Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's!

2010 was the Year of the Metal Tiger

True Thai Restaurant will be open on New Year's Eve, but we will be closed on New Year's Day. The Western calendar's New Year's Day, that is. Not everyone celebrates the New Year on the same day.

It used to be that you had to be an Asian astrologer to figure out which day was Thai New Year's, also known as Songkran, but now Songkran (สงกรานต์) always falls on April 13-15. In Burma they call this celebration Thingyan, in Lao it is Songkan, and in Khmer (Cambodian) it is called Chaul Chnam Thmey. Nepalese New Year's fall on April 12-15. In the Indian state of Assam, they celebrate on April 14-15, which is the same as the Bengali New Year.

Tamil New Year's (Puthandu) comes on January 14, the same day as the Punjabi/Sikh New Year in Punjab.

But it is not just Asians who celebrate different New Year's. Ancient Babylonians celebrated in March, and the Iranians still party in March as do many parts of India. The Coptic Church in Africa celebrates Neyrouz in September.

Did you know that Rosh Hashanah is really the Jewish New Year's? And that it's always in the fall? The Vietnamese (Tét), Koreans (Seollal) and Chinese still vary New Year's from year to year due to their use of a lunar calendar, but the Japanese went Western in 1873.

Fortunately, few other cultures drink on New Year's like Americans do, but with the adoption of the Western calendar by most of the world that is changing. Even Thais have been partying on December 31st since 1941.

But even the British didn't agree on New Year's Day falling on January 1 until 1752, 152 years after Scotland picked that day.

And, if you are Muslim, you already had your New Year's on December 7. I'm also pretty sure you didn't have any alcohol to celebrate Ras as-Sana al-Hijreya.

In any language you like, Happy New Year's!

2011 is the Year of the Metal Rabbit
(the bell is optional)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Closed December 24 & 25

Just a reminder that True Thai Restaurant will be closed all day December 24 and December 25 for Christmas.

Are you looking forward to Christmas? I know I am! Two days off? I think I will spend my vacation time sleeping, eating and reintroducing myself to my cats.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

True Thai gift certificates

Yes, it is that time of year again and my sister Mem has been busy making pretty envelopes for our True Thai gift certificates. The certificates are cleverly designed so that the "amount" is left blank, meaning you can spend as little or as much as you like! No matter how much or how little you spend, you get one handmade envelope with each card. We can also mail them out for you if you can give us the name and address of the recipient.

You can even give yourself a gift certificate if you like!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Chanukah

Chanukah is almost over, but I thought I should mention that it is celebrated in Thailand, just as it is in most countries. Monday night there was a giant Menorah lighting at Infinicity Hall in the Siam Paragon in Bangkok featuring "world renowned singer" Gad Elbaz.

Personally, I think this menorah looks very Thai....

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why True Thai does not accept coupons

I see in the newspaper that Groupon is the biggest thing out there right now. Good for them but we do not participate in Groupon's coupon program. They asked, we declined.

In 2011 True Thai will be entering its sixth consecutive year without any menu price increases, even though the price of our ingredients keeps going up. If we started accepting coupons, we would have to raise our menu prices.

As for me personally, sometimes I use coupons for grocery items, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I'll use a coupon to try a new product but mostly I use them to get discounts on products I do use. But True Thai is not a grocery store, and we have no trouble getting customers to try new dishes. Salt & Pepper Mussels with two kinds of sauce (plum and hot sauce), for example. It's not on the menu yet but everyone who's tried them has liked them.

Deep-frying mellows the taste of mussels, making them taste more like oysters except maybe with just a little more "oomph."

No, there won't be a coupon for True Thai's Salt & Pepper Mussels appetizer, but that doesn't mean you can't order them.

Think beyond the coupon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Much to be thankful for

Some people see only negatives. They would look at this last year and say, 'Oh Anna, you are too busy, you have too many jobs and are always running around. And you got mugged — how horrible!' I prefer to be thankful that I am busy, and even more thankful that I survived a mugging.

There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. I am thankful that True Thai is doing well but more than anything else, I am thankful to all of you who sent me a get well card after my mugging. Your cards came at a time when I needed reassurance, and nothing is more reassuring than to learn that you are loved by others.

Six months ago I was writing notes to myself about this year's Thanksgiving post, but they were all about thanking my trainers for the new body they helped me to find locked up inside my old body. Thanks to Carla and others I'm more fit than I was when I came to this country years and years ago.

I cannot say that a mugging is no big deal, but being fit helped me to survive and recover from being beaten by a much larger person. There is more to surviving than just living through bad events, though. I was very depressed immediately after the mugging. Depressed that I had lost so much money, depressed that my fitness didn't make me a match for a mugger, depressed that I was a victim.

Then you started coming in and asking how I was feeling. Many of you left cards for me. More cards came in the mail and then still more cards. A TV station came to the restaurant. More people started reading this blog to get progress reports on my recovery. Altogether I received over 600 get well cards and more bouquets of flowers than I had gotten in my entire life before getting mugged.

Yes, this year Anna has much to be thankful for, but mostly I am thankful to all of you for your support and your love of Thai food. And somewhere I believe that my Mom and Great Grandmother Mai are looking down on all of us and smiling.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I think this is the best holiday of the year, even if it is one I had never heard of before moving to America.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


No, not another mugging. I told you about Stitch, the dog who came to visit me. Well, in addition to Stitch, I was also visited by a zombie. This confused former person thinks he is a vampire and is trying to bite my neck!

There is no dress code at True Thai and you can come in wearing anything you like, but whether you are a dog or a zombie or a vampire — you are not allowed to bite the owner!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Anna's new best friend

This is my new best friend Stitch. He comes to see me every week and loves to hang out at the restaurant. His owner swears it's not because we give him free #16 (Bangkok Crispy Sweet Beef) which I think is true because Stitch also likes Thai fortune rolls.

