Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Closed New Year's Day

No, it's not Songkran yet, but this is what New Year's looks like in Thailand

As we do each year, True Thai will be closed New Year's Day. We will be open regular hours on New Year's Eve and January 2.

Please have a fun, safe New Year's weekend and drive carefully!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best Christmas meal ever?

If you really love food, your best meal ever is always (hopefully) your next meal. The cooks have been planning to make this Sunday's True Thai Christmas party the best ever. I am not cooking, but I am planning and I asked the cooks to reinvent a famous Thai dish, Pla Bo-Ran. Translated it means Ancient Fish, but the cooks came up with a fish dish that is very fresh tasting. Crispy Tilapia filet garnished with Thai chilis, lemongrass, cashews, shallots, thinly sliced garlic, mint and kafir lime leaves served with a special sauce made from hand-squeezed tamarind juice, palm sugar, salt and fish sauce. Not just fresh tasting, but nutty, crunchy and tasty too!

It's a "lost" recipe. I don't know why it's called Ancient Fish, but if you put that name into Google you mostly get pictures like this one:

Our Ancient Fish looks much better than this!

We know that most of you will be with your families this Christmas, but you can try Ancient Fish now if you like. It's not on the menu yet, but that doesn't mean you can't order it. Whether you ask for Ancient Fish or Pla Bo-Ran, the wait staff will hook you up with what will surely be our Catfish Salad's biggest menu rival for the affections of True Thai fish dish lovers.

The cooks have been fine-tuning the Pla Bo-Ran for a week now, and each time I've had it, it was better than the time before. I am very confident that this Christmas, I'll be eating my best Christmas meal ever. This Sunday would have been Ped's 39th birthday, and in honor of the occasion I predict no food will stick to any wok, the rice will be perfect, and each dish will turn out exactly as planned.

It's a private party for True Thai staff and Ped's family, but if you have no place to go this Christmas, you're welcome to spend it with us. You can email an R.S.V.P to me any time before Saturday morning, or stop by the restaurant in person this week. True Thai has a very big family, and there's always room for more.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

True Thai will be closed December 24 & 25

True Thai will be closed December 24 and 25 as we do every year so our employees can spend time with their families.

Picture courtesy of
We will be open regular hours this Friday, the 23rd, and Monday, the 26th. As usual, we will not be serving any Swedish meatballs or ham in the buffet this week or any other week.

Please have a very Merry Christmas! Drive safely and enjoy your holidays.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The best Christmas concert I ever saw

Not too long after I moved to America, a friend and I went to Lexington, Kentucky, one weekend looking for a surplus store. We parked our car and immediately got lost. While walking around we found ourselves walking past a long, long line outside Rupp Arena. We started asking people in the line where the surplus store was. No one knew but one guy suddenly turned to me and offered me a pair of tickets, saying, “here’s tickets for the concert. I have to go home, it’s an emergency.”

My friend tried to take the tickets but this guy would only hand them to me. In retrospect, I suspect he thought the concert would "blow my mind." Well, it did. "Back in the day" Anna looked like this. Needless to say, I had no idea who or what Pink Floyd was. The guy I was with made a big deal about the tickets, laughing and saying “you have no idea who this is or what's going on inside.” It was true that I didn’t know what I was in for, but I knew from the lines and the size of the arena that this was the biggest and easily the strangest crowd I had ever been in. 

Most shocking to me, even more so than being in the fifth row for a Pink Floyd concert, was the guy standing next to me. He was smoking marijuana throughout the entire concert! Being from Thailand I knew what marijuana was, but I didn’t know how openly it was smoked at Pink Floyd concerts.

I don’t remember the concert very well because the whole time I was watching I could not stop thinking about marijuana, especially because the guy next to me kept offering me some even though I wasn’t old enough to drink. For years afterwards I didn’t go to rock concerts because I thought I would get arrested and deported!

It was the loudest concert I’ve ever been to. It was also (inflation adjusted) the most expensive ticket I’ve ever used. I remember it as being a $100 ticket which, for a fifth row seat in 1987, sounds about right (further internet research confirms that it was the most expensive concert ticket of 1987). All I remember is that $100 was more than I made in a week working half-time as a lab assistant at the University of Kentucky.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when I told a friend about this concert that I finally realized what a big deal it was. How big a deal? The picture (below) is from the show I saw! In fact, Wikipedia has a long article about this tour, including a list of all the songs they played!  The concert was in early November of 1987, so it wasn’t really a Christmas concert, but I think of it as my best Christmas concert ever because it had the best Christmas lights I’ve ever seen. 

We never did find the surplus store.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not a Christmas post

No, definitely not a Christmas post, but this made me laugh — a lot! I bet there is a very funny story behind that sign.

Yes, if a crew of hungry construction workers came in for lunch and all hit the buffet hard . . . then maybe we might lose some money. But even if they came in every day True Thai's buffet closes at 2 pm. Also, most construction workers only get half an hour for lunch so I think our bottom line is safe so long as we don't put any river prawn or scallops in the buffet!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The best gift I ever gave

I told you about the best gift I ever received in my last post. But not only was Ped's cooking the best gift I ever got, it was the gift that inspired me to give Amanda, one of our employees, the best gift I ever gave anyone.

Last winter, Amanda told me that she wanted to lose weight, just like I had done. So I signed her up with a fitness expert who counseled her about nutrition and helped her to do at least three cardio-intensive workouts a week. Please note that I said nutritional advice — not a diet! Trainers will tell you that the weight you lose while dieting is the weight that you will put right back on. What I learned and what Amanda found out was that the secret to weight loss is exercise, and the secret to keeping extra weight off is to eat the right kinds of food.

Amanda worked out faithfully and she lost sixty pounds in just six months! Because she changed the way she ate, the weight stayed off. Her mom told me that she went from wearing extra-large sizes to extra-small!

Ped's gift to me helped me to lose weight, and I passed it on to Amanda who has been coaching her friends on how to eat right. But best of all, Amanda's mom was working next to Ped when he cooked many of my special meals, and she learned from him how to cook healthy, nutritious meals.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The best Christmas gift I ever received

Someone asked me recently what was the best Christmas gift I had ever received. I knew the answer immediately. The best gift I ever got was not so much a thing as a service, but not a one-time service. I had just started working out and instead of a present, Ped promised me he would cook all of my evening meals in 2009, even on his days off. I don't know how good your math is, but for me 2009 was the year I got 365 presents.

