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Dharma Garden Menu Translations (2007) [Pics]

Dharma Garden Menu Translations (2007) [Pics]
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    Post #1 - January 31st, 2007, 11:01 pm
    Post #1 - January 31st, 2007, 11:01 pm Post #1 - January 31st, 2007, 11:01 pm
    “What the %&!#,” you say. Yes, you read the thread title correctly; I am here to tell you about Dharma Garden. "But, Dharma Garden has been around for years now," you say. "And, besides, isn't Dharma Garden a vegetarian Thai restaurant?," you say too, before I can even reply. "And, what possible interest could you, Erik M.--the intrepid Thai food explorer, the guy who first brought us word of fish kidneys, guts soup, and fermented pork ribs--have in a vegetarian Thai restaurant?," you hammer on, relentlessly. Well, if you give me a second, I'll tell you. I'd LOVE to. In fact, I'm DYING to tell you. See, Dharma-Garden-has-gone-and-greatly-expanded-its-dining-program-and-now-puts-out-some-of-the-best-most-authentic-and-non-vegetarian-Thai-food-in-the-Chicagoland-area. Whew! That was a mouthful!

    What's that?! You don't know about Dharma Garden?! Well, I just assumed that everyone, at least, knew about Dharma Garden, even if they'd never actually been. I mean, it does have a rather notable--some might even say, "dubious"-- place in the area's Thai restaurant lineup, if for no other reason than the fact that it's the only place to offer a large and extensive roster of truly meat-, fish-, and fowl-free Thai standards. Yes, they do offer a whole host of seafood-based selections, but, even so, they maintain wholly distinct cooking methods and means for those patrons who practice a rigorously vegetarian lifestyle. Which is kind of cool (and weird!) when you take the time to think about it.

    Anyway, and in any event, to make a long story short, Dharma Garden underwent a dramatic change of ownership sometime last year, and for the past couple of months, at least, has been quietly, concurrently, preparing authentic, non-vegetarian Thai food for an exclusively Thai audience. I first learned about this separate dining program in December of last year, and I’ve since been engaged in some rather quiet and covert activity of my own. That is to say, I've been exploring (and translating!) Dharma Garden's three distinctly different Thai language menus, so that I might be able to share a whole new set of authentic tastes and treasures with you.

    So, without further ado, I present menú numero uno:

    DHARMA GARDEN ISAAN THAI MENU (2007)*

    1. kài yâang kraay : marinated/grilled chicken with a tamarind dipping sauce

    Image
    2. súp nàw mái : pickled bamboo shoot salad with roasted rice powder (pictured above)

    3. sôm tam (thai, puu, plaa ráa, tam sûa) : papaya salad w/ dried shrimp, pickled crab, fermented fish, or thin rice noodles

    4. mũu/néua náam tòk : “waterfall” pork or beef salad with roasted rice powder

    5. lâap (mũu, néau, kài, plaa) : minced meat salad with pork, or beef, or chicken, or fish

    6. tôm sâep khrêuang nai wua : sour, light, and spicy soup with beef offal

    7. tàp wãan : “sweet” pork liver salad

    8. plaa phão : roasted whole tilapia fish with a tamarind dipping sauce (market price)

    9. náam phrík plaa thuu phàk klâem : shrimp paste “dip,” served with grilled mackerel and assorted vegetables

    10. nãem : northern thai-style “pressed ham,” served with chile, ginger, and peanuts

    11. sâi kràwk isãan : grilled pork and rice sausage, served with chile, ginger, and peanuts

    ## “your choice of noodle soup” ##

    ===========================================

    ------End of Menu Translation One------

    Dharma Garden Thai
    3109 W. Irving Park
    773.588.9140
    [Closed Mondays]

    More to follow shortly, including the lowdown on some fantastic lime-marinated mussels, and Thai-style grilled snails!!!

    E.M.