I've been told Stitch gets excited whenever he's driven past True Thai. I like Stitch because he likes me. I'm really glad he likes me. I'm glad because he weighs more than I do!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Green Papayas

We have not been buying many green papayas lately and that makes me suspicious. Thai women eat papaya salad like Americans eat potato salad. Whenever there is a get together one or two people bring the papaya salad, and it's always the same people. Others who volunteer are discouraged from doing so in the future. Papaya salad is serious business!

There are as many ways of making papaya salad as there are ways of making potato salad. There are even more ways of making it wrong. Wrong papaya salad, like bad potato salad, is something to be avoided at all costs.

The correct way of making papaya salad is, of course, the way your mother made it. If your mother did not teach you how to make papaya salad you should probably stick with take out. Papaya salad is not easy to make. In fact, it is the hardest dish to make on True Thai's menu. Which is why I am suspicious.

I am suspicious that maybe our wait staff is not mentioning papaya salad when customers ask for suggestions. They do this as a favor for the kitchen staff who would rather make spring rolls instead of papaya salad.

The truth is papaya salad requires so much time to make I am not sure we really make any money from it, but money is not always the point. Serving good papaya salad is a must for a Thai restaurant. If you do not make good papaya salad, tom yum or pad thai, why would anyone want to come to your restaurant?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The mystery of the curious customers

I am sorry. I know that I have not been posting very much stuff lately but I have a good excuse: I am very busy!

Lately it seems that everyone who visits the restaurant wants to meet the owner. At first it was because of the attention the media paid to my mugging (I am fully recovered and doing fine — thanks for asking). Then, two weeks later, WCCO ran their mugging story, and people starting coming in and asking to see my teeth. They were mostly dentists (I hope).

Now customers ask to see me because of this picture. It is a picture my Flickr fans have seen, but for some reason now that this bit of True Thai history is framed, everyone wants to see me!

No, I am not going to tell you anything else about the picture, but I will say that most of the customers who ask to see me are older. I do not know why that makes a difference, but it does.

The new picture is sitting in the hallway between the old dining room and the new addition in an alcove where a Buddha statue is protecting it. Next time you come to True Thai, be sure to take a look.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Queen of Koh Tao!

I was visiting a friend and because she knew I had been thinking about becoming a rock climber (for about five minutes last spring), she had taped a TV show about rock climbing in Thailand for me to watch. But she did not tell me the name of the show so I was very surprised to see Koh Tao (Turtle Island) on the screen.

I have already told you the story of how my mother's family came to be known as the Suktukwans ("happiness every day"). King Rama V did not just reward my ancestor with a new family name, he also gave him an island, Koh Tao!

I did not mention this before because 1) Turtle Island is not much of an island, and 2) my ancestor immediately sold it for $500. Only five-hundred U.S. dollars? Well, it was 1910, but yeah, no matter how you calculate the inflation that's still only $11,000 in today's dollars.

The island does, however, look like a turtle.

It is the opposite side of the island that is featured in the show because that's where the rocky cliffs are, the ones that are so popular with rock climbers. You can see about a minute and a half of the show if you go to UCTV.

As a child we never actually visited Koh Tao, but I remember daydreaming about what it would have been like had I grown up to be the Queen of Turtle Island. As I recall, my imaginary Turtle Island was quite a bit larger and much more impressive. Still, I wish we had kept Koh Tao in the family as it is not everyone who gets to own an island.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A story about a missing purse

OK, this is kind of weird. Kelly, the driver who delivers our beer was downtown making a delivery. As she was unloading an order she thought she saw a wallet laying on the sidewalk across the street. She made her delivery and came back out and the wallet was still there, even though there was a lot of foot traffic on that side of the street.

Kelly ran across the street, picked up the wallet and found a $100 bill and a check for $1,000 in it. The check was from True Thai Restaurant, her next delivery stop!

Sort of a big deal, right? So when she made her next stop at True Thai she told us about it. It turned out that the member of our kitchen staff who lost her wallet didn't even know it was missing yet!

I think that is an amazing true story!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A final post about the mugging

Because WCCO made a big deal out of calling me a "victim," I decided to submit this post to the Star Tribune's Your Voices section. That was two weeks ago and despite a follow up email, they never acknowledged receiving my submission.

Here is what I sent them:

I was mugged, but I am not a victim!

Just before midnight on Friday night, August 20, I was mugged while walking from my restaurant to my parked car. It was a horrifying experience in which I was struck repeatedly on my head and back from behind. I suffered many bruises and spent nine hours in a dentist's chair having my teeth repaired.

I have blogged about my experience (All You Need Is Love and I Was Ambushed!), but because a local television station exploited my mugging, I feel obliged to speak to the greater community about what really happened.

I own and manage True Thai Restaurant, a successful business. Restaurant owners carry cash on them because many of our vendors do not accept checks or credit cards. Thieves know this, and I knew that they knew. But it is only a few feet from the back door of my restaurant to my car, and I thought I was safe. I was not.

That was my mistake. If I was victimized, it was by my own indifference to my safety. If you carry large sums of cash, whether it is in Minneapolis or Bangkok, you need to take precautions. Because I did not, countless neighbors in the Seward Neighborhood are now walking their dogs past my restaurant at closing time, and customers volunteer to walk me to my car each night.

I am lucky to have so many friends and supporters. When the TV station news crew ambushed me on Saturday, September 4, I thought they wanted to do a story about the neighborhood and their support for me. No, they just wanted to show my face on the news with the word "victim" under it. No one knew how much money had been taken, but the police report categorized the theft as over $1,000 (it was $1,100, an unusually large amount for me to be carrying) and to my horror the TV station shared that number.

Now I do feel like a victim. This TV station just told tens of thousands of people that I carry large sums of cash on me late at night (in fact it is usually much less than that). They also acted like the crime had just happened when in fact their coverage ran over two weeks after the crime occurred.