This may not sound like a big deal to you. After all, Ped was already working in our kitchen so most days he was already at the restaurant when I showed up, but this was in fact a very big deal. Ped was happy that I was working out and trying to lose weight, so each meal he cooked was carefully selected to be healthy, delicious and OK with my diet. On his days off, Ped would come in to cook just that one meal for me.

It was such a great gift that Ped gave it to me again for Christmas in 2009, and then again in 2010. It was not just the best gift anyone ever gave me: it was the three best gifts I've ever gotten.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yes, we have gift certificates!

We still have the pretty envelopes my sister Mem made to go with 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.

The best part about giving gift cards and gift certificates for Christmas? Think of all the money you save on wrapping paper!

Monday, December 5, 2011


Beady Eye loves loves loves our spring rolls. If you hurry, you can still catch them at First Avenue tonight. Or you can go to YouTube to see their latest video, The Roller.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Closed Thanksgiving Day

As usual, True Thai Restaurant will be closed on Thanksgiving day only. We will be keeping our regular hours on both Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve?) and Black Friday. We hope you enjoy this holiday with your family and friends.

And remember — turkey is not indigenous to Thailand. True Thai is a year-round turkey-free zone. That's something to keep in mind when you look in your refrigerator this weekend for something to eat that doesn't have turkey in it.

Another thing to remember is that if you haven't visited True Thai in a while, there are seven (7!) new items on the menu for you to check out, all of which are guaranteed not to contain turkey (but there is tryptophan in our spinach and tofu dishes for people who like to nap after eating).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Looking ahead to Christmas

The fundraiser is over but we still have not opened the box that contains your donations to Ped's family. We are going to keep it at the restaurant until Christmas day, which is also Ped's birthday. So if you still would like to make a donation, the box will be at the restaurant.

We will then open it on Christmas when True Thai employees and Ped's family are going to gather to remember Ped and to open the donations box. I wish I could invite all of True Thai's and Ped's supporters to be with us, but this will be a family affair for Ped's family and coworkers. I'm sure you will all be with your families this Christmas day but if you have no place to go, talk to me and I'm sure we'll have room for you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our four-day fundraiser begins tonight!

Less than a few hours are left until the charity fundraising event for the family of Anousone "Ped" Phanthavong begins! Angel2Diva Boutique will be taking over the party room and will be offering designer jeans, shirts, purses and accessories for sale, with 20% of all sales going to the family.

If you are not into designer clothes, there will be envelopes and a box so you can still make a donation if you like. Anyone making a purchase or donation will get to try some free sesame ball appetizers.

The fundraiser begins tonight, Thursday, November 3, from 5 pm until 9 pm, and will continue each night through Sunday, November 6. We hope you can make it, and we hope you find something you like.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Confessions of a recovering sugar junkie

I thought I heard on the radio that today was Anti-Sugar Day. Since Halloween is tomorrow, that seemed to make sense to me but further research showed that the Internet has not heard of National Anti-Sugar Day, although there is a growing anti-sugar movement. The Internet instead says that tomorrow is National Candy Corn Day. I think the Internet is pro-sugar, especially since Friday was National Chocolate Day, this Friday is National Candy Day, Saturday is National Doughnut Day and Monday, November 7, is National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day.

I'm guessing the Bittersweet Chocolate day is to help Halloween candy junkies come down slowly.

I used to be a sugar junkie. I blame the Indians because they were the first to turn sugarcane juice into edible crystalline carbohydrates (i.e., sucrose, lactose and fructose).

When I was a sugar junkie, I would drink regular Coke (one ounce of sugar per bottle), and every meal was followed by dessert, usually pie or ice cream. I knew the best bakeries for cakes and pies, and, not surprisingly, I weighed half again as much as I do now.

I gave up sugar when I started working out. Ped was very good about cooking healthy meals for me with lots of protein, healthy fat and vegetables. (Hmm, sounds a lot like Thai cooking!) Eating right didn't make me lose weight, but eating right made sure that the weight I burned off through exercise stayed off.

Enjoy your Halloween week sugar binge, but when the sugar rush wears off, give some thought to restricting your sugar intake. The connection between excessive sugar intake and obesity, diabetes and other health problems is well established, but it takes will power to avoid getting too much sugar in your diet, especially since National Vanilla Cupcake, Indian Pudding, Spicy Hermit Cookie, Peanut Butter Fudge, Parfait, Cake, Bavarian Cream Pie, Chocolates, and Mousse Days are all coming up in November! (Trust me, you do not want to know about December's scheduled sugar.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Undead posts!

No time to write a new post for Halloween, but here are links to past Halloween posts:

And if you think that's scary, I may rerun them again next year!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Add this to your calendars

True Thai is proud to be hosting a fundraiser for Anousone "Ped" Phanthavong's family. Here are some screenshots from the promotional flyer.

Angel 2 Diva Boutique will be donating 20% of their gross sales to the fund, and will have lots of designer clothes and accessories for sale but you don't have to buy anything — we will also be accepting donations!

We hope to see you the first weekend in November. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Something happened this week at True Thai that has never happened before. We put a new dish, Young Peppercorn Stir Fry, into the buffet. We had to refill that pan twelve times before the lunch crowd left. Twelve times? I do not know what the old record was, but I am sure it was in the single digits. Wow. You really like young peppercorns!

Here is the description we put on the "new items" menu insert:
Basil, young green peppercorns, hot peppers and bamboo shoots come together in a truly Thai stir-fry dish. Excellent when served very spicy, intriguing at any temperature. Served on the stem, you can eat these peppercorns with your fingers, or you can use your fork to blend the peppercorns directly into the stir fry. Either way it's a peppery new twist on a classic Thai stir fry dish.

Peppercorns come on the stem. The technical word for a "bunch" of peppercorns is drupe. Green peppercorns are immature black peppercorns, just like the ones you grind to get black pepper. Wikipedia describes their flavor as "piquant and fresh," which is a fancy way of saying that they taste peppery. Not peppery in a spicy jalapeño way, but peppery in an explosive black pepper way.

What happens when you mix spicy peppers with peppercorns? According to True Thai's lunch customers, the correct answer is that you make an extra trip back to the buffet for some more.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Another hit and run

I am sad to report that an Augsburg student was the victim of a hit and run accident over a week ago. So far no leads, no one has come forward, and the local news media seems to have already tired of this story. Is it true that hit and run accidents are no longer news unless the community rises up in anger?

Nineteen-year-old Jason Stevens of Rochester does not deserve to be forgotten anymore than Ped does. He was an honors student and an athlete. The Highway Patrol is investigating, but it sounds like this hit and run driver was not courteous enough to leave behind any clues.

