Monday, December 31, 2012

Open New Year's Eve!

True Thai Restaurant is open tonight, New Year's Eve, but will be closed tomorrow, New Year's Day. We will be open again at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, January 2, 2013.

Have a safe and fun New Year's!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ped's 40th birthday

Ped's parents are in Laos this Christmas visiting the village of Ped's birth, so we did not have a gathering at True Thai this year.

Christmas day would have been Ped's 40th birthday, and I thought about him a lot. I know Ped's mother was thinking of him, and how she gave birth to him as bombs were being dropped on their village, and how she carried him across the Mekong River when he was only a few days old.

People still stop every night to look at Ped's shrine and to read about him. I still celebrate his life and mourn his passing.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas orchids from Amy Senser

Closed for the Holidays!

True Thai Restaurant will be closed all day Monday, Christmas Eve, December 24th, and Tuesday, Christmas Day, December 25th, so our employees can be with their families.

We will reopen at 11 a.m., Wednesday morning, December 26th.

True Thai Restaurant will be open December 31st, New Year's Eve, and closed January 1st,  New Year's Day.

Please accept our wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Delivery charges

Deliveries have been going very well. So well that we were surprised to find out that even with a $25 minimum order we weren't making enough money to cover vehicle expenses.

Effective immediately, there will be a $3 charge per delivery on all delivery orders. And, as always, the drivers appreciate your gratuities.

Thank you for ordering True Thai!

Friday, November 16, 2012

'Tis the season

I gave Korey a lot of power when I let him reorganize True Thai, and then I took a week off. So I was a little surprised that when I stopped in today it was already Christmas at True Thai.

You may think that Thai people do not celebrate Christmas, but you did not grow up just a couple of blocks from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (อาสนวิหารพระนางมารีอาปฏิสนธินิรมล), the largest church in Thailand. Originally the site of a chapel built in 1711, it has been rebuilt and expanded many times.

Thailand is very Buddhist, but Buddhists are very tolerant of other faiths and I was never ever discriminated against because I was Catholic. Of course I lived in a Catholic neighborhood and went to a Catholic school, so I spent most of my time with other Catholics. But our neighborhood was not a ghetto because there are no laws about where Thai Catholics can live or work.

So yes, some people will try to say Christmas is not a Thai holiday, and is not True Thai. The people who live in the Archdiocese of Chanthaburi would disagree with you. Respecting the beliefs of others is very, very True Thai.

Another reason why True Thai likes Christmas? Ped would have been 40 years old this Christmas. For me, Christmas is now about remembering the past and old friends. At True Thai, we like Christmas a lot.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thinking about your health?

Since I am a public health nurse, I think about health a lot. I exercise, I watch what I eat and I pay attention to what my doctors tell me. But I also know that even all this isn't always enough. It seems like every day we learn something new about our bodies, something that sometimes changes everything.

A new study from the University of Texas Health Science Center reveals shocking new findings about diet colas. They may be bad for your kidneys, they can mess up your metabolism and — you are not going to believe this — diet sodas can make you obese!
The more diet sodas a person drank, the greater their risk of becoming overweight. Downing just two or more cans a day increased waistlines by 500%. Why? Artificial sweeteners can disrupt the body's natural ability to regulate calorie intake based on the sweetness of foods, suggested an animal study from Purdue University. That means people who consume diet foods might be more likely to overeat, because your body is being tricked into thinking it's eating sugar, and you crave more.
Wow. Even more wow, if you mix diet soda with alcohol you will get "drunker, faster." Diet soda can rot your teeth and can impact your reproductive system. Read the article because it is kind of scary.

I cannot believe I'm saying this, but sugar would be better for you. True Thai sells both regular and diet pop but I am telling you the truth when I say you should drink more water. We stopped automatically bringing water to customers' tables (we ask if you want water) because it's not good to waste water, but water you drink is not wasted. The water you drink is good for you. The other beverages True Thai serves? They are not as good for you.

Yes, I am a lousy business woman. I would rather give you free water than sell you beverages loaded with sugars and chemicals. But I am also a lousy public health nurse and will sell you all the sugar and chemicals you want if that's what you like.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What True Thai has in common with you

Like just about everyone else, True Thai is short on cash. This may surprise you. "Anna, how can you be short on cash when True Thai is always busy?!" That question is actually very easy to answer.

Like most people in this country, True Thai lives on a budget. So long as we stick to our budget, we do OK. We were doing OK right up until January of this year. That is when a clause in our lease with Seward Redesign that we had not noticed kicked in and suddenly our rent doubled to almost $16,000 a month. Divided by 189 (our seating capacity), that's $84 a month per chair.

I guess that does not sound like much if you're a landlord, but that is a lot of rent to pay. So much so we were having trouble paying it. By summer, Seward Redesign had a choice: evict us, or lower the rent. They chose to lower the rent a little, but we are still paying a lot of rent and that's why we're tightening our belts and trying to be more efficient. We even had to raise our prices, but that didn't really cover much more than the increase in food costs we've experienced.

So if you were wondering why Anna couldn't buy a food truck without a payment arrangement, now you know. Maybe I am sharing too much, but I think regular customers like to know what is going on with their favorite restaurant.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The food truck that didn't quite happen (yet)

I decided to get a food truck this summer. We found a used one I really liked. Good equipment and even a TV built into the side so you could change the menu from day to day.

Because True Thai is so close to St. Paul, I wanted to be able to use the truck in both cities. That may have been a mistake.

If you want your food truck to operate in Minneapolis, you must fill out the Minneapolis food truck permit papers, complete with drawings of the inside of the truck and a diagram of where you will park it off the street when not in use. As well as all your business information. And then you do the St. Paul applications which are almost entirely different.