Some people would say, "Anna, you need to protect yourself!" I work out but I only weigh 93 pounds so I think martial arts will not work for me. A customer gave me some pepper spray, but I am scared to carry it with me. I was attacked from behind and had no opportunity to grab anything from my purse to protect me. A gun would not have helped.

My best protection is to make sure we keep the back alley well lighted and that True Thai continues to work with Seward Redesign and other business and residential neighbors to make Seward a safer neighborhood.

Actually, Seward is a pretty safe neighborhood — contrary to what you hear on TV. Yes, we had a shooting last spring but the shooter is in prison and will stay there for a long time. The shootings at Seward Market and Halal Meats were much more terrifying to me than my own mugging was, but the courage of my Somali neighbors in keeping their business open impressed me. Shortly after they re-opened I stopped in to buy something to show my support. The market was empty except for five young Somali men behind the counter, one to wait on customers and four friends who were there to show their support.

In recent weeks I have learned how important support is. Better lights and more police presence are good deterrents to crime, but nothing beats the support of your friends and neighbors, all of whom have done so much to remind me that I am just one of many people in Seward, and that Seward watches out for its own. The cards and flowers and personal reassurances have made it clear to me that I am not a victim. Seward residents are not victims. No one is a victim unless they wish to be, no matter how hard TV stations may work to try to scare us.

Anna Prasomphol Fieser is a full-time Public Health Nurse for Ramsey County Public Health Department. She and her business partner Charles Whitney own and operate True Thai Restaurant on East Franklin Avenue in the Seward Neighborhood of Minneapolis.

I don't know why this didn't interest the Star Tribune, but maybe True Thai should start advertising with them. That does seem to be how things work.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Too tie!

Sorry for the lack of posts. You have been so wonderful and supportive that I've been too busy to write for my blog!

I do not have any news about True Thai but I do have some reading for you.

Angharad is an English woman who lives in the Twin Cities and who tweets and blogs as Eating4England. She recently visited one of my favorite places, the Hmong Marketplace at 217 Como. She was very fond of the red Thai bubble tea which is just one of the many very tasty beverages there.

You might also want to see "We Dare You Not to Laugh at 31 Foods With Misspelled Names." If you do much shopping for authentic Asian groceries, you probably have noticed that Asians do not always do a good job of translating what's in the box into English. Here is an example:

As you might have guessed, there are 30 more mislabeled pictures waiting for you at

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I was ambushed by WCCO-TV!

It is every restaurant owner's dream to be on television. We all want to be famous for our food. If I had known a TV crew was coming over today I would have had everyone cleaning and putting out extra flowers. I would have worn my best clothes and jewels and my hair and makeup would have been perfect.

But I did not know WCCO was coming over and they caught me coming out of the gym after an hour-long hot and sweaty workout. I looked terrible! How terrible? Watch WCCO News tonight at 10 pm to see how bad I look after working out.

Not only did I look bad, they didn't talk to me about True Thai's food. All they wanted to talk about was my mugging and the support the Seward neighborhood has shown me. I like to talk about how great my neighbors are but I am getting a little tired of talking about the mugging all the time.

I'm working tonight so I would be very grateful if someone had a way to record WCCO's clip of me and True Thai. It's the 10 o'clock news but I don't know when they'll show it, just that I will look sweaty when they do.

True Thai will be closed Labor Day

Yes, True Thai will be closed on Monday. That's the bad news. The good news is that we are open today (Saturday), tomorrow (Sunday), and will re-open on Tuesday, September 7.

How are you going to spend your Labor Day? I am pretty sure I will spend mine sleeping in and going to bed early. You can't catch up on sleep, but I like to try.

I will probably also do some housecleaning. I think I have just the outfit for cleaning the kitchen:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

All you need is love

What a week! Since I was mugged last Friday night, True Thai has been jam-packed with neighbors and friends every night. The restaurant is full of flowers, I've received dozens and dozens of get well cards, I've been gifted with two new wallets and almost all of True Thai's closest neighbors have given me their phone numbers (just in case).

Last night a couple from Seward stopped by with their dog Billie, and offered to come back every night to walk me to my car. The police have been stopping by every night to make sure everything's OK. In my life I have never felt so safe!

The bruises are getting better and in another day or two I might let people hug me again (but I'm still sore so a handshake is just fine!). My dentist fixed my dental work Tuesday and I should get my new credit cards in a day or two.

Thank you to all of True Thai's supporters — yes, I know you're out there! Among other clues, you're responsible for Anna's True Thai News' blog traffic spiking:

The mugging happened at midnight on the 20th and two days later blog traffic started going up almost as fast as True Thai's tables filling up at dinner time this week. Actually, not just dinner time. Many of you have been stopping by for a late dinner so as to boost late night foot traffic, further discouraging other muggers.

I'm not mad at the mugger. I think he hit me from behind so many times because he was scared too. Now that Seward residents have come out in force, I'm sure he's thinking about trying another line of work. I'm not.

Running True Thai is the best job I've ever had because it brings me into daily contact with some of the best customers in the world.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thank you Seward

Friday night after closing the restaurant I was mugged. It is a part of the American experience I do not recommend and I spent most of Saturday feeling very low and depressed.

Then I went in to True Thai and discovered that all day long our Seward neighbors had been stopping by the restaurant to drop off get well cards and to express their sympathy. I was stunned. The robbery was not in the newspapers but apparently the neighbor who called the police also posted about it to some kind of neighborhood electronic bulletin board.

I am still overcome by the overwhelming support Seward residents have shown in the wake of my mugging. Sitting up front last night it seemed as if every time I finished reading a get well card I'd look up and there would be yet another neighbor with another card.