I have to wonder if this driver was encouraged by the success (so far) of the Senser family's hit and run strategy. Does Minnesota law enourage drivers who hit pedestrians to drive off?

Mari, a law student at William Mitchell College of Law, contacted me recently to see if I would talk to some students there about Ped's case. I declined because I am very busy, but also because I have shared everything I know about Ped's case in my blog.

But maybe Mari's classmates could be motivated to study Minnesota's DWI and hit and run laws to see if they work the way they are supposed to. I do not get the sense that they do. If Mari and her law school classmates would like to lobby the legislature for stronger laws to protect the innocent, I'd be glad to serve them dinner at True Thai, and then talk to them to see how I can help to get a new law passed, one that will make the Twin Cities safe for pedestrians again.

• • •

I think I need to publish these posts more quickly. Here is yet another hit and run story. I'm sure if I look again, I will find some more. Hit and run accidents are up 15% in recent years, and one reason (aside from alcohol) is that there are more people driving who do not have licenses.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What's in a name

So many people who come to the restaurant to talk to me want to know more about Ped. Maybe the most interesting story about him is how Anousone Phanthavong came to be known as "Ped."

To begin with, Ped is not the nickname his family gave to him. They called him Pec. Pec is not a Lao word because it comes from the name of an American plane. Just as Anousone was born, a bomb exploded close by. People who saw the plane said the name "The Inspector" was painted on its side. From "The Inspector" came "Pec," Anousone's nickname. Pec as in boom!, a bomb just exploded.

I am not exactly sure how Anousone went from Pec to Ped when he started working at True Thai, but I think it is almost like a bad pun that his nickname went from boom to duck, which is what Ped means in Lao. Duck as in the bird, but in English it also means to take cover, a good thing to do when a bomb goes off.

It's OK when people say Ped's name the way it looks, but Ped is actually pronounced more like "bet," and Pec like "bek."

• • •

Thanks again to everyone who has (or is planning to) donate to the memorial fund for Ped's family. Recent news reminded me that this is not the first memorial fund I have promoted on my blog. More than a year and a half ago I encouraged readers to donate to the Seward Market Memorial Fund.

I was reminded of that terrible crime because the trial of accused murderer Mahdi Ali has just gone to jury.  A verdict will bring closure to the families of Osman Elmi, Mohamed Warfa and Anwar Mohammed, the three men killed at Seward Market and Halal Meats. Another man, Ahmed Ali has already pled guilty to three counts of attempted aggravated robbery.

The verdict is in.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I don't usually announce personnel changes on my blog, but I'm sure you'll all be happy to learn that Ped's nephew Shawn and his nieces, Cindy and Tiffany, are now working at True Thai. Having plenty of Phanthavongs around is a good thing.

True Thai: Lao powered since 2002.

That is kind of a joke. Yes, True Thai has always had Lao employees. And Hmong employees and Cambodian and Burmese employees, as well as some actual Thai, myself included. I know some foodies think that makes us less Thai, but I do not think they understand Southeast Asians very well. Having a Lao cook in a Thai restaurant is like finding out there's a Canadian in the kitchen at Perkins.

As the Buddhist teacher Atisha once said, "Do not be jealous of other's good qualities, but out of admiration adopt them yourself."

Yes, there are differences in how Americans and Southeast Asians run restaurants. In Thailand, hiring a new cook — even under tragic circumstances— means new dishes. In America, most restaurants "break" their cooks in, teaching them their recipes.

In Thailand a restaurant owner wants to see what new dishes the new cook brought with them. The owner and the other cooks sample everything and decide which ones should go on the menu. Sometimes there is spontaneous collaboration and a new cook's dish is modified to better complement what is already on the menu, other times it's a quick thumbs up or thumbs down vote. If you can't decide, you tinker with the recipe until you're happy (or not). You like a dish or you don't. Food can be hard to prepare, but it should never be hard to eat.

We recently updated our menu insert to add two new appetizers: crunchy Mini Sesame Balls and chewy Prawn Puffs. Now we need to update it again to make room for a saucy new seafood entree, True Tilapia, a filet of tilapia served with an irresistable sauce.  We're also adding a change of pace (for us) entree: Grilled Lime Chicken. Chicken, sliced lime, red bell pepper, cilantro and a light, slightly sweet sauce. Served with jasmine white rice. It's not like anything else on our menu, so I think this is a good dish to add.

More new dishes coming soon!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thank you

Thank you to so very many people. 

Thank you to all of you who have donated to the memorial fund.

Thank you to all of you who sent flowers.

Thank you to all of you who sent cards.

Thank you to all of you who sent emails.

Thank you to everyone who had kind words to say.

Thank you to the police officers from the very busy Third Precinct who stopped in to give us their condolences. 

Thank you to Jim Schwebel and his law firm who have done everything in their power to guide and assist Ped's family during this difficult time. 

As of today, over 10,000 people have read the posts about Ped on this blog, and tens of thousands have read the Star Tribune's reprint of my post and eulogy for Ped. As the truth about that night comes out, the comments being left on news stories have grown increasingly supportive of Ped's family. Negative comments now seem to be focusing on the family's attorneys, but that is OK because Jim Schwebel will not be distracted. After meeting with Jim, I think he is always mindful of this Zen Buddhist teaching:
These reported events are like an arrow shot at my heart, but it lands at my feet. I choose not to bend over, pick it up, and stab myself with it.
Ped was not an angry man. I think he would have been dismayed by all the anger there has been in the wake of his death. I think he would wish to remind us that, as the Dalai Lama has said, "In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher." But he would also remind us that the Dalai Lama also said, "Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace."

The peace Ped's family and friends seek is the same peace that the Senser family seeks. In time, what is hidden will become known for the Buddha has told us that "three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth." The truth shall set us all free.

The Buddha also told us that "holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it someone else; you are the one who gets burned." I hope that this post helps to bring peace to those who read it. We will continue to strive for answers and justice, but I pray that there will be peace in our hearts as we do so.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My remembrance of Ped

I submitted a guest op-ed to the Star Tribune last week after reading Gail Rosenblum's column in which she defended the Senser family's legal stonewalling. The Star Tribune never responded to my submission, so I am publishing it here in my blog.

— — —

Anousone "Ped" Phanthavong was a dear friend and valued coworker of mine. We opened our restaurant, True Thai, in 2002, and Ped was the only person still working for us who was on our original staff. The State Troopers woke me at 3:45 a.m. because I was the pre-registered owner of Ped's car. My partner slept through the Troopers knocking on our door, but awoke immediately upon hearing my cries of anguish at hearing that Ped had been killed.