    ORIGINAL POST EDITED TO INSERT PHOTO LINKS.

    * ACTUAL MENU:


    Image
    Last edited by Erik M. on February 5th, 2007, 2:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.
  • Post #2 - February 1st, 2007, 10:59 am
    Post #2 - February 1st, 2007, 10:59 am Post #2 - February 1st, 2007, 10:59 am
    Fascinating, Erik. Thank you.

    I have vegetarian friends who live very close to DG and I have never been in there with them. I have always wondered how Thai food and vegetarian reconciles itself (do they really not use fish sauce?), but I have never wondered long enough to wander in.

    The new meaty menu is very interesting and I am most drawn to the shrimp náam phrík with grilled mackerel. I hope I'm able to try it soon.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #3 - February 1st, 2007, 11:08 am
    Post #3 - February 1st, 2007, 11:08 am Post #3 - February 1st, 2007, 11:08 am
    Moving right along, here is menú numero dos:

    DHARMA GARDEN FAVOURITES THAI MENU (2007)*

    “MENU” KÀP KLÂEM RÓT SÀEP : “TASTY DISHES TO EAT WITH RICE”

    1. nãem : northern thai-style “pressed ham,” served with chile, ginger, and peanuts

    Image
    2. hãwy wãan yâang (náam jîm rót dèt) : Thai-style grilled snails (pictured above)

    3. lûuk chin thâwt (mũu/kûng) : deep-fried pork or shrimp meatballs
    4. sâi kràwk isãan : grilled pork and rice sausage, served with chile, ginger, and peanuts
    5. nãem kràdòok mũu : deep-fried sour pork ribs, served with chile, ginger, and peanuts

    Image
    6. nâwng kòp thâwt : deep-fried frog legs with a sweet & spicy pepper glaze (pictured above)

    7. nók thâwt : deep-fried quail with a sweet & spicy pepper glaze
    8. khaw mũu yâang : grilled pork neck strips with a spicy, sour dipping sauce
    9. néua / tàp yâang : grilled beef strips or beef liver with a spicy, sour dipping sauce
    10. mũu / néua tàet dìaw : dried and fried “jerky” beef with a spicy, sour dipping sauce

    PRÀPHET YAM : “VARIOUS SALADS”

    1. lâap (mũu, néau, kài, plaa) : minced meat salad with pork, or beef, or chicken, or fish
    2. sôm tam (thai, puu) : papaya salad with dried shrimp or pickled crab
    3. náam tòk (néau, mũu) : “waterfall” beef or pork salad with roasted rice powder
    4. tàp wãan : “sweet” pork liver salad
    5. yam sãam kràwp : tangy & tart salad with crispy fish maw, shrimp, and fried cashews
    6. yam mũu yâw : Vietnamese-style steamed pork sausage salad with garlic and lime juice
    7. yam wún sên : mung bean noodle salad
    8. yam khài yiaw mûa : preserved egg salad with garlic, ginger, and lime juice
    9. yam tháleh : assorted seafood salad
    10. kûng kâe phâa : raw shrimp marinated with lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, and chile

    Image
    11. sàep hãwy : poached mussels marinated with lime juice, garlic, and chile (pictured above)

    12. yam plaa salìit : fried Gouramy fish salad

    PRÀPHET TÔM YAM : “VARIOUS SOUPS”

    1. tôm yam kûng : sour, light, and spicy soup with shrimp and mushrooms
    2. tôm yam tháleh : sour, light, and spicy soup with assorted seafood and mushrooms
    3. tôm yam khãa mũu : sour, light, and spicy soup with pork leg meat and mushrooms
    4. tôm yam plaa : sour, light, and spicy soup with fish

    ## “sour, light, and spicy soup with beef offal, served in a firepot” ##

    ===========================================

    ------End of Menu Translation Two------

    NB This menu was originally created for a Thai "afterhours" audience and the printed prices reflect a commensurate, i.e. "premium," pricing scheme. While dining during normal busines hours, you are advised to inquire about the pricing of each item listed above. There is a tremendous amount of variance, with the majority of the dishes priced significantly lower than the printed price.