It took a while but we got all our application information in order and started working on getting the graphics for the truck. Getting big decals with your restaurant name on them is not as easy as you might think, and that took a while longer. The summer was quickly disappearing but we kept moving forward and finally, in early September, we were ready to make an offer. And we learned that the original price was still what they wanted, but that we would have to pay for the truck with one check and not payments as we had discussed. I was very disappointed but cash is tight and that was that.

Next year we will have a food truck but for right now we will have to wait. Why? That is a story for Sunday's post when you may be surprised to find out where True Thai's money goes.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

More about those changes

Yesterday I told you how much more quickly our kitchen gets food to you, the customer. Today I want to tell you what we are doing with our extra time.

First and most important, True Thai now delivers! If you read my blog you already knew that, but if you are new to Anna's True Thai News, we have been delivering to local hospitals and colleges. We will also deliver to your home if you order at least $25 worth of food.

Now let me tell you the catch: You have to live within 5-6 miles of True Thai. Sorry, no deliveries to Wayzata or Woodbury!

Deliveries have been going very well, and even though we haven't done much to publicize our deliveries, we keep getting more calls. And I suspect that after I publish this post, we'll get still more calls and that is a good thing.

Now you may be thinking, Anna Anna! Why don't you get a food truck?! That is a story for another day. Tomorrow, as a matter of fact.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Our new kitchen manager

One of Korey's most important recommendations was that we get a new kitchen manager. Ever since Ped died, different employees have tried to fill the gap but Korey saw that it was not working well. Too much inefficiency, too much running to the grocery store for produce we should never run out of.

Jason Dorweiler is our new kitchen manager. Formerly with Big Bowl, Jason and Korey have already transformed our kitchen. I think you know that when you have all your ingredients ready to go, Thai food is very quick to prepare. Nothing cooks better than a hot wok if you know what you are doing. But you need prep people and alert wait staff so that food gets to the table as quickly as it leaves the wok.

It's hard for customers to see this difference, but you will notice it. Takeout orders now take fifteen minutes or less from the time you call in until your food is out front waiting for you (OK, if we're really busy maybe 20 minutes but we're working on that). Even I could not believe it. Jason keeps things running smoothly and Korey has found new staff who take their jobs very, very seriously. True Thai is not fast food, but we now serve quality food quickly.

Tomorrow I will tell you more about what we are doing with all that time we are saving.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fish sauce revisited

Thank you to my friend who showed me this link about how ketchup is a variation on fish sauce!
Ketchup actually started out as a fish sauce and somehow evolved into the much more widely-consumed condiment we know today. Early recipes of ketchup contained sodium benzoate -- which was banned in the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. That ban led to other formulations which contained vinegar as a preservative and used ripe tomatoes.
Between this and the true history of Worcestershire sauce, I am feeling very culturally superior today, culinarily speaking!

Ketchup Fish!
[picture credit]

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Happy Labor Day Weekend

Just a quick reminder that True Thai is open Saturday and Sunday this weekend, but closed on Monday, Labor Day, so our employees can spend the day with their family. I suspect many of them will be going to the State Fair.

Please enjoy a happy and safe weekend with your friends and loved ones.

Friday, August 24, 2012

At last night's memorial service

Thank you to the five police officers from the 3rd Precinct and to 60 of Ped's friends and family who attended last night's celebration Ped's life on the I-94 and Riverside off ramp. Channel 5 has a video of us at the restaurant.

The walk was calming because we could feel Ped's presence, but we could not stop our tears when we got to the site of where Ped died. Here are some pictures from last night that tell the story better than I can.

Ped's mother and father

close up of flowers
more flowers
11:08 pm

Thursday, August 23, 2012

11:08 pm, August 23, 2011

I have not been to the I-94 Riverside Avenue off ramp since August 24 of last year. I went to it eight times that day, but have not been back since. I do not take that exit, and if I drive by I look away as I go by. For me, it is a place of sadness and death.

Tonight is the first anniversary of Ped's death and I will visit the exit ramp tonight at 11:08 to pay my respects.

Each day at the restaurant I am reminded of Ped's life and how he lived. I haven't slept for three days now thinking about going back tonight to where he died.

Ped, I still miss you every day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Deborah Russell, the hard working prosecutor who put Amy Senser in prison, is running for District Court Judge. Her campaign Facebook page is here, and her campaign website is here.

I am not a resident of Minneapolis, but I strongly support Deborah and encourage True Thai's Minneapolis customers to consider voting for her in today's primary election.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Aung Thu Bo, Rest in Peace

Another tragedy in the extended True Thai family as our long-time cook Saw's 19-year-old brother, Aung Thu Bo, was senselessly murdered last Friday. Mara Gottfried has the story at the Pioneer Press.

Aung was a computer engineering student and worked part-time at Lyngblomsten Care Center in St. Paul and in the Hamline University computer lab. Like Ped, Aung gave his paychecks to his family.

The Bo family are Burmese refugees, all of whom lived for a while in a refugee camp in Thailand before coming the United States.

Our deepest condolences to the Bo family and all of Aung's friends.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

True Thai's connection to Olympic Gold!

No, True Thai does not have any connection to Team USA's Olympic basketball team. But my weightlifting trainer Katie knows Gyorgy Szalai, and he trained Behdad Salimikordasiabi, the 370-pound Iranian weightlifter who won the Gold medal in the men's 105+ kg. class.

Behdad lifted 455 kg. or 2.7 times his own weight. Try multiplying your weight by 2.7. Do you think you could lift that much weight? I would have to lift 260 lbs. to match what Behdad did. I do not think I will ever lift 260 lbs., but if I do, I will be sure to let you know.