The next day I saw the place where Ped had pulled his car off the ramp and onto the grass. I saw bloodstains from his body being dragged forty feet by the Mercedes SUV that hit him. Later I talked to the partner of one of our hostesses who had taken that exit shortly after Ped was killed. His shoes and pants had been ripped off by the pavement as he was dragged up the ramp, leaving him clad only in his white t-shirt and underwear on the pavement where he was left for dead, only three-quarters of a block from Riverside Hospital's Emergency Room.

Over three-hundred people jammed into the funeral home for Ped's funeral. Everyone wore white, the Buddhist color of mourning. It took four cars to bring all the floral arrangements to the funeral home. All white because that was Ped's favorite color. He always wore white t-shirts. Even on a moonless night it would be difficult not to see Ped on a well lit freeway exit ramp.

The day after Ped died the State Troopers told us he was hit by a Mercedes SUV. They told the news media and shortly after that the Senser family's attorney contacted the State Troopers. It would be another nine agonizing days before the Senser family told the Troopers that Amy Senser was driving that night. That did not stop the rumors.

Since Amy Senser came forward, many people have passed rumors on to me and our employees. A daughter was driving, the rumors say. Are the rumors true? We do not know. All we know is what the Sensers have told the State Troopers, and that is not much. So little that a State Trooper advised Ped's brother that the family should get a high-powered attorney. The Trooper perhaps should not have said that, and he didn't say why the family needed an attorney, but by then it was obvious that the Sensers were not going to send the Phanthavongs so much as a sympathy card, let alone meet with them to discuss what happened that night.

Joe Senser is a sports broadcaster now, and has many friends in the media. Since the accident WCCO's Esme Murphy posted about the accident at her blog. She said that she could not defend a hit and run, but then spent the rest of her post defending the Sensers' right to a fair trial. Almost immediately an anonymous commenter posted Ped's arrest record in the comments. That comment was not removed, and it was a shameful thing for the Phanthavong family to see. Yes, Ped had some run-ins with the law. Many refugees from war-torn countries do. It takes a while for young men to understand that while fighting helped them to stay alive in Laos, you do not need to fight to survive in the United States. Ped ended up spending some time in the Ramsey County workhouse, but we picked him up and took him to work each day. Not just because we liked Ped, but because he was, from his first day at True Thai, our best cook.

After Ped was reunited with his family, he spent every day helping his mother cook, and she taught him well. As True Thai won award after award after award for our dishes, Ped grew more confident in his abilities and cleaned up his life. He had been sober for almost three years but he did not trust himself. Almost his entire paycheck would go to his parents. Ped never carried over $20 cash because he was afraid he would weaken and spend that money on bad things. Ped knew his limitations and still managed to overcome them. Exactly one month before he was struck and killed on that off ramp, U2's tour manager stood in our kitchen and watched Ped cook Bono's pre-concert meal. She was so pleased she referred Sade's tour manager to us. Sade's tour manager told us she would refer all her tour management friends to us. None of these bands ever saw our restaurant, but they ordered from us because of Ped's cooking.

But Ped was not a celebrity. Esme Murphy is not the only Twin Cities media personality to defend the Sensers. The Star Tribune's Gail Rosenblum also wrote about the Sensers. Yes, she mentioned Ped, but like all the other local media she just repeated what I had written about him in my blog. Until they held a press conference two weeks after Ped's death, not one Minnesota news person bothered to interview Ped's family. My day job is as a public health nurse for Ramsey County. If the local news media cannot find Lao-English interpreters, I can refer the media to dozens of them.

But I do not think the local news media cares about Ped's side of the story. Gail Rosenblum's column does not allow people to leave comments. You can leave a comment at Bob Collin's MPR News Cut blog, but if you defend Ped, he will argue with you in the comments.

That is OK. Joe Senser is a media guy, and you stand up for your own. But maybe the media should read my eulogy for Ped that was read at his funeral:
Ped is my brother and my best friend. When I was mugged last summer, Ped was the first person to show up to comfort and reassure me. Ped often stopped by the restaurant on his days off to make sure everything was OK. After my mugging, he would come around to check on me to make sure I was OK. I give some of our employees a ride home after work. After the mugging, Ped began stopping by on his nights off to give his coworkers a ride home so I could get a little more sleep. 
Ped helped me to keep my feet on the ground, and gave me guidance when I wasn't sure what I should do. More than even me, he cared so much about True Thai and all of us who worked there but Ped loved everyone, not just his friends. Once he made me park my car so he could help a stranded motorist change her tire. When a panhandler would ask Ped for money, Ped would tell them to wait and then would run and cook them a meal. 
Each night when I go to True Thai, I go into the kitchen because seeing Ped in his white t-shirt gives me comfort and lets me know everything is running the way it should. I will never see Ped in our kitchen again, but this week I have seen him many times. I will be working up front and I look up and there he is, smiling in that slightly sad, boyish way we all knew so well. His spirit is with us still at True Thai, guiding us, telling us everything is alright. 
Ped, when I think of you, the one thing I always think of is your kindness and generosity, which were written all over your face. Such a kind person. Others always came first. You would feed your coworkers first, then you would eat. You always put others before you. 
Ped once told me, "Anna, I know I am going to die before you do." Ped, I am so sorry you were right. I will remember you the rest of my life. You were the soul of True Thai. You are the soul of True Thai. You will always be the soul of True Thai. Thank you for always being there for us.
Ped's family and friends and I all miss him very much. Only the Senser family knows for sure what happened that night, and they are not talking. Not to us, not to the family's attorney, not to anyone. But they do have friends in the media. At the press conference a reporter asked me something about "why the family is just after the money?" I was so shocked I could not answer him. The Phanthavongs did not "lawyer up" until after a Trooper suggested they should, and well after the Sensers had decided to speak only through their attorney. No one in the media is trying to find out what happened. It has been decided that the lawyers will do all the talking and that this might take years to be resolved.

Well, I am talking. And I will keep talking about this because I miss my friend Ped, and I am angry that the woman who admitted to driving the Mercedes SUV that dragged him forty feet up an off-ramp still has her drivers license, and is still free to go about living her life. The media can feel sorry for her all they like, but some day the Phanthavongs will have their day in court and I will be there every day to see that they receive the justice they deserve. But that day will not come soon. Until then Ped's nephew and two of his nieces will be working at True Thai, bussing tables and waiting on customers so that their grandparents will not be cast out into the street while waiting and waiting and waiting for the trial of the woman who ran over their son.