Seward is a wonderful neighborhood filled with caring, loving people. One stupid mugger didn't change that.
Thank you Seward for being the best neighborhood in the Twin Cities. I am proud to own a business in Seward and grateful to my neighbors for their love and support, coming as it did at a time when I really needed it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Garden fresh

I've referenced Anna's Garden before, blogging about the Thai chili peppers and basil we grow behind the restaurant. I also have a garden in my backyard at home, but I want to assure all of True Thai's customers that our locally grown produce comes from the Chang Family gardens, and not my backyard!

Why is this important? Because this is a picture of what one of my homegrown tomatoes typically looks like:

Some friends have speculated that there is nuclear waste buried in my backyard. Others blame it on the three cats buried there. All I know is that I am very grateful to the Chang family for selling their garden fresh produce to us for use at True Thai.

The Chang family has sixteen acres of peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, gailan and other produce growing at four locations just outside St. Paul. Their tomatoes do not look scary like mine do. They taste better too. If they didn't, we'd stick with our usual vendors but to tell you the truth, many of our vendors buy locally during the summer months. Most of True Thai's jalapeños and Thai peppers are locally grown, even in the winter.

I don't know who Lewis Grizzard is, but I've always like this quote from him:
It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.
Fortunately, Mr. Grizzard never had to eat a tomato from my backyard, and I promise that if you dine at True Thai, you never will either!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Oy vay!

From Bob Von Sternberg at the Star Tribune:

Here we go again.

Another summer weekend, another bunch of traffic-snarling freeway closures.

The most aggravating -- again -- will be the shutdown of the westbound lanes in St. Paul of Interstate 94 between Interstate 35E and Hwy. 280, just like last weekend.

The good news: This is the last closure of the road construction season on that stretch.

Fortunately True Thai's customers are clever and resourceful people who still manage to find their way to East Franklin no matter how much weekend construction there is.

Given the wonderful weather these past few days, I suspect the patio will be full this weekend, no matter how much construction there is.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Construction season continues

Starting tonight at 10 p.m., a big section of I-94 in St. Paul will be closed. The Pioneer Press has maps:

If you live in St. Paul, this is your chance to come to True Thai the way I do every night. Just take University Avenue almost all the way to 280 but then turn left onto Franklin just a block east of 280.

Follow Franklin across the river and you'll arrive at True Thai in just a few minutes.

We'll be there, waiting for you.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weekend highway closings

If you're coming to True Thai this weekend via I-94 or I-35, please read Bob Collins' News Cut blog to find out which highways will be closed when.

There are only two seasons in Minnesota: winter, and highway construction season.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch

I have written before about how con artists have tried to take advantage of True Thai. That telephone scam was not typical of the usual stings that criminals use to take advantage of busy restaurants, however. What happened the other night is much more common.

We were very busy. This is an important detail. Con artists rarely come in when business is slow because they don't want you to have any time to figure out what is going on. What was going on the other night was a that a couple came in and immediately told me how often they'd been been in and wasn't it time for us to give them a free meal?

A free meal? As a restaurant owner who has not raised her already cheap prices in over five years, I could not believe their chutzpah. But, as I mentioned, it was very busy, and because they were very loud and blocking the cash register I sighed and told the host to tell their server to give them a free meatless entree.

A cheap way of dealing with a problem, right? Wrong. After they left the server told me they only ordered the one "free" dish between the two of them, and then insisted on extra rice for free. The menu states that extra rice is $1.50 but these two "customers" didn't even want to pay for extra rice! The server gave them extra rice rather than waste her time running to ask me what to do.

OK, so True Thai was out a cheap entree and some extra rice. Did this couple really eat for free? No, not if you count their tip. If you count their tip, they ate at True Thai for 16¢!

I am not insensitive to the economy. I understand that some people really have no money. That's why so much food from True Thai ends up on the tables of poor families in St. Paul, where I work for the Ramsey County Dept. of Public Health. True Thai Restaurant also made donations to several dozen local charities last year. I cannot think of a single charity we turned down.

But I guarantee I will be turning down the next couple who come in asking for a free meal. My friends who heard this story told me that there is a famous American acronym: TANSTAAFL. It stands for There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

True Thai's new motto is TANSTAASFL: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Second Free Lunch.

We're still working on the concept.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Life in the Seward neighborhood

I'm sure many of our patrons do not realize that when they visit True Thai Restaurant, they are dining in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. I live St. Paul but since we opened True Thai in 2002, I have come to feel like I am a resident of Seward.

I mention this because the Seward neighborhood is doing something quite different tonight. If you go to the 900 block of Franklin Terrace at 6:30 you can help say goodbye to the oldest tree in Minneapolis. Jeremy Iggers' Twin Cities Daily Planet has the details, but the oak tree in question is believed to be at least 300 years old!

Saying goodbye to their oldest tree is a Seward thing. I like spending time in this neighborhood.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I-94 alert!

Road crews will be shutting down portions of I-94 this weekend. Customers in St. Paul will not be impacted, but those of you who use eastbound I-94 from the western suburbs and Minneapolis will have to find another route. You should be OK going home unless you live west of Minneapolis.

Sorry for the inconvenience!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Closed Sunday for the 4th


True Thai Restaurant will be closed on Sunday, July 4th.

Please accept our wishes for a happy holiday weekend.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Avenue of the Annas

Wow. This is sooo strange I cannot believe it.

My name is Anna Fieser. I think you already knew that. I live in a small house in Como Park in St. Paul. For years I had a Latina neighbor to the south of me. Her name was also Anna F. Just today I learned that the older couple who lives just north of me has the last initial of F, and her name is also Anna.

Pretty strange, huh? I have new neighbors on my south side and today I was in the yard and I heard one of the children yell for "Anna!" I turned and said, "I'm Anna." He looked at me and said, "I want Anna my mom."

I was pretty weirded out and asked him what their last name was. Yes, it started with an F.

There used to be TV ads about the United Colors of Benetton. I think our block has just established the United Colors of Anna.Anna F. to my north is white. I am Thai and my neighbor to the south (who lives in the house the Latina Anna F. used to live in) is an African American.

