young man just graduated from the University of Minnesota at the ripe old age of 13! Congratulations to Caleb Kumar for becoming the UM's youngest graduate ever.

Wow, and I thought I was precocious for having graduated from high school at the age of 15!

I don't know about Caleb, but I was the victim of a very harsh upbringing. Instead of getting to eat donuts and junk food like all my friends, my mother made me start the day by eating her special salmon dish. On our menu it is known as My Mother's Salmon because it's exactly the same recipe as what I ate each morning as a schoolgirl in Thailand.

Did it work? Well, none of my donut-eating friends graduated until they were 18 and by then I was off to America to study business at Kentucky Business College.

As for salmon, we now know that it is a great way of getting Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. These are excellent for your brain, and they also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce joint pain. Minnesotans are already familiar with these health benefits as the next best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are sardines and herring!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Everything you ever wanted to know about rice (and more!)

I am always amazed at how much some Americans know about their favorite food and drinks. Beer and wine lovers are walking encyclopedias of beer and wine trivia, and have invented their own language to discuss the various qualities of different breweries and vintners.

I do not drink alcohol, but — like most Asians — I know a lot about rice. Unlike many Asian restaurants, True Thai doesn't take advantage of the fact that most Americans know very little about rice. These restaurants will serve you long grain rice. It's OK, but it's not as good as Thai jasmine white rice, which often costs up to three times as much as plain long grain rice. If you've ever eaten really good bread from an excellent bakery, that would be like jasmine white rice with long grain rice playing the role of Wonder Bread.

There are two undisputed premium kinds of rice: Basmati rice from India, and Jasmine rice from Thailand. WiseGeek explains the differences:
Jasmine rice has been cultivated in Thailand for centuries, and it is considered the rice of choice by many Thais. The rice is very aromatic, with a characteristic slightly floral scent which enhances many dishes; most people eat hulled jasmine rice. Basmati rice is an ancient Indian aromatic rice variety which has also been in active use and cultivation for centuries. In some parts of the world, these rice varietals are protected, which means that only rice from a certain region may be labeled “jasmine” or “basmati.”

If you are a fan of Thai food, you know that we also serve another kind of rice: sticky rice. Sticky rice is glutinous, but that does not mean it contains glutens, only that the cooked rice is very sticky. Most Lao rice is sticky rice. In Southeast Asia sticky rice is eaten with the hands because it is very hard to eat with a fork or chopsticks. If you order la'ab, you may use lettuce or a slice of cucumber to pick up the sticky rice and beef or chicken.

Sticky rice did not just happen. Sticky rice was created by Asian farmers through selective growing, just like American farmers have created hybrids of corn. Sticky rice also has a very important difference from regular rice: it contains amylopectin, a starch.

The Thai eat sticky rice with la'ab and other protein-rich dishes, but we also use it in our desserts. I often talk about Thai food being sweet and salty and spicy and sour, but sticky rice has a fifth kind of flavor: umami. That's a Japanese word that does not translate well into English but for Americans umami is like the taste of mashed potatoes and gravy, very filling and satisfying. Thanksgiving turkey would be another good example of umami, as well as being a very good example of sticky rice's secret ingredient: tryptophan!

Yes, the same amino acid that makes you fall asleep during your Thanksgiving Day football game is present in sticky rice. So much so that sticky rice is now considered to be a natural cure for insomnia.

In another post I will teach you the difference between making sticky rice and jasmine rice. The cooking methods are as different as the rice!