Anna Prasomphol Fieser is co-owner of True Thai Restaurant where Anousone "Ped" Phanthavong worked as head cook.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

In remembrance of an outstanding employee

[This was read at Anousone's funeral]

When I was 18, I spent six of the worst years of my life in Southeast Asia. I was a Hospital Corpsman in the U.S. Navy. That was long before Anousone Phanthavong was born, but the bitter aftermath of the war I was in was still being settled in Laos when Anousone was growing up. Seeing what I saw when I was only 18 has haunted me all my life. Sometimes, after talking to Ped, I would realize that he saw many of those same things when he was barely able to walk, and that the violence of war was part of his life growing up in Laos.

War makes people hard, and it is easy to lose your compassion. Ped was not a hard man. He was compassionate and filled with empathy for others. But, again, war makes people hard, and Ped ran with a hard crowd for a while. Usually, that's the end of the story but those stories don't end in a crowded funeral chapel filled with over 300 family and friends.

Ped turned around his life, overcame the obstacles fate placed in his path, and became all that he could be. Yes, he cooked a meal for Bono, but he also cooked meals for many famous people (Brad Pitt, the Coen Brothers, Sade, etc.). Mostly he cooked for people who loved the way he cooked, and came back night after night to try new dishes made special by Ped's unique talents.

The measure of Anousone Phanthavong is not just what he accomplished, as significant as those things were. The true measure of Anousone Phanthavong is that he overcame so much, and yet still managed to accomplish so much more.

[posted by Charles Whitney Jr, co-owner, True Thai Restaurant]

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In remembrance of our coworker

Ped was the kindest person any of us had ever met. He was filled with compassion for others.

When he came in he would cook for his coworkers. He would never cook for himself until everyone else was eating. Ped hated to eat alone, and he loved to make other people happy with his cooking. Ped would even come into the restaurant on his days off to cook just for the employees.

When Ped got mad, he would never be mad for longer than one minute. He was a gentle, caring, compassionate person, and everyone loved working with him.

Ped called all of the women at True Thai "sister." But all of us, male and female, looked up to Ped as our big brother. Because of Ped, working at True Thai was liking being part of a big family. Ped was our role model and, for some of us, he was our hero.

We will miss you Ped.

We will always miss you, big brother.

[posted by "Golf"]

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Closed Labor Day

True Thai Restaurant will be closed all day Monday, September 5, in honor of Labor Day.

True Thai honors and respects our employees who are our most valuable resource.

True Thai Restaurant will be open again on September 6th. Please accept our wishes for a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.

Thank you all so much!

So many things to thank so many people for:

  • cash donations to Ped's family
  • gifts of flowers (all white!)
  • everyone who wore white to the funeral
  • all those who put a $20 bill in the casket (for gas money)
  • the standing room only crowd at the funeral home
  • everyone who came to True Thai afterwords to console the family

I was so busy I didn't even have time to think about how we were going to replace Ped, so he sent us a replacement. Three of them, in fact! Word has gotten out that True Thai treats our employees like family, and there are a lot of cooks in town who would like to be loved.

Last Saturday night I was exhausted and thought I had seen it all. Then Sunday night, the day after Ped's funeral, the restaurant was packed with people who came to express their sympathy. I was too tired to panic but as the evening progressed I realized the new cook was working just as fast as Ped, and that she had already learned all our recipes. I think maybe Ped was whispering in her ear because it does not seem possible that anyone could do so well their first night on the job.

I was not sure how True Thai would survive without Ped, but the truth is he is still with us, watching over us. There is no other explanation how we could have served so many people Sunday night with an emotionally exhausted staff and owners.

Ped is still watching out for his family and friends, and we are all still deeply grieved by his passing. If you would like to make a donation to his family, you can mail or drop it off at True Thai Restaurant. Our mailing address is:

True Thai Restaurant
Ped's Memorial Fund
2627 E. Franklin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Checks should be made out to "True Thai c/o Memorial Fund."

The Mercedes the Highway Patrol was looking for has been found and they have identified the driver. There have been no charges as of yet. Ped was the primary breadwinner for his elderly parents, and any donation would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What the State Troopers know

KARE-11 linked to Lt. Eric Roeske's Twitter page. Here are the latest updates:

And here is a more recent picture we found of Anousone.

Anousone, we miss you so much.

Remembering "Ped"

To everyone at True Thai, Anousone Phanthavong was Ped. That is a Lao nickname, and the "p" is pronounced more like a "b." He was devoted to the restaurant and much of his income went to support his elderly parents.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that U2's tour manager came to True Thai to see if we could feed the band and their road company, but there was one condition: Bono insisted that his food be prepared by the owner! I can cook, but I do not do the cooking for True Thai so Ped worked closely with me as we fixed Bono's meal. OK, the truth is Ped cooked Bono's meal and I tried to help as best I could.

As usual, Ped did a wonderful job and the band was very happy. Ped was proud of his cooking and we had many knowledgable customers who would ask if he was working whenever they came in. Ped developed many of newer items on our menu, including X, Y, and Z.

But mostly, I think he should be remembered as a good employee and a good son, a man who cooked for rock stars and who helped introduce thousands of Minnesotans to authentic Thai cuisine. Not bad for a kid who grew up on his own in Laos, somehow managing to make it to the United States to be with his family and his new friends.

True Thai Restaurant will be closed on Saturday from 11 am until 4 pm in honor of Anousone "Ped" Phanthavong's funeral services which will be held Washburn McReavy funeral home at 3816 Penn Avenue North, this Saturday at noon. Afterwards, Ped's friends and family will gather at the restaurant, which will re-open to the general public at 4 pm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anousone Phanthavong, 1972-2011

After the restaurant closed Tuesday night, our head cook, Anousone Phanthavong, was killed in a hit and run accident less than a mile from the restaurant.

The accident happened on the westbound ramp from Interstate 94 to the Riverside Avenue just after 11 p.m. 
The State Patrol says the victim, a 38-year-old man from Roseville, was filling up his car with gas on the shoulder of the ramp when he was struck. 
The unidentified motorist that struck him then fled the scene. 
There was construction in the area but authorities do not know whether that played a role in this accident. 
Anyone who may know anything about this fatal hit-and-run is asked to call the State Patrol.
Anousone was an inspired chef and a very hard worker who had lived a very difficult life. He was separated from his parents while growing up in Laos during the years of terrible unrest that followed the Vietnam War. He was reunited with his parents in this country, and is survived by both his mother and father, three sisters and a brother.

Over the years I became very close to Anousone. To me, he was the soul of True Thai, the one person I could always depend on to put quality first. Because he died so close to our restaurant, I know that his spirit will be watching over us just as he watched over our kitchen these last nine years.