I think we should call ourselves the Axis of Annas!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

True Thai's growing family

The longer True Thai Restaurant has been open, the deeper our ties to our customers have grown but I do not think that really explains this.

All spring long customers have been bringing us plants. Basil mostly, chili pepper plants and some flowers. I think many of you really enjoy knowing that some of our basil and chili peppers are grown in "Anna's garden" behind the restaurant.

Each time the staff tells me a customer has left a new plant, I am touched. You give us your love and your money — that is enough! But we will grow these plants and who knows? The next time you get basil stir fry from True Thai, there may be some basil in it that was grown only a few yards away.
That's eating locally!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Minnesotans like to eat out!

A fascinating new study says that Twin Cities residents eat out more than almost any other people in the U.S. Average households in Minneapolis spend $3,372 a year dining out, or $9.24 a day.

That's enough to buy any appetizer on True Thai's menu, four of our six different kinds of soup, four of our seven kinds of salads, the vegetarian options for seven of our ten kinds of curry, any of our wok-fried entrees that have a vegetarian option, or the veggie option for any of our rice or noodle dishes.

With drinks, and if you order meat or seafood, you'll probably spend more like $11-12 plus tip, but I think many of you already have a very good understanding of how True Thai helps you to stretch your budget dollars.

* * *

A quick update to let you know that all five free copies of the Crave Minneapolis book have been spoken for and will be mailed out tomorrow.

Not to rub it in, but the last copy went unasked for all weekend and then we got a request from Gigi just this afternoon.

Congratulations to Gigi, Marvin, Megan, Valerie and Kara — you are Anna's True Thai News blog's first ever contest winners!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Closed Memorial Day

True Thai Restaurant will be closed Monday, May 31,
in observance of Memorial Day.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Save $20 by reading this post!

This is True Thai's page in the Crave Company's new book, Crave Minneapolis St. Paul. It is subtitled The Urban Girl's Manifesto but having looked through the book I do not think any of us still qualify as "girls."

But if you are from Minnesota and if you are interested in women entrepreneurs . . . maybe you would enjoy reading the entire book and not just my page. I have set aside five copies for readers so the first five of you to e-mail me with your mailing address will receive a free copy in the mail (or if you prefer we'll hold it for you at the cash register at the restaurant).

If you click on the above image you can read my page for free, and if you are quick to email me you can read the other pages, including the layouts on Tracy Singleton of the Birchwood Café, Linda Haug of Café Twenty Eight, Angelina Rodriquez Corbett of La Cocinita Restaurante, and the amazing Kim Bartmann of the Red Stag Supper Club, Bryant Lake Bowl and Barbette, as well as a lot of other women who are not lucky enough to own a restaurant.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The case of the missing blogger

Those of you who do not visit the restaurant on a regular basis may have been wondering what's going on with True Thai. The biggest news has been that I've had my left arm in a sling since May 9 when I injured my left arm doing lap pull downs at the gym.

It's not that I can't type with one hand, but having only one hand does not fit into my very busy lifestyle! At the restaurant I have been promoted to the role of greeter while others work diligently to make sure the cash drawer doesn't balance at the end of the night.

I will be sling-free and back up to normal semi-frequent blogging by next week. Until then you'll have to stop by the restaurant to get your True Thai news fix.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Have you made your Mother's Day reservations?

Mother's Day is this Sunday, May 9. Have you made your dinner reservations yet? True Thai's reservation book is filling up so don't procrastinate or you'll find yourself eating at 4 p.m.!

Last year we were busy all day, even during the notoriously slow hours of 2 to 5 pm. Next to Valentine's Day, I cannot think of a busier day for restaurants. But that does not mean that you're not welcome to bring in a special dessert or bottle of wine. We'll be glad to help with whatever it takes to make your mom happy.
And whether you eat out or stay at home for your special meal with mom, True Thai Restaurant wishes you a happy Mother's Day with many, many more to come.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My 3rd Blogiversary!

I have been told that blogiversary is a word, and this is the third anniversary of my first post at Anna's True Thai News. (Hmm, seems to be very similar to a post I just wrote....)

Coincidentally, it is almost exactly sixteen years to the day since I started working for Ramsey County as a Public Health Nurse (PHN). While I am glad that True Thai Restaurant makes our diners happy, I feel a greater sense of pride and accomplishment with my achievements with Ramsey County. There are many good Thai restaurants in the Twin Cities now, but there is still a very real need for more public health personnel to work with young mothers, vulnerable seniors and individuals with mental and physical development issues.

When I started working for the county, young mothers and moms to be would see my designer purses and Mall of America makeup and they'd tell me they wanted to be a nurse like me so they could dress nicely. They saw a connection between the clothes and makeup and the job.

Later, after True Thai opened, many of my clients told me they wanted to be just like me because they thought I was rich. True Thai has given many people a good living, but it has not made me rich, just very, very busy. Again my clients were making assumptions not warranted by the facts. Young people often do that. They saw me standing by the cash register and thought my job was to take money from people. They did not see me arguing with vendors over shipments, scheduling staff or managing personnel disputes, but they always noticed my jewelry.

Lately, things have changed. Suddenly the pregnant teens and teen moms I'm working with are complimenting me on my physical fitness, and telling me they want to learn how to eat healthier food. This makes me very happy. I'm glad to tell them that yes, there is a connection between eating the right food, exercise, and success in life.

Not everyone who dines at True Thai is in great shape, but when you're there every day, it's hard not to notice that many of our customers who are overweight become less so over time. Thai food is healthy food. I also like to think that because we're just a few blocks from the Mississippi River, our customers sometimes take a nice long walk after eating. Thai food and a long walk? That's one secret for living a long and healthy life.

There are two kinds of success in America today. I have experienced both of them. When True Thai opened I actually gained weight. I didn't have time to cook and ate out way too often. I didn't have time to exercise, and drove everywhere because I was in a hurry.