    More to follow shortly, including the lowdown on khâo tom, a traditional Thai dining format never-before-revealed in Chicago!!

    E.M.

    ORIGINAL POST EDITED TO INSERT PHOTO LINKS.

    * ACTUAL MENU:


    Image
    Last edited by Erik M. on February 1st, 2007, 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #4 - February 1st, 2007, 11:21 am
    Post #4 - February 1st, 2007, 11:21 am Post #4 - February 1st, 2007, 11:21 am
    This is quite interesting as I have had people mention this place to me more than once in the past and I think my reaction to new agey vegantarian Thai food can be best summed up as closely resembling Fred's to Karyn's Fresh.
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  • Post #5 - February 1st, 2007, 1:18 pm
    Post #5 - February 1st, 2007, 1:18 pm Post #5 - February 1st, 2007, 1:18 pm
    Dharma Garden wasn't strictly a vegetarian restaurant
    before the recent shift in ownership. As long as I've
    been going there, they've served meat dishes. However,
    their focus and specialty has been the vegetarian preparations.
    For what its worth, the new owner Sue took over the restaurant
    from her brother who moved back to Thailand. So its not a
    dramatic shift, she's been part of the restaurant for years.
    But its nice to see the restaurant's new direction, even though
    I don't eat meat. Hopefully it will get the further attention that
    it deserves. Even without the new expansions to the menu,
    it has always been one of my very favorite restaurants in
    the city.

    Thanks for the report Eric!
  • Post #6 - February 1st, 2007, 2:57 pm
    Post #6 - February 1st, 2007, 2:57 pm Post #6 - February 1st, 2007, 2:57 pm
    Joel Wanek wrote:Dharma Garden wasn't strictly a vegetarian restaurant before the recent shift in ownership.


    I never suggested that it was, Joel. I stated that they maintain(ed) a rigorously distinct program for strict vegetarians, by which I meant--that for their strict vegetarian patrons--they fry and cook in separate vesssels, using separate oils, and without the use of any product whatsover which is derived from meat, fish, or fowl.

    Joel Wanek wrote:For what its worth, the new owner Sue took over the restaurant from her brother who moved back to Thailand. So its not a dramatic shift, she's been part of the restaurant for years.


    I have no idea who "Sue" is, Joel, but Sudthida Srisawangpan (pâa Tawy, to me) who IS ONE of the current owners, along with her female partner--and the person greatly responsible for the food on these fantastic new menus--Duangta Layes (phîi Duangta, to me), shared the following with me some time back:

    She and Duangta purchased the restaurant from the original female owner, Surintorn Suanthong (phîi Ning, to me), who was the creator and sustaining force behind the rigorously vegetarian dining program at Dharma Garden. As neither one of them (or anyone else currently employed at the restaurant, for that matter) is a practicing vegetarian, they wished to establish a separate dining program for non-vegetarian Thais, wholly apart from their vegetarian, quasi-vegetarian, and almost exclusively farang-driven enterprise.

    So, Joel, if that doesn't suggest a "dramatic shift," to you, I'd like to know what does.

    To bust it all the way down, this food was meant to be served to Thais, and only after the normal hours of operation. You, and others like you, assuming that you are not Thai, weren't even meant to know about it. I am the one that proposed exposing these menus and this food to a non-Thai audience, and it was only after some discussion that Sudthida and Duangta agreed.

    E.M.
    Last edited by Erik M. on February 1st, 2007, 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #7 - February 1st, 2007, 3:38 pm
    Post #7 - February 1st, 2007, 3:38 pm Post #7 - February 1st, 2007, 3:38 pm
    Those mussels look fabulous. Thanks, Erik.
  • Post #8 - February 1st, 2007, 4:22 pm
    Post #8 - February 1st, 2007, 4:22 pm Post #8 - February 1st, 2007, 4:22 pm
    eatchicago wrote:I have always wondered how Thai food and vegetarian reconciles itself (do they really not use fish sauce?), but I have never wondered long enough to wander in.