True Thai would not have become True Thai without Anousone Phanthavong. He was one of our first hires and our most senior employee, starting work in November 2002, shortly after we opened our doors. In the following months the Star Tribune's Jeremy Iggers honored us for having the "Best Soup" while Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine named us one of the "50 Best Restaurants in Minnesota." These were just two of the countless accolades True Thai won because of Anousone's diligence and exceptional commitment to quality.

Anousone overcame many difficulties and challenges in his life. He was strengthened and comforted by his Theravada Buddhist beliefs. I am proud to say he was my friend, and I am terribly saddened by his passing. Anousone Phanthavong, rest in peace.

[see this post for information about the funeral arrangements]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cholesterol on a stick

It happens to all of us, but it still comes as a surprise when we look in the mirror one morning and realize, "hey — I'm getting old!" For me that moment came when I began to write this post about the Minnesota State Fair and suddenly realized that this year will mark my twentieth visit to the Midway.

I know I should have used an exclamation point but believe me, this year I am not that excited. Deep-fried butter on a stick? Lard only knows what's next. The Star Tribune says that the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery is delivering 60 tons of cheese curds to the Fair this year for deep frying. Compared to butter on a stick, are deep-fried cheese curds the new tofu?

Here is a list of this year's new state fair foods on a stick:
  • Chocolate-covered jalapenos
  • The Breakfast Lollipop (sausage dipped in corn muffin batter with a side of maple syrup
  • Northwoods salad (mozzarella, basil and grape tomatoes drizzled with salad dressing)
  • Pizza kabobs
  • Pretzel dogs
  • White Razzie Puppies (white chocolate wrapped in Belgian waffles with caramel bacon topping)
  • Teriyaki chicken

The truth is I was thinking of making up something ridiculous to add to that list, but I could not think of anything more bizarre than what they're already serving. I did try to find a picture of white razzie puppies, but instead of food, Google gave me pictures of little dogs, Sandra Bullock and Salma Hayek. (Sometimes I think Google is weird on purpose.)

As a restauranteur, I feel obliged to try some of these local delicacies, but as public health nurse I think I should picket the Fair and hand out fresh apples and oranges to people as they go in. I do not think I would find many takers. State Fair goers know what they want, and that they want it on a stick. Maybe one of these years we'll get a Glaxo booth where they can sell deep-fried statins on a stick!

Here are some related posts I have written about State Fair food:

In closing, I swiped this chart of some Asian-style food on a stick from "MissionControl":

Yes, I know. These are all way too healthy for the Minnesota State Fair. (sigh)

See you on the Midway!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fake true Thai

I do not get angry very often so before I explain why I'm mad at Trader Joe's "True Thai Tom Yam Soup," I should probably say something about why I named my dining establishment True Thai Restaurant. In Thailand, people say "true Thai" like an American would say "made in America." To be "true Thai," you must be true to everything that is Thailand. That is not an easy thing to do.

What is Thailand? Thailand is the biggest, most fertile agricultural exporter in Asia (not counting India, China or Japan and yes, Burma is bigger but mountains don't count and Indonesia is also bigger but it's broken up into all those islands). There are 64 million Thai. A quarter of the people in Thailand are not entirely Thai. Most of those are ethnically Chinese, a few (like me) ethnically Vietnamese, or Lao or Cambodian, and the rest are members of hill tribes, much like the Hmong before they came to the U.S. But the influence of Thai culture on everyone who lives in Thailand is enormous.

People have lived in Thailand for 40,000 years! Modern day Thailand emerged from the ancient Khmer Kingdom in the 1200s. Thailand is unique among Asian countries in that it was never colonized by the West. Japanese cooking is influenced by the Portuguese. Indian cuisine was subject to British preferences as are some Chinese dishes. Europe changed everything about Asia except Thailand, so when someone says something is true Thai, that means something.

So, about this so-called "True Thai Tom Yam" Trader Joe's is peddling. [I am sitting here tapping my foot as I write this post because I am not amused.] Read the label! True Thai cooking does not include wheat flour as the second most used ingredient! (Water is Trader Joe's primary ingredient.) Thais do not cook with wheat, wheat flour or wheat anything! We are a rice-based culture. We make our bread from rice, our pastry from rice and if it goes into an oven, it probably has rice in it. Thailand grows rice! Thailand does not grow wheat!

I will be fair. The rest of the ingredients (spinach excepted) are very similar to what True Thai Restaurant puts in our Tom Yum soup. Trader Joe is missing some key ingredients and I have my doubts about the quality of some of their spices, but I cannot forgive them for putting wheat in their so-called Tom Yam. Americans with Celiac disease know that Thai restaurants are safe to eat at (watch out for soy sauce but otherwise we're gluten-free). Trader Joe's Tom Yam is not gluten-free, and, frankly, it's not Tom Yum — it's just another rip-off fake Thai food from a German company doing business in the U.S.

True Thai Restaurant works very hard at using only authentic Thai ingredients in our dishes. ข้าวสาลี (wheat) is not an ingredient you see on Thai labels. Wheat is an ingredient you see on Trader Joe labels and I do not think they have any right to call anything they sell true Thai.

OK, I am less mad now but that is partly because I've been listening to music today and it's hard to be mad when you're listening to Sade.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We get referrals

OK, even if dozens of you hadn't stopped by the cash register to tell me who U2 was, I think I would have figured it out. Tonight we're catering another concert because U2 referred them to us! And yes, I have heard of Sade and I have been known to sing along when Smooth Operator comes on the radio.

The show is at the Target Center and John Legend is opening, but I don't think we're feeding him. There may still be tickets available ($50-150 each!).

I can't make the show, but I am definitely going to buy a copy of Sade's The Ultimate Collection!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

We get catering jobs

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of rock music. We had a very busy Saturday afternoon because we got a big, big order to prepare food for some band playing at the University of Minnesota's new football stadium tonight.

Is it weird that I don't know who U2 is? Are they bigger than Celine Dion?

This is probably why no one comes to True Thai for the music but that's OK because no one goes to rock concerts for the food.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hot enough for you?

Wow. The heat index Tuesday afternoon hit 122°F! That's the most Minnesota has felt like Thailand since I moved here.

Anna's tips for hot weather:
  1. Remember to drink lots of fluids
  2. Don't leave the dog or the kids in the car while you're shopping
  3. Get out of the kitchen and go out to eat in air conditioned restaurants
I don't think this qualifies as a Public Service Announcement, but it is my first blog post since July so I think that counts for something. Back in Thailand, we would go to the beach on days like these.