Then Carla and the gang at Los Campeones Gym came into my life and I learned that by making time to work out, I had more energy and got more done. Instead of eating out, I ate only food from True Thai's kitchen and started carrying healthy snacks with me to eat while on the job for the county.

When the girls started asking me about diet and exercise the other day, I almost cried I was so happy. I hope this is a new fad and that more and more teens start worrying less about their clothes and financial success, focusing instead on their health and well being, and the health and well being of their children.

Yes, I have been blogging for three years now, but I have been giving sermons to young teen mothers for sixteen years. Best of all, those sermons are finally starting to pay off.

[As for the picture on the left, no, these are not my clients! They are my coworkers. And the county does not make us wear Red Cross signs on our heads! (Usually.) But I am including this picture because I know you like pictures, and because I thought it was time you saw one of Nurse Anna instead of the usual "Anna holding food" pictures.]

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thank you readers!

It is a good thing that Thai people like to say thank you, because I seem to say those two words a lot. Thank you today to all our supporters who read City Pages and who voted for us for Best Thai Restaurant.

And congratulations to Sen Yai Sen Lek for winning this year's critic's choice Best Thai Restaurant award. They now join the Twin Cities Thai Restaurant Hall of Fame along with two -time winner True Thai Restaurant, Sawatdee, Chiang Mai, Bangkok Thai, and Tom Rup Thai as well as winners in other categories King & I (Best Place for Romance, 2009) and Taste of Thailand (Best Egg Roll, 2009). I think it's safe to say that Minnesotans love Thai food!

As for the other awards out there . . . .

Sorry, I could only find this old photo but according to the list on the right, this is our 28th! fine dining award since opening in 2002. But the best recognition for a restaurateur is seeing familiar faces coming in every night.

On behalf of all the cooks, kitchen help, servers and hosts at True Thai Restaurant, thank you for your continuing support. (We love you too!)

Friday, April 16, 2010

True Thai cuts prices!

No, we haven't lowered our menu or buffet prices, but thanks to some very astute purchasing decisions by True Thai's wine staff we have just revised our Beer & Wine list, lowering almost all of the glass and bottle prices!

Bottle prices have gone down an average of $1, and most glasses of wine are now 50¢ less!

We also have several new wines for you to pick from:

A. Mano Primitivo from Italy
Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz from Australia's Barossa Valley
Bodega Goulart Classico Malbec and Diseno Malbec from Argentina
Menage a Trois, a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet grapes from Napa Valley

Sherwood Estate Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand
Vila Verde from Portugal
Makulu Pinotage Rosé from South Africa
Apremont Jacquere from France
Clean Slate Riesling from Germany
Angove's Nine Vines Rosé from Australia

I do not know why there is a rosé in both lists, but I am not the wine steward!

I wish we could lower the rest of our menu prices but the cost of food has not gone down even though our commitment to serving the best Thai food at the lowest prices has gone up.

True Thai: trying to help you beat this economy one meal at a time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Happy Songkran!

It's funny but the older I get, the more Songkran makes me think of my childhood. Thailand's traditional New Year's celebration runs from tomorrow, Tuesday, April 13th, through Thursday, April 15th. Given the current unrest in Thailand I hope you don't mind my talking about a Songkran that happened many years ago.

I was eleven years old and my friends and I were roaming the streets of Chanthaburi celebrating the big holiday. Traditionally kids and young people throw water at each other on Songkran but wise merchants shut off their outside faucets so as to keep the water fights away from their shops. One of my older brothers, however, owned a coffee shop and he told us that we could have "all the ice we wanted."

Ice?!!! This was taking Songkran to an entirely new level! Little Anna and her girlfriends grabbed all the ice we could carry and started throwing it at our victims. As it turned out, ice hurts more than water and the boys with us quickly discovered that their victims were not shy about swatting young behinds in retaliation. But not the girls. We would laugh and smile and run away to throw ice at new victims.

I do not recall exactly how this happened, but we ended up riding in the back of a pickup truck throwing ice at soldiers. The soldiers didn't laugh but luckily for us they didn't reach for their guns. It wasn't until years later that I realized how lucky we were not to have gotten into serious trouble.

Mostly I remember that my first "snowball fight" was on Songkran when I was eleven years old. It has always been a special memory for me as I did not see "snow" again until I moved to Kentucky many years later!

But I have not had my ultimate Songkran water fight yet. That will come when I finally get to have an elephant on my side!

Water fighters with elephants on their team always win!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thank you

Thank you!

No special occasion, I just wanted to say thank you to all of you for your continued support and interest in True Thai Restaurant.

I forgot to make reservations for Easter dinner for Sunday, but as it turned out none were needed. And as we drove to the restaurant, we passed many other restaurants, none of whose parking lots were anywhere near full.

Thank you for choosing True Thai. Because we make you happy and because you keep coming in every night, our food is fresh, our kitchen staff is inspired, and our wait staff are busy. That makes for a very happy Anna.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Closed on Easter Sunday

Just like Americans, Thai Catholics dress up on Easter. Especially when their older sister is a nun!

I wrote about my church in Chanthaburi earlier this year. I am sure this Easter will be a very big celebration for them. Easter is the biggest holiday of the year for many people.

Sigh. I like to dress up but I think I already know what I am going to do this Sunday.

Yes, Anna is going to sleep in. Seven days a week, 52 weeks a year makes for a very tired restaurant owner!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

True Thai is not cheap! (just inexpensive)

I will admit to something many people do not like to confess to. I google myself. Not just me, but True Thai Restaurant. I google a lot. It feels good to read what others have written about True Thai.

Minnesota Monthly mentioned us a couple of weeks ago. We're on page six of their Cheap Eats story about "the 99 best splurges in the metro under $10."

No one likes to be thought of as cheap, but it's true — you can order our vegetarian red curry with Kabocha squash for only $8.95. Or you can get it with tofu or mock duck for $9.95. Animal protein will cost you extra but the important thing isn't the price. The important thing is that True Thai's red curry with Kabocha squash is good for you.

