Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday is picture day!

I've been uploading pictures to Flickr! This one is going on the restaurant website to help people find the new blog but the truth is my favorite, favorite picture is this one.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blogging is hard (but catching catfish is harder)

I started this blog because I wanted to write about True Thai Restaurant, but then we got so very busy I stopped blogging. Then we expanded and I was too busy to blog for a while. Then we decided to be open on Sundays and I decided it was time to blog again.

I like writing about True Thai because I've been dreaming about having my own Thai restaurant since I was a little girl. What I hear from you when you come into the restaurant is that you want more stories about that little girl, and less stories about True Thai and food. Sorry but the little girl only cares about food!

But I will compromise with you. I will tell you about how I learned True Thai's recipes from my mother.

Today's story is about how I learned to make catfish salad.

When I was young each summer my friends would go to the beach to swim and play volleyball. Not Anna. I would go to our family fruit orchard to spend the summer in a house without electricity to help my mother feed the thirty workers who cared for our durian, mango, rambutan and mangosteen trees. Did I mention the catfish pond yet?

My mom gave me a choice: I could take the net and catch the catfish, or I could cut their heads off. I chose to be the catfish catcher.

I took the net and would pull 20 catfish from our pond each morning. They weighed a kilogram apiece so I had to make many trips from the pond to where my mother and I would make the catfish salad. Sometimes the catfish would slip out of my mother's hands and it was my job to catch them again as they tried to run away. This made me very mad. I wasn't sure if I was mad at my Mom for losing the catfish, or at the catfish for not wanting us to eat them.

After I had caught all the catfish I then had to gather the green mangoes, but that is another story.

True Thai uses American catfish, and I pay someone else to catch them and cut their heads off. Otherwise it's the same recipe my mother and I used to feed our orchard workers. In Thailand, even our fruit pickers eat well!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My first ice cream

Yesterday I wrote about cream cheese wontons and last night customers kept saying to me, "hey — you serve Sebastian Joe's yummy coconut and green tea ice cream!" Yes we do but ice cream is one Western food that is very popular in Thailand. ไอศกรีม, or i-tim, comes in different flavors in Thailand than it does at True Thai. Phuket Magazine lists these favorite Thai flavors:
Millet, corn, basil seeds, red beans, black beans boiled with syrup, and laht chong, a bright green noodle flavoured and coloured with pandanus leaves, are some of the favourites.
Let me know if any of these sound good to you and we'll see if we can get Sebastian Joe's to mix up a tub or two of True Thai i-tim!

And yes, I do remember the first time I had ice cream. I was in third grade at Hui Pai Our Lady of Fatima boarding school and the nuns told us to line up. This did not make us happy because usually when we had to line up they would give us either a vaccination shot or a malaria pill because that was what happened whenever we had to form a line.

Big surprise! Instead of a shot or pill we got soft serve vanilla or chocolate ice cream. None of us had ever had ice cream but we all knew what it was from having seen Doris Day movies. I think I picked vanilla because I had learned from other third grade girls that chocolate would make your skin darker. These were the same third grade girls who told me that playing basketball would make me taller.

It was the very first cold dessert I had ever had. It was weird but I finished it because it was the most interesting food I had ever encountered. I cannot say that I remember liking it, but it did fascinate me. It was U.S. government surplus ice cream left over from the Vietnam War. There was a U.S. military base just twenty minutes from my school or I probably wouldn't have gotten to try ice cream until I was much older.

[The picture above on the right is Gordon Ramsay's Pineapple soufflé with Thai curry ice cream.]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

To cream cheese or not to cream cheese

Then, before the opening, the inevitable dark dilemma: To cream cheese wonton, or to not cream cheese wonton? "For many nights I laid awake, tossing and turning, tossing and turning," says Prasomphol Fieser. "We have no cream cheese in Thailand. I am tossing and turning, tossing and turning. Finally, at the last minute I decided yes! Because kids come in just for that. So I do it for the children."

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, City Pages

When this review came out in 2003 some of my friends teased me about this part. They thought it was silly of me to agonize over whether to allow cream cheese wontons into my restaurant or not. I still do not think it is funny. Thailand is a hot country and there is no tradition of eating a lot of dairy products. This is in fact one of the reasons why Thai food is not fattening! says this:
I love good cheese. However in Thai food, there is no milk, cheese or butter. All calories add up. Coconut milk is perhaps the Thai analogue to dairy, but coconut milk is not nearly as prevalent in Thai food as cheese, butter or cream are in western foods. Ask most western chefs: what's the secret ingredient that makes people love a dish? Butter. What makes western desserts good? Butter.
But the Thai also have a very strong tradition of making their customers happy. Can you get cream cheese wontons in Bangkok or Phuket? I don't think so. But have cream cheese wontons made a lot of True Thai customers happy over the years? I know so.

Please accept my apology


If you came to True Thai last Sunday night, you already know why I am apologizing. I did not trust our customers enough. Because of the holiday weekend and because we had light business our second week of being open on Sunday, we gave too many staff the night off and we were not prepared for all the customers who came in for dinner.

Service was not acceptable because wait staff were covering four times as many tables as usual and we had to stop letting customers in at 7 p.m. I am so sorry, especially for those of you who came with out-of-town guests. This will not happen again.

True Thai is now open every day except New Year's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I pledge we will be fully staffed the other 358 days a year.