For more exciting pictures of Thai swim suits, see Sean-Inc's Thai Heat Wave post. It's three years old, but the swim suits still look good to me!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Closed for the 4th of July

True Thai will be open July 1, 2, 3 and 5, but we will be closed on July 4th.

Each July 4th True Thai employees get together at an undisclosed location to celebrate having a day off. For most Americans, the 4th of July means parades and parties and fireworks. It is a very American holiday, but even in Thailand you can find 4th of July celebrations like this one in Chiang Mai from two years ago. (click the link for a video)

I like the hat, but I'm not so sure about the pants. Have a happy and safe 4th of July with your friends and families. True Thai will be open on Tuesday, July 5th, as usual.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Construction alert!

Just got this notice from True Thai's neighborhood group

We received word from the City today regarding the mill and overlay of the 25th & 26th Ave S-Curve between Franklin and Riverside.

From Stephanie Malmberg, Project Manger:

"As part of the 35W Bridge Detour Route Rehabilitation Project the City will be paving 25th& 26th between Franklin & Riverside. The work will begin Monday June 27th and should be completed by Thursday June 30th. We will be closing the road to thru traffic for the 3-4 day duration of this work. Local access will be maintained to businesses and residences and emergency vehicles will be able to get through the site. Working hours will be from 7pm to 7am."

For more information:

Sorry, but it looks like you'll have to work a little harder to get to True Thai for a few days. Fortunately, it's worth it!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Have you made your Father's Day reservations yet?

If coming to True Thai Restaurant is part of your Father's Day plan, it never hurts to call in and make a reservation. Father's Day is never quite as busy as Mother's Day, but it's still pretty busy!

I wrote about my Dad two years ago, and how my parents' families immigrated to Thailand from Vietnam a hundred years ago. Not everyone's family story is quite so dramatic (or sometimes even more so), but everyone's stories about their father or mother is special because our parents are special to us.

Have an enjoyable Father's Day with the Dad you love.

Eat Your Vegetables Day

Tomorrow is national Eat Your Vegetables Day. Thai people really like vegetables. I tried to count how many we have on our menu but lost track at 34 (I am sure there are more than that!). We serve leafy vegetables (lettuce, napa, gailan, spinach, cabbage), onions (green, yellow, purple), peppers (bell, Thai, jalapeño), and hard to find items like Thai eggplant, purple yams and Chinese broccoli, as well as almost all the usual "American" vegetables (peas, corn, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, etc.).

You can't make Thai food without Thai spices, but all the spice in the world cannot turn a cauliflower bud into a Thai eggplant, or a jalapeño pepper into a Thai prikki-nu hot pepper. Vegetables are very important to Thai cuisine, and it's very hard to order food from True Thai without finding vegetables on your plate.

Children love our vegetables, but we have had a few adults who insisted on their right not to eat any. For them we have appetizers and desserts, but that is no way to go through life. Everybody needs vegetables in their diet, and if you don't like vegetables, you're either eating the wrong ones, or you're eating poorly prepared vegetables. (Hint: the right seasonings help a lot!)

True Thai fans love vegetables. This year, why not drag a vegetable-hating friend to True Thai to find out just how good vegetables can be. They taste good, they're good for you, and veggie dishes are cheaper than dishes with meat or seafood.

Friday, June 3, 2011

True Patio!

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, Minnesotans are wearing shorts and it's time for True Thai's patio dining season to begin!

An old picture, but we're getting to be an old restaurant!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Closed Memorial Day

In my lifetime, Thailand has not known war firsthand. Border skirmishes and internal conflicts, yes. And Japan did invade us during WWII, but only for about eight hours and then we established an armistice. Modern Thailand is not a warlike country, but we certainly know war.

During each war in Asia, Thailand becomes home to countless refugee camps. What I know of war, I learned from others who had fled from war. When I was young and our family would take food baskets to nearby refugee camps, it was heartbreaking to see the smiles of refugees because you could tell it had been a long time since they had any reason to smile.

This picture is of the Umpiem Mai refugee camp in northern Thailand. Over 150,000 people live there, mostly Burmese refugees who have fled the military junta in Burma.

There is nothing good to say about war, and each war creates a flood of victims. Memorial Day is the day we set aside to think about war and those who didn't come back.

True Thai Restaurant will be closed Monday, May 30, in recognition of Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thai grrr!

I was happy to learn that there may be more tigers in Thailand than was previously thought. I like tigers, maybe because unlike crocodiles, I have never met a tiger except in a zoo.

In Asia, the tiger is the King of Beasts! In fact, the tiger really is the King of Beasts, having been voted the "world's favourite animal" in a poll conducted by Animal Planet. (Dogs finished second.)

Three species of tiger have become extinct, but six species still remain. The tigers in Thailand are Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti), but no matter which species you pick, there is no such thing as a small adult tiger. Male adults of each species grow to eleven feet in length and weigh about 650 lbs.

The Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua Temple in western Thailand is known as the Tiger Temple. There are 34 tigers living with the monks there. I think those are very brave monks! Sadly, that's ten percent of the tigers still known to live in Thailand. You can see a video of those tigers at YouTube.

Now that I live in the United States, I am much more pro-tiger than I used to be. My sister Mem, who still lives in Thailand, is not as big a fan.


I think this is the first time I've ever updated a post, but I just learned there is some good news from Thailand for tigers: Sudjai Chanthawong, the head of Thailand's biggest tiger trafficking ring, has been arrested!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Have you made your reservations yet?

Every time we celebrate a holiday, I find myself thinking about the next holiday. After Easter, the next holiday is Mother's Day on Sunday, May 8.

But not in Thailand. In Thailand we celebrate Mother's Day on the Queen's birthday, which is August 12. May 8th is Don Rickles' birthday, but I do not think that is why they picked the second Sunday in May to be Mother's Day in America.

Have you made your reservations yet? There are only two days in the year when I know in advance that True Thai will be packed with customers: Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.

Father's Day? We do OK, but our customers seem to like their moms better than their dads. If you like your mom and want to take her to True Thai on Mother's Day, make your reservation now!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Closed Easter

Just a reminder that True Thai Restaurant will be closed Easter Sunday so our employees can spend time with their families. We will be open during regular hours on Saturday and Monday.

Please accept our wishes for a happy holiday weekend.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happy Songkran!

Sorry not to have been posting more often, but a friend just sent me a link to someone else's pictures of the Songkran festivities in Thailand.

I promise to post more often in the future, but in the meantime enjoy Regina's pictures.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thailand's Got Talent!