How likely is it that I will ever be able to lift 260 lbs.? The smallest women's weight class is 48 kg. (105 lbs.).  This year the Gold medal winner, Wang Mingjuan of China, lifted 205 kg. (451 lbs.). That's 4.3 times her own weight! I think that is very impressive for someone my height. I do not think I will try to beat her record.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


For a little while now we have been doing deliveries in the Seward neighborhood. We did not know if deliveries would be popular (they are!).

The minimum order is $25 but we'll bring it straight to your doorstep for lunch, dinner or any time we're open. This is proving to be very popular with some customers and our staff, all of whom want to make the deliveries — but we'll see how enthusiastic they are when winter comes!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


True Thai turns ten this fall, but we're just newcomers to the Seward neighborhood. This Saturday the Seward Co-op will celebrate its 40th anniversary! Wow, that's a lot of organic fruit and vegetables.

Lots of fun this Saturday from Fiddles on Fire to The Bunny Clogs as well as The Brass Messengers,  with Malamanya and Willie Murphy thrown in for good measure. There may even be a few hippies there if you have small children who'd like to see one close up!

As well as food, arts, radio stations, bicycles and all the other usual Seward stuff.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Do this in remembrance of me

In the days before the sentencing hearing, I heard that Amy Senser had tattooed Anousone's name on her wrist. The rumor was true. You could only see a little bit of it during the hearing, but afterwards her attorney, Eric Nelson, acknowledged that she had gotten the tattoo to help her remember Anousone always. I do not think Mrs. Senser realizes how appropriate that was.

In Thai, Anousone means remembrance or souvenir. It means the same in Lao, but for Lao people there is a very heavy spiritual significance attached to the word anousone. Not souvenir like a postcard, but souvenir like when a veteran points to a scar and calls it his souvenir from the war. The picture of Marines at Iwo Jima would be an example of something Lao people would call anousone.

Anousone is not a traditional Lao name. It was popular during the war years, however, because there was so much to remember. So many lives were lost, so many families lost fathers, sons and brothers that it seemed natural to many to name their baby Anousone, or remembrance.

I should also probably mention that Anousone liked his name so much that he had the letter A tattooed on his left forearm.


I wrote that a while ago, but did not post it because it was clear that most of you felt that the sentencing put closure on this case. But for those of you who are law or law enforcement students, I wanted to share with you this posting for a free training that you can earn POST or CLE credits for.
Free training August 2nd: Navigating Through the Challenges of CVH/CVO Cases
MAC and MADD are hosting a free training on August 2, 2012 from 12:30-4:00 (registration begins at 12:00) in St. Paul at the Hiway Federal Credit
Union – Administration Building, 840 Westminster Street.  
The speakers include Deborah Russell, the Assistant Hennepin County Attorney who prosecuted Amy Senser; Sgt. Dan Beasley, Minnesota State Patrol; and Kelly Nicholson, Victim Witness Supervisor, Dakota County Attorney’s Office.  POST and CLE
credits have been applied for.  Please register by July 30th at:

I do not think you have to be a law or law enforcement student to attend.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympics time

This is me with my new workout buddy, Katie. She is the most physically fit woman I have ever met. That is not surprising because her father was Peter Baczako, an Olympic weight lifter from Hungary.

Most men I know would love to have six-pack abs. Katie has a twelve-pack! She and her family have eaten many times at True Thai now, and each time they stop in heads turn as she walks by.

Most years when the Olympics are on TV,  I just watch the gymnastics, but this year I'm going to watch as much of the weightlifting competition as possible. Yes, Anna has been lifting weights!

I work out with Katie's father in law, Csaba, too. That's him in the picture below. He is not in quite as good a shape as Katie, but he's pretty strong.

If you work out and are on a special diet, I can show you which True Thai appetizers and entrees are high in protein and low in carbs. But since I'm only at the restaurant at night, feel free to email me and I'll get back to you with some recommendations. It's probably best to email me before you go to the restaurant as I don't check my email as often as I should.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Best Thai, part XXXI

Thank you to all of you who voted in Vitamn's The List of Lists 2012. Thanks to you, True Thai Restaurant was named The Best Thai Restaurant in the Twin Cities!

Our tenth anniversary is coming up this fall, and we've won almost three awards a year since starting up in November of 2002. Since then, True Thai has grown our menu, expanded our restaurant, and increased the love Minnesotans have to for Thai food.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fruit for thought

Because David Hanners mentioned it, here is a picture of the basket of fruit that Amy Senser dropped off at the restaurant on Fathers Day night.

The angle doesn't really show you how large the basket was, but yes, that is a big pineapple buried in there.

Anousone loved to buy exotic fruit for his parents. He would bring it to them two, three times a week when he could find rambutan, longan, pomegranates or other fruit that would remind them of Laos. And he knew that half the fruit he brought them would be donated to the Wat Lao Buddhist temple in Farmington.

Keo Phanthavong, Anousone's mother, told me that the last fruit Anousone brought to her is still in her refrigerator freezer. After the sentencing, we all went to the cemetery to spend time with Anousone. Keo told me that on other trips she had seen a young Lao woman eating a mango with her mother, who is buried near Anousone's grave. We ate some fruit, and thought about Anousone.

Anousone's brother, Kono, now buys fruit for his parents. They still take half the fruit to the temple. It is good family tradition.

