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!