Forget Susan Boyle — the new talent discovery for 2011 is fifteen-year-old First!

First is one of many, many very talented Thais. Here's another video that's much more Thai and much less American.

Yes, Bell Nantita is a transgender Thai, in case you were wondering about the sudden voice change. In Thailand, anyone can be Michael Jackson or Celine Dion or both!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Your vote is very important!

It's that time of year again! City Pages is accepting ballots for their annual Readers' Poll. I'm not saying who I voted for, but I used a lot of T's when I filled out my ballot.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nutritionists owe the coconut an apology!

When I came to this country, I was very skinny and very healthy. I was shocked when I learned in college nutrition classes that coconut oil wasn't good for me. When I was growing up nearly everything I ate was cooked with coconut oil!

[W]hile it is still uncertain whether coconut oil is actively beneficial the way olive oil is, small amounts probably are not harmful. The new federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that no more than 10 percent of total dietary calories a day come from saturated fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s about 20 grams.
I could have told them that. As a public health nurse, I should probably defend nutritionists. I should, but I cannot. Since I started working out regularly, I've learned more about nutrition from fitness trainers than I ever did in a college classroom.

What have I learned? I've learned that in most countries, the traditional dietary practices are almost always healthy and good for you. I've learned that the less time food spends being processed, the better it is for you. And I've learned not to eat anything with a lot fine print on the label.

Good food is made fresh, from fresh ingredients. You may have tried to stock up on True Thai takeout. If so, you've learned that Thai food is not meant to be kept in a refrigerator. Once prepared, it should be eaten, not stored.

I do not wish to be rude, but in my humble opinion, people who invented lard should not criticize other people's cooking oils.

Of course, it is easy to talk about fresh food when you are from a country where it never snows. Preservatives made life in the frozen north (and south) possible. But if you have a choice, always eat fresh foods because given a choice, wouldn't you rather live longer and be healthier?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Plastic food

A friend just sent me a link to one of the saddest stories I've ever read. In China, criminals are selling fake rice to poor people! Fake rice?

The "rice" is made by mixing potatoes, sweet potatoes and plastic. The potatoes are first formed into the shape of rice grains. Industrial synthetic resins are then added to the mix. The rice reportedly stays hard even after being cooked....

"A Chinese Restaurant Association official said that eating three bowls of this fake rice would be like eating one plastic bag.

I have never eaten a plastic bag but I cannot imagine that they are very tasty, even when cooked with MSG.

The really terrible thing about this story is that rice is already very cheap. Yes, yes — I know that prices went up last year and that rice hoarders almost created a shortage and that prices are still at historically "high" levels —but even at grocery store prices a cup of uncooked rice still costs less than 25¢.

That's why True Thai did not raise our menu prices when the price of rice went up. We go through at least one fifty-pound bag of rice every day, but when the wholesale price of rice skyrocketed, that still cost us less than $10 a day. Still, much smaller restaurants who go through much less rice used that as an excuse to raise their menu prices. I will not share with you what I think these restaurant owners have in common with people who sell fake rice, but maybe you can guess.

I am less reluctant to share with you a link to Jeremy Iggers' review of Tracy's Saloon, an outstanding casual dining establishment just a few blocks west of True Thai Restaurant. The next time you stop by on a Friday or Saturday night and there is a line of people waiting to get into True Thai, remember that Tracy's is just a few blocks down the street and they are Jeremy Iggers approved!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Food and I.Q.

A new study finds that children who eat diets high in processed food (junk food) have lower I.Q.s. I am not surprised.

My family always believed there was a connection between intelligence and the food you eat. I have written about My Mother's Salmon before, so maybe you already know that when I was little, my Mom fed me salmon for breakfast on days when I had to take a test.

Very few ingredients used at True Thai are processed. I have not done a formal study, but I have noticed that the children who come here to eat on a regular basis seem to be very bright kids. I also think our adult customers are smarter than average, but maybe I am wrong about that.

In years past, True Thai has always had a good crowd on Super Bowl Sundays. I attributed this to our not having any TVs at the restaurant. I cannot say that any more. Last Sunday night it seemed as if there was one person at every table who was watching the game on their phone. I do not think there is enough salmon in the world to help these people.

Please do not think that I dislike all sports. If a Muay Thai boxing tournament is ever held in the Twin Cities, you will not find me at the restaurant watching on my phone. I will be sitting in the front row cheering.

And maybe eating some salmon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eating your way through the menu

A friend sent me a link to an incredible story about JoAnn Stougaard, a blogger who is eating her way through the menu at a Thai restaurant in Los Angeles.
Today, Stougaard will eat her 148th, 149th and 150th dishes from among the restaurant's about 300 mostly southern Thai specialties — the halfway point toward her goal of working her way through the entire menu, curry by curry, pad see ew by pad Thai, miang khun shrimp by yala tiger prawn.

"I'm tying my hair back to get ready," she says, getting down to business. She pulls out her trusty Leica D-Lux 4 camera, which she has used to document via Flickr every Jitlada dish she has eaten, and takes a photo of the plate in front of her — deep-fried soft-shell crab in a dry curry with pumpkin. "OK, let's eat."

Stougaard, an infectiously perky 46-year-old with a white-bright smile, doesn't have to ask before a server brings to the table her preferred beverage — Singha beer. When she wants an extra glass of water, she dashes to the waiters' station and pours it herself. And when customers walk in but the harried staff is too busy to notice, Stougaard will get up, seat them at a table and start recommending dishes.
Wow, I wish True Thai had more customers like Stougaard, although I'm not sure I like the idea of customers bussing their own tables and seating other customers!

I was also impressed that the Jitlada Restaurant has 300 items on their menu, so I tried to find an online copy of it. Their website was not helpful (score 1 for True Thai!), and's Jitlada menu only showed less than 120 dishes. True Thai's menu has 80 items on it, so 120 did not sound like too many to me.

That got me to thinking, maybe they count Chicken Satay as one dish, and Pork Satay as another? If you approach True Thai's menu that way, we have 300 dishes you can order!

But my friend did some more online detective work and found Jitlada's actual online menu. It is a very big menu and they serve some Thai dishes I have never eaten except in Thailand. True, Los Angeles is much closer to Thailand than Minneapolis is, and I'm sure it helps that there are more Thai in L.A. than the rest of the U.S. put together. It also helps that it's warm in southern California. Their farmers can grow things Minnesotans can only grow in heated greenhouses.

How many different True Thai menu items have you ordered? And no, we do not serve kaeng phuung plaa kun sap (fish kidney curry), but if you ask nicely, we will make some special just for you.