I have my own new tradition. Amy Senser's fruit basket did not make me want to forgive her, but I know that Anousone has forgiven her, God has forgiven her, and the Phanthavong family is grateful for Mrs. Senser's apology. So each night at 11:08 I stop what I am doing and I ask Anousone to help me pray for Amy Senser. I am not as forgiving as Ped was, and he gives me the strength to keep my promise to pray for Amy and her daughters. (I don't pray for Joe. He needs to apologize before I can pray for him.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My last day at the trial

After the trial was over in May, I was asked to write a victim's statement to be read in court before Mrs. Senser was sentenced. Sunday I was told that my statement could not be read on Monday because I am not a relative of Ped's. Last night I prayed to Ped to let the judge read my letter and this morning he allowed the letter to be read last.

Cindi Phanthavong read the letter and broke down crying. When Cindi read, "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal" Amy Senser began to cry. I looked around and even the reporters were crying. I could not believe how loud the crying in the courtroom was. 

Courtroom sketch shown by KSTP-TV
This is the statement I prepared for Judge Mabley to read to Amy Senser.

Dear Judge Mabley:

Before this trial began, I had never heard of Amy World. But I was very familiar with Anousone’s World, and the ways in which Anousone Phanthavong made my world a better place. Over the course of his nine years working with me, Anousone became my best friend, my right hand man, my rock. I miss him every day. We did not call it Anousone World, but the world was a very different place with Anousone in it. His love of others, his desire to serve others — this was the heart of Anousone’s world. Each day he challenged all of us to be better people.

Anousone cared only for others, not for himself. He was trusting and he was kind. He had the best heart. 
Amy Senser killed Anousone Phanthavong, but she did not take him from us.  His soul is with us.  In death, Anousone brought his friends and family together, even as Mrs. Senser’s crime tore her family apart. She lost this case, but the Phanthavongs did not win because Anousone is still dead. Mrs. Senser will eventually return home to her family, but Anousone will never return to us again.
I was raised to value and respect the lessons religions teach us. My cousin Peter is now a Roman Catholic Bishop. My  older sister Emile became a Mother Superior. I know that a good Catholic would forgive Mrs. Senser unconditionally and move on, but I am a Catholic who grew up surrounded by Theravada Buddhists. There are many Theravada Buddhists working at our restaurant. Anousone was one of them. Anousone and I had many, many conversations about all manner of things, and through him I acquired a deep appreciation of the Lord Buddha’s teachings on which Anousone relied in his daily life for guidance and support. Anousone believed in forgiveness, and I know that Anousone would want me to forgive Mrs. Senser.
Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.  I believe this statement to be true because each time I sat down to write this letter, I got very angry and wrote very angry words.  But each of those letters ended up in the wastebasket because Anousone would not want me to spend the rest of my life picking up hot coals. 
Anousone was a devout Buddhist who believed in forgiveness, but Buddhist forgiveness requires the cooperation of the person to be forgiven. Before a Buddhist can forgive someone who has wronged them, that person must acknowledge their wrong actions.  That person does not have to ask for forgiveness in order to receive it, but they must show that they are aware of their wrong behavior.  Buddhists do not believe it is helpful to forgive someone who refuses to acknowledge that they have done wrong. 
Mrs. Senser hit and killed Anousone Phanthavong with her car exactly 320 days ago. She has not once acknowledged Anousone died as the direct result of her actions. Instead Mrs. Senser dragged a grieving family through a year of lawyer games. Her attorney shared Anousone’s arrest record with the world, punishing the victim for allowing her to hit and kill him with her car. Mrs. Senser’s husband said he stood guard over their daughter’s home to protect her from the Phanthavongs. Well Mr. and Mrs. Senser have now seen all of the Phanthavongs in court. I wonder which of them frightened them most? Mrs. Senser’s husband is bigger than any two Phanthavongs put together.
I say to you Mrs. Senser that you killed Anousone Phanthavong. And your attorney smeared Anousone Phanthavong.
Yet, Mrs. Senser, you have not said anything to indicate that you accept responsibility for your actions, and have not in any way communicated to the Phanthavong family your remorse for your part in this tragedy. Every word the Phanthavongs and I have heard from you has been well-scripted, written by attorneys and rehearsed over and over again before being recited by you in this court.
When Anousone was alive, he was very protective of me and now I feel a duty to be protective of him. Mrs. Senser has done her worst, now let us see if she can do her best.
I do not want to hear any more of Mrs. Senser’s attorneys’ words. The family does not want to hear any more of her attorneys’ words. We are waiting to hear her words from her mouth telling us that she knows what she did. She does not have to ask us for forgiveness, we only ask that she acknowledge that actions taken by her were the direct cause of a man’s death. We do not believe that Mrs. Senser killed Anousone Phanthavong on purpose, but a jury has ruled that her actions — however unintentional — were the direct cause of his death. Can she now look us in the eye and admit to having done what she did? Will she admit that on the night of August 23, 2011, she struck and killed Anousone Phanthavong with her car? Or will she force the family and me to carry the burden of this wrongful death with us always?
On behalf of myself and Anousone’s family, we ask Mrs. Senser to let us forgive her.
It is within her power and hers alone to let us forgive her. Forgive her so that we can get on with our lives, remembering Anousone Phanthavong the man instead of lamenting Anousone Phanthavong the victim. Admit to us and this court what she has done and, in so doing, Mrs. Senser will not just free us from our grief, she will free herself and her own family from the terrible burden she carries.
Judge Mabley, please ask Mrs. Senser to do this for us, and I will pray to God for her and her family every night that she is away from them.

Anna P. Fieser
Friend of Anousone Phanthavong

As you probably know by now, Mrs. Senser was sentenced to 41 months in prison.

Just before the court session began, Mrs. Senser went up to Anousone's mother to apologize. I was out of the courtroom and did not see this, but when I came back Amy Senser was waiting for me outside of the courtroom and apologized to me as well, crying as she did so. I was shocked and walked away, then saw Anousone's mom crying.