For starters, Thai curries are mostly made with coconut milk. Coconut milk got a very bad rap in this country because of high saturated fat content. Now nutritionists realize that the saturated fat in coconut is made up of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Meat and dairy products contain long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) which are not as good for you.

Too boring? Try this: "MCFAs...might help speed up metabolism and help promote weight loss." Do I have your attention now?

I thought so. And coconut milk is not even the healthiest part of this popular dish. The Kabocha squash [Japanese winter squash] isn't just healthy, it's revered as "an aphrodisiac"!

Add to that lots of beta carotene, iron, vitamin C, potassium and essential traces of calcium, folic acid and B vitamins and you have a very healthy meal.

For $8.95.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

True Thai Kimchi?

I've been reading The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth and taking notes. While many Thai favorites are included (fresh pineapple, baby greens, spinach, green tea, cashews, bitter melon, persimmons, papayas, mangoes, limes, coconut, bananas, snow peas, tomatoes, hot peppers, onions, mushrooms — actually, it might be easier if I listed True Thai foods not in this book!), I am very intrigued by one item from Korea, kimchi (also kimchee, kim chee).

Andrew L. Rubman: "This Korean fermented cabbage concoction spiced with capsicum provides healthy stimulus and therapy for the stomach and is often beneficial to those with gastritis, reflux . . . . "

Jonny Bowden, the Ph.D. who wrote this book, says that fermented foods are almost always good for you. Why? Because fermented food contains lactobacilli bacteria which boosts our immune system and fights inflammation.
"Kimchi is a superstar in the world of healthy has demonstrated antioxidant, antimutagenic, and anticarcinogenic activities. Pretty darn impressive for a sometimes smelly little cabbage dish. Kimchi also contains high levels of vitamins (vitamin C, the B vitamins), minerals (calcium, potassium, and iron) and dietary fiber."
I think by now you may have already guessed where this is going. Yes, this Friday we are putting kimchi-fried rice in our lunch buffet! We've been experimenting with it in the kitchen and have found that the flavors of kimchi blend very well with Thai fried rice. The only difference is that it is crunchier due to cabbage and extra onion.

But this is not a Thai dish so I do not know if we'll ever add it to the menu. Frying kimchi with rice is not my invention either. The Koreans have been eating kimchi for 3,000 years now, and have invented every kind of kimchi dish imaginable. They call their kimchi fried rice kimchi bokkeumbap.

I think I will call mine Thai-chi!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green curry for St. Patrick's Day!

This year I decided to do some research into St. Patrick's Day to see if True Thai could get in on the action. I was very surprised to learn that St. Patrick's Day is not so much a drinking holiday in Ireland (where they call it Lá Fhéile Pádraig). I was not surprised to learn that my American friends are wrong about other aspects of this venerable Western holiday as well.

From 1903 until the 1970s, pubs were closed on St. Patrick's Day in Ireland! They did not hold a parade in Dublin until 1931 (the first U.S. St. Paddy's Day parade was in 1737). The Irish began to take this holiday a bit more seriously in 1996 and have since parlayed this once minor Irish holiday into a 4-day excuse for taking money from tourists.

Yes, the American version of St. Patrick's Day is about as authentic as Chow Mein is Chinese! But that will not stop St. Paul from having its 159th consecutive St. Patrick's Day parade this Wednesday.

To honor our Irish American friends, Anna O'Prasomphol Fieser will be featuring green curry, green melon, green beans and other green foods in our Wednesday lunch buffet. We will also serve green jasmine tea. Actually, jasmine tea is more yellow than green, but we will not be adding green dye to our tea!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Leeann Chin, rest in peace

Leeann Chin, 1933-2010

I do not think there is an Asian woman running a restaurant in Minnesota who has not been compared to Leeann Chin. From 1980 until now she was the gold standard for Asian restauranteurs. Everyone knew who she was, even Minnesotans who do not eat Chinese food.

Like Wolfgang Puck and Minnesota's Mama D, Leeann Chin is an icon. Her name will live on and her story will inspire countless more young Asians to introduce new food to buffet-loving Americans.

Leeann Chin opened her first restaurant after I came to America, and long before I got to Minnesota she was already famous. As a businesswoman she was a big inspiration to me and many other Asian women. At first I admired her for her legendary work ethic, but after opening True Thai I began to appreciate her business skills even more than her hard work.

Services will be held Saturday, March 27th, at Normandale Lutheran Church in Edina.

What others are saying:

The Star Tribune


The Pioneer Press

Friday, March 12, 2010

Found money

I found $4,000 today but don't get excited. It was my $4,000!

I sent my bank a check for $4,000 to pay on my credit card, but the payment never showed up on my balance. I called the bank and they told me they didn't know what the problem was. I knew what the problem was, I had paid them but they hadn't applied the money to my balance!

So last night several employees and I spent the end of the shift sorting through bank statements and receipts back in the party room. Some party! We found several interesting things and this morning I took our findings into my local branch. The manager pulled up my file and immediately figured out that there had been an entry error transposing two numbers, and that my money had been applied to another credit card account.

The manager apologized and straightened out my account, but the other missing $7,000 we identified from last summer he's still checking into. So I came into $4,000 today, but since it was my $4,000 it wasn't exactly a windfall.

Does your bank make mistakes? Mine sure does!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another mystery solved

Sometimes things just happen, but usually I find that things happen for a reason. We have been selling more Tom Yum than usual for the last week and a half and yesterday, thanks to Google, I found out why.