    Well, it is quite a conundrum for me, Michael, but there are many people in Thailand who, for the purpose of religion/lifestyle, or for the purpose of showing respect during certain religious holidays, etc., adhere to a strict vegetarian diet. In fact, there are quite a number of restaurants which cater exclusively to those in strict observance, and the food is often quite tasty, even for those, like me, who otherwise find the thought of fish-sauce-free Thai food terribly troubling. ;)

    And, yes, that means that fish sauce is not used, but instead soy sauce, and oyster sauce is not used, but instead "vegetarian mushroom soy sauce," and so on. But, like I indicated in my response to Joel, above, Dharma Garden was, until most recently, almost entirely dependent upon farang patronage.

    eatchicago wrote:The new meaty menu is very interesting and I am most drawn to the shrimp náam phrík with grilled mackerel. I hope I'm able to try it soon.


    I tried the náam phrík on my first visit, while dining with some Thai friends. I thought that it was quite good, and it will probably appeal most to those who otherwise enjoy such things but find the renditions at Spoon Thai, etc., to be a bit too pungent.

    E.M.
  • Post #9 - February 1st, 2007, 5:23 pm
    Post #9 - February 1st, 2007, 5:23 pm Post #9 - February 1st, 2007, 5:23 pm
    Just to clarify . . . My initial post here was a reply to Mike G's
    comments. I wasn't accusing you of anything. I just meant
    to explain that, for as long as I have been going to Dharma Garden
    (only 2 or 3 years), it hasn't strictly been a vegetarian
    restaurant. His post seemed to imply that it was. About the "dramatic
    shift" comment . . . Sue (maybe Sudthita?) recently became owner of the restaurant after her brother moved back to Thailand. Sue was heavily involved when her brother owned the place, so now that she's the owner I don't see the dramatic shift in that. That's all I was trying to say, Eric. The purchase of the place from Surintorn, the founder of Dharma Garden, isn't a recent development (and I am NOT suggesting that you said it was).
  • Post #10 - February 1st, 2007, 5:23 pm
    Post #10 - February 1st, 2007, 5:23 pm Post #10 - February 1st, 2007, 5:23 pm
    Wow, this is fantastic stuff. Thanks, Erik, for sharing. The number of options for quality Thai in Chicago are becoming overwhelming, and quite impossible to take advantage of in my short visits.

    As an aside, not everyone reading along has the same level of expertise in various or areas or relationships with restaurants and their owners. I think it's great for those who do to share the wealth and educate the rest of us, but I don't think there's anything demeaning about not being the expert either. It is important to respect for one another in order to have a meaningful dialogue.
  • Post #11 - February 1st, 2007, 5:47 pm
    Post #11 - February 1st, 2007, 5:47 pm Post #11 - February 1st, 2007, 5:47 pm
    Ann Fisher wrote:Those mussels look fabulous. Thanks, Erik.


    Ann, surely you must know how much I enjoy sharing these finds.

    At any rate, and as far as I am aware, those mussels, prepared in that way, are something new to Chicago. But, they are prepared in nearly the exact same manner as the shrimp dish which immediately precedes it on the menu list above, namely, kûng kâe phâa. And, kûng kâe phâa, which many here might recognize by it's alternate name, kûng châe náam plaa, IS relatively common in the top-tier Thai restaurants in the Chicagoland area. For example, Spoon Thai, TAC, and Yum Thai, all serve this dish, and it has been frequently discussed on these boards. The only real difference with the mussels is the fact that they are first quickly poached before being marinated, whereas the shrimp are marinated and served in a raw state.