We all entered the courtroom together and Gail Rosenblum wrote that we looked like we were there for a funeral. No one was there to celebrate. No one felt like a winner.

Justice has been done, but for the sake of her own family I pray that Amy Senser will decide later to come clean and explain what really happened that night. She is going to do the time, she might as well tell everyone why.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Star Tribune on Ped

Gail Rosenblum has written a very powerful article about Ped.

Gail came to the restaurant and interviewed his parents. I was the interpreter and it was a very emotional interview.

Also, for the first time, the Star Tribune is allowing comments on a story about Ped. Already the comments are angry, but Ped was not an angry person. If you knew him, please leave a comment about his kind heart and generous spirit.


I guess the comments were too much for the Star Tribune and they took them down. But it is still a good story that I think you will enjoy reading.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Who's that little girl?

No, this is not little Anna celebrating the 4th of July. At that age I do not think I knew there was such a thing as the 4th of July.

But so many of you have asked about the picture on our "Closed for the 4th of July" sign, I thought I'd give you a link to Dr. Kathleen McCoy's blog where I found this picture of Maggie (scroll down a ways). 

And yes, we are closed today because, in case you have not noticed, it is the 4th of July! The 4th of July is a very important holiday because it means Anna gets to stay home and catch up on some movies. 

Enjoy the holiday, drive safely, and be sure to wear plenty of sun screen!

Friday, June 22, 2012

List lust

The Star Tribune's is preparing their annual List of Lists issue, and readers get to vote for their favorite places. I think maybe you are beginning to guess where you come in. readers have been voting all along, but not many have been voting for Best Thai Restaurant.

See what I mean? And if you vote, you could win two tickets to Lollapalooza in Chicago, but don't worry — they can't make you go. And you have the option of picking a $750 gift card from a bike shop instead.

Each time you vote, you get entered in their contest. They have many, many lists to vote for from Where To Find Soup (I know! I know!) to Kitschiest Bars. (Kitschiest?) You can skip the categories for burgers, bakery, Best Irish Pub or Best Italian because I do not think we can win in those categories. Yes, they are rigged to discriminate against Thai food!

Also, while I suspect True Thai may be kitschy, we are not a bar so I do not think we can win in that category. Classical music lovers will be disappointed to learn that there is no Franz Liszt list, but there is a list for Best Local Blogs (hint, hint). There are many, many categories you can vote for, but it is difficult even for me to come up with good reasons why True Thai should be the Most Entertaining Metro Transit Bus Route, or your Favorite Yoga Center. And despite my having blogged about Muay Thai Boxing, Best Sports Blog might be a stretch, although I am partial to Canis Hoopus (they linked to us once).

You be the judge. True Thai is clearly the best, but the best what?

Friday, June 15, 2012

A fighter and believer

Our very best wishes to Amir Taylor for a speedy and complete recovery.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Have you made your reservations yet?

This Sunday is Father's Day! The Twins are at home playing Milwaukee at 1 pm, and Oklahoma City travels to Miami to play at 7 pm on ABC. The sports-minded among you may wish to consider take out, but for the rest of you True Thai will be fully staffed and ready to serve you your favorite Thai dishes on Dad's Day.

Call 612 375-9942 to make your reservations now!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Deborah Russell for District Court Judge!

If you know me, you know that I am not political. I do not even get into the politics of food and you all know how passionate I am about eating! But after spending a week and a half in court watching Deborah Russell prosecute Amy Senser, I am very impressed by her competence and thoroughness and was happy to learn that Deborah Russell is running for District Judge in Hennepin County.

I cannot vote for Deborah because I live in Ramsey County, but I will support her and I will ask my friends in Hennepin County to vote for her.

Each day of the trial we would "adjourn" to an empty conference room to eat the lunch sent over by True Thai, and most days Deborah would join us. In fact, one day County Attorney Mike Freeman ate with us.  In my personal opinion, you cannot have too many judges who like Thai food!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tea vs diabetes

As a public health nurse, I know there are many good reasons to drink tea instead of coffee, but I did not know that tea drinkers are less prone to diabetes!

Not just a little tea, though. You need to drink four cups a day or more, at least according to a new German study
'Tea consumption may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by influencing glucose digestion, glucose uptake, and by protecting beta-cells from free-radical damage. This beneficial effect may be due to the polyphenols present in tea.’
More research is needed, and it is important to distinguish between causation and correlation. The fact that heavy tea drinkers develop diabetes less often may not be due to the tea drinking. It could be that crumpets, a British tea time snack, is a great undiscovered cure for diabetes!

Or it could simply be that heavy tea drinkers don't consume as much sugar as folks who drink soda pop or sugary lattés.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

News flash: the owner of True Thai is Thai!

New article from David Hanners on the aftermath of the Senser case. David has emailed me to say that there will be a correction in tomorrow's paper as the print article wrongly states that I immigrated to the United States from Laos. Not true! I was born in Chanthaburi, Thailand.

The online version of the story has been fixed and the correction will run tomorrow in the print edition.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Closed Memorial Day

True Thai will be open during our regular hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, but will be closed all day Monday, May 28, in observance of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a very special holiday at True Thai. Chuck, True Thai's co-owner, served in uniform in Vietnam, a war that impacted the families of our employees from Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. If it were not for the Vietnam War, there would be almost no Southeast Asians in the United States today.

War changes everything.

