Thursday, March 3, 2005
‘Thai food is totally individual, befitting a country which has never been conquered, yet it has similarities to both Indian and Chinese food,” notes Charmaine Soloman in The Thai Cookbook: A Complete Guide to the World’s Most Exciting Cuisine.
I decided to see how My Thai Cuisine in Marina—a restaurant that’s been open five months—honors its Indian heritage. On a lunch visit, I ordered Panang curry with shrimp ($7.95). There is a major difference between Indian and Thai curries. For example, the chile paste used to prepare Panang curry gets made with many fresh ingredients like cilantro roots, lemon grass, galangal, and kaffir lime zest, whereas Indian curries rely on more dry spices for flavors.
I have perused many cookbooks at home to make Panang curry, my favorite Thai dish, and I asked my waiter, Paul, if My Thai uses peanuts as a thickener in its version. “Absolutely not,” he responded. “We thicken our curry by letting it simmer for a long time.”
My Thai takes no shortcuts in the kitchen, but does not keep customers waiting long for their food. My curry arrived piping hot within minutes, tickling my nose with a sweet aroma of shrimp paste and coconut cream. The orange-pink color of the curry matched that of the plump shrimp, and contrasted nicely with the green beans and peppers, sweet red peppers and carrots.
The sweet and savory curry no doubt got its salty flavor from Thailand’s namm pla fish sauce. I ate each curry-coated vegetable, leaf of Asian basil, and shrimp with bites of flavorful rice. The carrots and green beans were crisper than what I had expected, but that did not keep me from eating them; I did not want to waste any curry.
The Panang curry came as part of a lunch with a cup of hot and sour soup, which had fried tofu, mushrooms, and slices of galangal in it. The Thais use galangal like the Chinese use ginger, which it resembles in appearance. Galangal’s flavor makes me think of biting into perfume that lingers on the tongue. The woody slices in the soup may not be to everyone’s liking, but I ate mine because galangal is supposed to be good for the lungs and stomach.
I drank a Thai iced tea ($1.10) made with black tea, sugar, and a healthy dose of cream. This drink is a particularly good antidote for putting out chili fires if you order spicy food. The default spiciness of the food at My Thai is mild, so be sure to ask for spicy food if that is how you like it.
The food was so good that I came back for a weekend lunch with my husband Laurent. We started our meal with orders of chicken satay ($5.95) and fried shrimp rolls ($6.95).
The satay was made of flattened, marinated chicken breasts. Their bright yellow color hinted at turmeric in the marinade and their sweet flavor signaled the use of coconut cream as well. The grilled chicken came with a peanut dipping sauce, cucumber relish and strands of carrot and cabbage. The peanut sauce was rich, and I liked refreshing my palate with the sweet relish. The tender chicken meat made me want to make a meal out of my appetizer.
Laurent’s fried shrimp rolls looked like skinny baseball bats filled with shrimp. They came with a sweet sauce that accentuated the flavor of the shrimp. We both liked this dish and felt we had made a gastronomic discovery.
I drank a Thai Singha beer ($3.50) with my appetizers. The crisp lager reminds me of Corona and goes well with spicy Thai food.
Laurent ordered the most well-known Thai dish as his main course, Pad Thai ($6.95), while I chose Dusit’s Delicious Duck ($11.95).
The stir-fried noodles and tofu in Pad Thai hearken back to Thai food’s Chinese heritage, yet the salty, sweet, and sour flavor of the dish make it uniquely Thai. Laurent ordered his version with beef and it came with a generous helping of crushed peanuts on top as a garnish. He liked his dish, but could only eat half of it due to its size.
Dusit is the Thai name of My Thai’s owner Sam Bhundhumani. Dusit’s Delicious Duck lived up to its name. Many slices of duck with the skin intact flavored a medley of vegetables made up of baby bok choy, carrots, sweet red pepper, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and onion in a chili-basil sauce. The baby bok choy tasted especially good with the duck, offsetting the duck’s richness.
The ample servings meant we had to take home midnight snack boxes. The servings are meant for family-style service, Bhundhumani told us after the meal, so diners can try as many dishes as possible.
Bangkok-born Bhundhumani told me that he serves food as it
is prepared in Thailand. In the few months that My Thai has
been open, he has cultivated a regular clientele, who love the
MY THAI CUISINE
210 Reindollar Avenue, Marina | 883-9677
11am-3pm, 5pm-close Mon.-Fri.
Noon-3pm, 4:30-close Sat., Closed Sun.