    Regards,
    E.M.
  • Post #12 - February 1st, 2007, 6:06 pm
    Post #12 - February 1st, 2007, 6:06 pm Post #12 - February 1st, 2007, 6:06 pm
    Joel Wanek wrote:Just to clarify . . . My initial post here was a reply to Mike G's comments. I wasn't accusing you of anything. I just meant to explain that, for as long as I have been going to Dharma Garden (only 2 or 3 years), it hasn't strictly been a vegetarian restaurant. His post seemed to imply that it was.


    Joel, if you are a vegetarian, and if you dine at Dharma Garden with some frequency, would you be willing to share a few of your favourites with us? Every once in awhile I am asked to suggest vegetarian dining options to others, and it would be nice to be able to provide some pointed suggestions.

    And, Joel, I used the term "dramatic change," in reference to the establishment's ownership, not "dramatic shift." [In fact, I never used the word "shift" in my original post.] And, I stand by my choice of words, as they were mainly meant to account for Duangta's presence, which is relatively new. And, like I suggested in my original post, Duangta was the principal impetus for the development of the new dining program, which is where the real "drama" comes in to play, as her food could not possibly be more different from that of Surintorn's. Anyway, if your "Sue," and my Sudthida are one and the same, then, yes, I know, she's been there since the beginning, which, I believe, was 2003.

    Thanks,
    E.M.
  • Post #13 - February 2nd, 2007, 10:24 am
    Post #13 - February 2nd, 2007, 10:24 am Post #13 - February 2nd, 2007, 10:24 am
    I'd like to share last night's experience at DG.

    First, many thanks to Erik for translating the menu, which enabled me to try new things, and helped endear me to the very warm DG staff, who really appreciate that someone (Erik) is helping Americans experience true Thai cuisine. Before leaving home for the frigid 2 block walk, I made a cheat sheet of the items I wanted to try, noting just the item # and the translation. This would have worked fine on its own, but it was made even easier by the fact that the staff speak good English and were happy to help me order.

    I started with the mussels, which had outstandingly clean flavor and meaty texture. They were loaded with garlic and intense thai basil. It's hard to tell for sure, but in Erik's picture the green atop the mussels looks like cilantro - not last night. Despite years of relatively successful effort to un-gringo-ize my palette, I found the mussels difficult to enjoy without first scraping off some of the multitude of inferno-like chili seeds that were somewhat tough to distinguish (in appearance) from the finely chopped garlic with which they intermixed.

    Also from Erik's translation, I shared the whole roasted tilapia (yesterday's market price for a large fish that easily served 2-3 was 10.95) and the pork neck strips. The tilapia was perfectly cooked, with a moistness that made me think it had been steamed, but with charred skin and edges assuring me that it had seen time in a hot oven. Is it possible that this was a combination of cooking methods - steam then quick roast or grill to produce the char? The pork neck strips were the evening's highlight. They were charred around the edges, but tender and full of flavor. Reminded me of carnitas. The dipping sauce was spicy, but required no disassembly as did the mussels, and it was full of intense funkiness that I presume came from heavy-handed use of fish sauce. Delicious.

    From the regular menu, and possibly to help answer Erik's question about veggie items, my dining companion declared the Sweet Potato Musman curry the best she'd ever had. Some versions of this dish suffer from hard, undercooked potatoes, but these were pillowy soft and sweet. I thought the sweetness of this dish offered a very nice counterpoint to the heat of everything else we ordered, and I'd recommend having it on the table alongside the rest of a meal.
    Last edited by Kennyz on February 6th, 2007, 6:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #14 - February 2nd, 2007, 4:06 pm
    Post #14 - February 2nd, 2007, 4:06 pm Post #14 - February 2nd, 2007, 4:06 pm
    Thanks Eric for your posts. Yes, the food you reported
    on seems to be a real change for the restaurant.
    And a good one at that. I really hope more
    people discover the many delights there - food
    and otherwise.