Please drive safely this weekend and enjoy this time off with your family and friends. And, if you lost a member of your family or a friend to war, remember them and honor their sacrifice.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pizza, Asian style

Weird Asia News reports on pizza toppings in Asia.
Have you ever bitten into a pizza made not of bread but cookie dough? Step right in to Mr. Pizza and order the Grand Prix. Its toppings include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and raisins.

Of course, they also throw shrimp and potato on top, and serve it with a blueberry dipping sauce! 
Shrimp injected with mayonnaise is a popular topping in Japan, and Koreans like Swiss cheese on their pizzas. I think the Japanese restaurant, Strawberry Cones, has completely reinvented pizza:
And for your choice of toppings, you have a choice between the following:

1. 7-Veggie Variety: asparagus, corn, paprika, parsley, eggplant, zucchini, onions, and pizza sauce 
2. Milakoreno: hamburger, bologna sausage, fresh tomatoes, broccoli, onions, mayo, parsley, and pizza sauce 
3. 5-Cheese Variety: Camembert, Samsoe, Gouda, Steppen, Parmesan, along with fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley, and pizza sauce 
4. Fluffy Prince and ChikichikiTeri: Charcoal fire-grilled chicken, egg, parsley, mayo, and teriyaki sauce.
I think you will be happy to learn that True Thai has no plans to start serving pizza!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

True Thai's Mom of the Year

I have written before about my mom, and about my older sister who was like a mom to me. Now I think it is time to write about my new mom.

Keo Phanthavong is True Thai's Mother of the Year. Anousone "Ped" Phanthavong's mother had five children, three daughters and two sons.

Anousone was a lot like his mother: soft-spoken, smiling all the time but shy, and always focused on the positive.

Keo gave birth to Anousone unassisted during a bombing raid on their village in Laos in 1972. Thirteen days after Ped was born, she took him across the Mekong River to get away from the bombing, which was the heaviest of the war.

Ped was very close to his mom. Whenever he saw her, he would always say that he wanted to fall asleep in her lap, and his mom would always say, "you're 38! aren't you a little old for that?" But I think she was always pleased when they had that conversation.

UPDATE! I just arrived at the restaurant and saw Ped's mom and dad in the alley planting 200 Thai chili plants. Two hundred! This means later this summer spicy food lovers will be eating Phanthavong peppers.

I think I may have also figured out who will be True Thai's Dad of the Year....

Friday, May 11, 2012

A word to the wise

Our new menu just went to the printer. We have held off increasing prices as long as we could, but rising prices and a huge rent increase have forced us to bump up our prices. I think we are still very competitive with the other Thai restaurants in town, and I hope True Thai will still be affordable for you.

We chose to delay raising prices until after the trial was over, and then we decided to wait until after Mother's Day to introduce the new menus. You will still be able to get tofu and mock duck entrees for under $10 but the most expensive seafood entrees will now cost you $15.95.

So now is the time to stop by True Thai to enjoy the old prices one last time!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

True confession

Many people have asked me why I was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read. Partly it was because I had used up a lot of vacation attending the trial, but mostly it was because I was afraid to hear the verdict. I did not trust the jury to do the right thing.

I think many of us found this trial to be emotionally exhausting. First Deborah Russell spent a week proving the prosecution's case. We saw pictures of Ped's dead body, we listened to horrified 911 callers, we heard testimony from experts about how much of Ped's body would have been visible to the driver of the vehicle. Imagine seeing pictures of your loved one's dead body and I think you will better understand why I was not up for being in court that day. Then spend a day listening to the person who killed your friend lie about what happened.

Amy Senser will be in the news some more, but until she's willing to tell us what really happened that night, I am not sure I care to hear what she has to say. I appreciate the jurors getting the verdict right. This has been said many times but it needs to be said again: Amy Senser is not going to prison for killing Ped. Amy Senser is going to prison for killing Ped and then driving off and not telling anyone.

I would like to hear Amy Senser explain why she did that. Why she hit Ped, then drove around in her damaged car calling everyone but 911. Tell me that, then we can talk about forgiveness. But don't tell me any more lies written by lawyers. I have heard enough of those.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Are you ready for Mother's Day?

It's this coming Sunday, and time is running out to make a reservation to take Mom to her favorite Thai restaurant.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What's for Hot Lunch?

St. Paul Public Schools just let me know that Thai Sweet and Sour Chicken is back on their Hot Lunch menu. Based on True Thai's Superior Sweet & Sour, we donated this recipe to St. Paul schools years ago. I remember that it was very popular, but didn't realize they'd taken it off their menu until they sent me this notification that it is now back on the menu. (Yes, I'm a little confused, too.)

If you click on the picture, you'll get a larger image that includes our secret recipe — guaranteed to turn vegetable-hating kids into vegetable lovers!

When we opened True Thai, I knew I wanted Sweet & Sour on our menu. But the Sweet & Sour when True Thai opened is not the Thai Sweet and Sour Chicken served by the St. Paul School. That Sweet & Sour (which is what we serve at True Thai now) is the version that Ped perfected.

Hardly a month went by that Ped didn't think of a slightly better way to make a dish. Maybe it was a technique that let him cook faster, but mostly he would adjust the recipe until it was better. The Thai Sweet and Sour Chicken served by the St. Paul Schools was one of his best.

Since Ped perfected our Superior Sweet & Sour recipe, we have served it over 100,000 times. That's only an impressive number until you stop and realize that the St. Paul Public Schools have 39,000 students. I suspect they have served well over one million servings of Ped's Thai Sweet and Sour Chicken.

Ped was famous in a very quiet way, and just about everyone who went to a St. Paul school since 2003 has eaten one of his recipes. That's a lot of people.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A last True Ped story

When Ped's family left Laos, his other grandfather (not the one who lived to be 105) said to leave Ped with him. Ped was seven, but someone had to stay to help grandpa. While he was there, he learned cooking from his aunt, a street vendor.