City Pages had a Food Fight but didn't tell us. We were pitted against Sen Yai Sen Lek in a battle to see who had the best Tom Yum. That was not very fair to Sen Yai Sen Lek, a very good Thai restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis that specializes in noodle dishes. There are no noodles in Tom Yum. I think now you see why this was not a fair fight but thank you to Jessica Chapman for saying nice things about us:
You know the saying "Go big or go home?" True Thai definitely goes big. The product of going big is, logically, big flavor, and True Thai's got that too. Generous slices of chicken come with almost every bite and kaffir lime leaves show up about every third. Still, there's those dang mushrooms.
I also like the picture they ran but was puzzled by the fact that we have no purple tablecloths at True Thai. At first I suspected that they had adjusted the color a bit like I did when I was bragging about my cherry tomato plant last year (it's true — I boosted the color because the camera failed to capture the perfection of my awesome tomato plant!). But that does not explain why this picture shows sliced button mushrooms (we use straw mushrooms in our Tom Yum) or why I do not recognize that plate!

I think this is a stock picture. Here is our online menu picture of our Tom Yum:

See the straw mush- rooms? Notice that the bowl is not perfectly round unlike the serving bowl in the background of the City Pages picture.

I think this picture looks much more tantalizing than City Pages', but that is just my personal opinion.

I like personal opinions, especially when they come from bloggers who like True Thai! I recently found two new online reviews of our restaurant and because they say nice things about True Thai, I thought I should share them with you.

The Alchemist Chef likes our corn cakes and says that I am a "super nurse-restauranteur." I like her review a lot!

Blogger Red Pepper at Twin Cities Eats likes us too:
This is, in my humble opinion, the best Thai food that I have had in Minnesota. It is kind of shocking that I have never written about it but this changes that. I have simply never had a dish that disappoints. Apparently, many people think the same as the size of True Thai is at least double what it was on my first visits 5+ years ago.
I like that she brags about how long she's been coming to True Thai, and that she mentions our recent expansion. Friends have told me about how their friends all try to pretend they were the first to find us back in 2002. I think they are all correct. Each night I see faces I have been seeing on a regular basis for the last seven + years. True Thai has many loyal friends from across the Twin Cities and even Wisconsin and we love you all!

But almost every night I see many new faces as well and that also makes me happy. Thai people are very friendly and we like our new friends almost as much as our old friends.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Idle thoughts

Hmm. Just as I suspected we are starting to get party room reservations for groom's dinners. This always seems to happen a few weeks after Valentine's Day....

In other True Thai news did you know that Thailand has:
  • 238 AM radio stations
  • 351 FM stations
  • 6 television stations (with many, many substations)
  • 4 satellites
Hey! We're just a little country not much bigger than Minnesota and Wisconsin put together. Maybe we don't have so many TV stations as Americans, but we have many, many more Thai restaurants and much nicer beaches!

Beaches. (sigh) Don't Minnesotans ever get tired of all this snow and ice?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chinese Valentine's Day!

Wow, wow, wow. Chinese New Year's and Valentine's Day both fall on Sunday, February 14, this year. I am not sure what it means for lovers that they are sharing their day with the Year of the Tiger but I am guessing that the lines at the better Chinese restaurants will be even longer than the lines at True Thai this Sunday. I think that couples celebrating Valentine's Day also need to know that the official gemstone for the Year of the Tiger is the diamond!

Were you born in a Year of the Tiger? Here is a chart that will help you to figure it out:

• 8 February 1902 - 28 January 1903: Water Tiger
• 26 January 1914 - 13 February 1915: Wood Tiger
• 13 February 1926 - 1 February 1927: Fire Tiger
• 31 January 1938 - 18 February 1939: Earth Tiger
• 17 February 1950 - 5 February 1951: Metal Tiger
• 5 February 1962 - 24 January 1963: Water Tiger
• 23 January 1974 - 10 February 1975: Wood Tiger
• 9 February 1986 - 28 January 1987: Fire Tiger
• 28 January 1998 - 15 February 1999: Earth Tiger
• 14 February 2010 - 2 February 2011: Metal Tiger

What does all this mean? Mostly it means that Chinese astrologers make good money this time of year. This, by the way, is not just any Year of the Tiger, this is the Year of the Golden Tiger! Here is what they say about people born in the Year of the Tiger:
Tiger people are sensitive, given to deep thinking, capable of great sympathy. They can be extremely short-tempered, however. Other people have great respect for them, but sometimes tiger people come into conflict with older people or those in authority. sometimes Tiger people cannot make up their minds, which can result in a poor, hasty decision or a sound decision arrived at too late. They are suspicious of others, but they are courageous and powerful. Tigers are most compatible with Horses, Dragons, and Dogs.
The Los Angeles Times says that Chinese New Year's has fallen on Valentine's Day only three times in the last hundred years, and will not do so again until 2030.

I am not Chinese so this all seems kind of silly to me. Thai people, however, do celebrate Valentine's Day. This Sunday True Thai will focus on Valentine's Day, a holiday they will be celebrating in Bangkok in much the same way Americans do. (This is a family blog so I will not go into details!)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dried fruit for Chinese New Year's!

The new ya pears are in and I just had some mangosteens for lunch but for me the most exciting food news of the week is that True Thai is going to have dried persimmons in our lunch buffet this Friday!

OK, maybe you would rather have ya pears and mangosteens but they're in season now and will be around for a while. Dried persimmons, on the other hand, only come once a year and are eaten by Asians to help celebrate Chinese New Year's which will be this Sunday, February 14.

Maybe you have not heard of dried persimmons before, but if you put them into Google you get 229,000 responses. If you use the Chinese words for dried persimmons [干柿子], you may get even more. In China, there are over 2,000 kinds of persimmons. Chinese immigrants brought persimmons to California in the mid 1800s. Persimmons do not like snow, and are not fond of extreme heat.

Since there are so many different kinds of persimmons, there are many different kinds of persimmon trees. I thought this one looked pretty:

So remember: this Friday True Thai will celebrate Chinese New Year's by having dried persimmons in our buffet. Friday I will post again to let you know more about Sunday's Chinese New Year's/Valentine's Day celebration at True Thai.