When Ped's grandpa died, he came to the United States where his mom picked up where his aunt had left off with the cooking lessons. We did not have to train Ped when he came to True Thai — Ped already knew how to cook and he went from caring for his grandfather to helping to provide for his parents and sisters.

Ped is gone now, but he is still there for his parents, making sure they are taken care of. Even in death, Ped cares for others. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012


As you've heard, Amy Senser was found guilty on two counts, and acquitted on the third charge due to legislative incompetence in writing DUI laws.

I do not know if this was justice, but we will find out July 9 when Mrs. Senser is sentenced. By then I hope she has found it in her heart to confess her crimes so the family can forgive her.

True Ped for Thursday

I hate to admit it, but both Ped and I have something in common with Amy Senser. Both Ped and I could not drink alcohol. My father got hives if he tried to drink and so do I, and I was surprised to learn that the same thing happened to Ped when he tried to drink.

So the truth is, neither Ped or I could finish a glass of wine either.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

True Ped for Wednesday

Ped worked very quickly, but he was also good at waiting. I am not so patient. I wish the jury would hurry up and find Amy guilty.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

True Ped for Tuesday

Thirteen days after Ped's mom gave birth to him unassisted, she had to flee with him across the Mekong River to escape the bombings.

Monday, April 30, 2012

True Ped for Monday

Ped loved the colors white and blue. All his t-shirts were white, and he wore blue jeans most of the time. Almost everything Ped owned was either white or blue.

Ped had two birds, one named Fa and the other one Kao. You guessed it: Fa is Lao for blue, and Kao is Lao for white.

For trial links, click here.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

True Ped for Sunday

Because of martial law, Ped's mother could not go to the hospital when he was born, and she delivered him at home unassisted.

Friday, April 27, 2012

True Ped for Saturday

Ped was from Laos and I was from Thailand, but we had many things in common. For example, Ped lived next to a Buddhist temple. I lived right behind a Catholic cathedral.

Ped lived next door to a boxing camp. My dad was a Muay Thai boxing promoter.

But we had big differences, too. Ped's dad was in the Lao Royal Army, but no one in the Prasomphol family ever went into the military. War ravaged Laos, but never touched Thailand.

One other thing we had in common. We have both run out of gas in America. The big difference is that I lived to tell about it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

True Ped for Friday

Life was not easy in Laos, but that did not stop Ped's grandfather from living to be 105 years old.

Americans often seem to think that they live longer than anyone else, but my great-grandmother lived to be 107, and she spent her life working as a street vendor. Great-grandmother Mai worked until she was 100, and then she retired.

For more links about the trial, click here.

True Ped for Thursday

Ped lived a simple life. I made him get a cell phone, but it was a point of pride to him that he did not know how to retrieve or send text messages. Ped could leave a voice mail, and that was good enough for him. If you wanted to talk to him, you had to talk to him because if you left a voice mail, he'd never listen to it because he never bothered to learn how to retrieve them.

I am sure there are many, many voice mails and text messages on Ped's cell phone because while he never checked his messages, he also never deleted any of them.

To read all the latest trial links, click here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

True Ped for Wednesday

Like many, many Southeast Asians, Ped did not like to have his picture taken because he kind of believed that each picture of you shortened your life. But he loved his baby nephew Sebastian so much, he could not resist having his picture taken with Sebastian.

You can see that picture again here. Everyone is welcome to use it, but please credit True Thai.

Again, all links to new news stories about the trial are here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Testimony and tears

After the prosecution played the first 911 call from a nurse who worked at Riverside Hospital, they played the second 911 call. The woman was crying because she had never seen a dead body before. The force of the collision did not tear Ped's pants down to his knees as reported earlier. They were around his ankles.

The woman that called in that information to 911 was crying on the stand as she listened to herself cry on the 911 tape. Ped's family and I were all crying too.

Today's testimony was very hard to listen to, but this trial will not get any easier for Ped's family or me. This is much, much harder than I thought it would be. In the picture, all the clothing Ped was wearing except his socks and underwear were gifts I had given him.

Ped was wearing a white t-shirt with a map of Laos with a red dot showing where he was born. I gave him that t-shirt years ago. Actually, I gave him two Lao map t-shirts, but the other one was yellow and he never wore it.

Ped always wore jeans, but he had been with friends earlier that night and he was wearing some khaki pants I had bought him. What made me cry out loud was seeing his shoes. .

When Sadé's manager paid for the food Ped made for the singer and her band, the manager gave me a $200 tip and told me to buy some new shoes. Well, I split the tip with the cooks but I also bought Ped a new pair of tennis shoes for $89, size 8 1/2. I never saw him wear those shoes but when they showed the picture of his body laying on that exit ramp, one was next to his body and the other one by his car, forty feet away.

Too many tears today.

True Ped for Tuesday

Today's true fact about Ped. He did not eat junk food. Ped only ate food that he had prepared, or that his mother had cooked.

All new links about the trial are here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The waiting is over

I was shocked at how fast jury selection went, and barely made it to the courtroom in time for the opening statements. I will keep updating the links post with every story I can find about the trial, but I also have a restaurant to run so the links may be late some days.

I have lost track of how many people I've told Ped's story to who, after hearing that on the night of his fatal accident Ped was going to the restaurant to give the cleaning staff a ride home, said to me, "And Amy Senser was going to pick up 3-4 young women who had each gotten the gift of a $47 ticket to see a Katy Perry concert." Like most restaurants in the Twin Cities, True Thai pays our clean up crew a buck an hour over minimum wage, so with taxes taken out they would have had to work six hours to see a Katy Perry concert. But instead of going to concerts, at least one of the clean up crew was saving for a bicycle so Ped wouldn't have to give him a lift home. The clean up crew, by the way, were 17, 18 and 21 years of age, and all now have bicycles.

Another person wondered to me how Amy Senser could have gotten lost when she went to college at the University of Minnesota, especially since one of the Senser girls lived only two blocks from the crash site. Others are saying that Amy Senser turned herself in because her step-daughter said people were accusing the stepdaughter of having done it. Well, I heard that rumor too last August. There are too many rumors going around, and I hope this trial will bring out the truth about what happened.

Buddha said there are three things you cannot hide: the sun, the moon and the truth.

Here is something that is not a rumor, and is the truth. Ped was such a fast cook he averaged one entree per minute by using three woks at a time, and they were the best entrees we served. It was a joy to watch him work because he was so focused on making everything perfect. You cannot make Thai food slowly, wok cooking is fast and if the cook is not precise, the food will not be good.

Another true fact is that today, Monday, April 23, is the 243rd day since Ped died last August 23.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Trial links

Jury selection starts tomorrow, and there will be many news stories about the case. Rather than post about the trial each day, I am going to put all the links here, updating the list as they are published.

Oldest stories last, new links at the top.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Born under a bomb sign

I have been thinking about Ped a lot lately. Jury selection starts Monday and it seems like all the local media are getting ready to publish something about that "Roseville man."

I've told you that Ped was True Thai's nickname for Anousone, but his family called him Pec because when he was born a bomb exploded nearby. The plane that dropped the bomb had "The Inspector" written on its side, and from that his family started calling him Pec, short for inspector.

I don't know what it sounds like when a Mercedes SUV hits you while going 50 mph, but I suspect it makes a loud noise, too.

Amy Senser was also charged with a third count of vehicular manslaughter after her defense team finally turned over her cell phone records and it was discovered that she was talking on her cell phone at the exact moment she struck Ped.

I do not think it's unrelated that today Minnesota law enforcement cracked down on "distracted driving." Police do not like people talking on their phones while they are driving, especially on our highways. I must admit that I use my cell phone while driving, but never while driving at high speeds. I also have not run into anyone while driving, and do not drink while driving. I wish more people could say as much.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Songkran! (สงกรานต์)

Today through Sunday they will be celebrating Songkran in Thailand. New Year's celebrations are so much better when you get three days to celebrate! In fact, in Chiang Mai they celebrate for six days!

But the best, best, best part of Songkran is the water fights, and the best water fights always include elephants!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

10,000 post reads!

I started this blog back in 2007, but Blogger didn't start tracking statistics until Google acquired them in 2009, so my blog stats only reflect the last three years. I admit that once a month or so I spend too much time looking at these numbers, but blogging has been a strange adventure for me, and it helps to know which posts customers like best. Except I'm not so sure most of my readers are customers. In fact, the stats say that most of my readers aren't even from Minnesota!

How the tamarind tree saved Little Anna's life is not the post I would have guessed would be my most popular. I thought for sure that Mom! Mom! There's a crocodile in our living room! would be more popular, but it only got 15 reads! That is so sad. A crocodile is much scarier than a rabid dog.

A friend who understands these things told me that I get about 50 hits each time I post to my blog. But that number keeps growing because most of you only check my blog every so often, not every day. An average post now gets a few hundred readers altogether, but thanks to Google and other search engines, some posts keep getting new readers every day. My tamarind tree post just broke the 10,000 reader mark! I am proud of that, but also shocked. This blog thing is surprisingly popular.

Some of you may be surprised that My remembrance of Ped is not my most popular post. Actually, it is, but most of the people who read it saw it in the Star Tribune which did not link to my blog. I have no idea how many people read the version the Star Tribune published, but I've been told it was in the tens of thousands.

The trial of the woman who hit and killed Ped is coming up soon. I will be there, but I do not think I will write about it. I am still very sad that Ped is dead. Everything I wrote in my remembrance of him is still true. We here at True Thai miss Ped every day, but I am comforted each time I check my stats and see that a few dozen more people have read about him since I last checked. Since I wrote about Ped's death, many of True Thai's customers and friends have made generous donations to his family. His nephew Shawn works at the restaurant. If you fast forward to the very end of that Best of the Block video about True Thai, Shawn's at the bottom of the screen with a big smile.

The spirit of Ped is in that picture.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Closed Easter Sunday

If I were in Chanthaburi this weekend, I'd be celebrating Easter mass here, in the newly refurbished Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (อาสนวิหารพระนางมารีอาปฏิสนธินิรมล). It is on the same site as the original missionary chapel built in 1711.

But, since I will be here in the Twin Cities far from my family, I think I'll sleep in instead.

Have a happy Easter with your family and friends. True Thai restaurant will be open Saturday and Monday as usual, but closed Easter Sunday.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Best of the Block: TRUE THAI!

Some of you may have remembered TV cameras filming you when you ate at True Thai last fall. They were from the Thai Food Network, and Best of the Block, episode 33, True Thai, is now available to watch on YouTube!

The Thai Food Network's Best of the Block series is about Thai restaurants not in Thailand. True Thai is not in Thailand, and we are Thai, so we qualified! Thanks to the magic of television, we never got to meet Alyson Sullivan, the host, but we enjoyed meeting and feeding the Best of the Block camera crew.

The camera crew went everywhere, and shot some beautiful pictures of our staff and food but my favorite was the group picture they took at the end of the shoot. 

The day the Thai Food Network came to True Thai was very exciting. I hope you enjoy the video.