    My favorite vegetarian dishes seem to be (just
    judging by the ones I get most often) the Long
    Life Noodles with Imitation Chicken, Mussaman
    Curry with Imitation Chicken, Pad See Ewe with
    Imitation Beef and my girlfriend loves the Curry
    Fried Rice. For people unfamiliar to Dharma Garden,
    its worth noting that DG seems to be all about many
    different and different colored vegetables. For instance,
    Dharma Garden's Pad See Ew has not just American
    broccoli, but also greens, carrots, mushrooms, bean
    sprouts and red peppers. This seems to be the case
    with most of their other dishes that I've had: they
    really pack in a variety of veggies.

    The other things that really separate Dharma Garden from
    all the other Thai options in Chicago are their imitation meat
    options (chicken, duck and beef) and their red rice (which has
    been discussed on LTH before). Plus everthing that I've ever
    eaten there has been very good.

    The Long Life Noodles is a dish that seems unique
    to Dharma Garden (I've never seen it elsewhere) and
    is extremely tasty. Its a stir fried dish of thin wheat noodles
    with dominant flavors of ginger, sesame oil and garlic,
    and accompanied by mushrooms, spinach, carrots, celery,
    bean sprouts and fried egg. Not to miss.

    I also really love their Mussaman Curry with Sweet
    Potatoes. Its always nice and thick (not thin and soupy)
    and delicious.

    One last thing (although I could go on) that I'll list as
    a favorite is the desserts. I don't know if its on the menu,
    but I believe we were served some Thai custards or puddings
    once. There were three of them: taro, pumpkin and maybe
    coconut or banana. It was beautifully presented and delicious.
    I think its worth asking the servers if there are any special desserts
    for the day. It seems they are always making something
    unique in the kitchen.
  • Post #15 - February 2nd, 2007, 5:08 pm
    Post #15 - February 2nd, 2007, 5:08 pm Post #15 - February 2nd, 2007, 5:08 pm
    Joel, you rock. Thanks.

    And, Kennyz, you rock too. I have yet to furnish Dharma Garden with translations, so I am charmed by your intrepid spirit.

    Now, to address a few of your points...

    1) It appears that you were served basil with the mussel dish, while I was served cilantro. Basil, cilantro, in the right circumstance either one could work for this dish. I am really more concerned about the chile quotient as you've described it...

    1a) It sounds like they made the mussel dish too spicy for you. Generally speaking, I am happier to hear that than I am to hear the opposite, namely, that the dish wasn't spicy enough. That particular dish is meant to be very hot, so, assuming that the remaining flavour components, i.e., sour, salty, and sweet, were handled in such a way that they maintained some semblance of balance, then the cook did it "right." [And, if the cook did it "right," it means that the cook did it in such a way that it would generally please Thai diners. And, that's great news for those of us who want "real deal" Thai food. ;)]

    Now, in the future, if you don't want a dish prepared with much, if any, spice, and you want to make sure that your direction is clear, ask for "mai phet," which means, "not spicy."*

    And, if you want a little spicing, or medium spicing, ask for "phet nit nawy," which means, "a little bit spicy."**

    2) Strictly speaking, when it comes to things like seafoods and aromatics, "phao" means, "grill," but the term is often used interchangeably with "yaang," which means, "grill," but can also mean, "roast." [And, to complicate things even more, English-speaking Thai cooks often use the word "roast," when describing a flattop- or grate-grilling method.] I haven't tried the fish dish yet, so I can't be sure exactly how it's prepared, but your guess about the grilling, at least for some amount of time, is perfectly reasonable.

    Cheers,
    E.M.

    * "MAY PET."

    * "PET NIT NOY."
  • Post #16 - February 6th, 2007, 4:47 pm
    Post #16 - February 6th, 2007, 4:47 pm Post #16 - February 6th, 2007, 4:47 pm
    was "menu translation" always on this thread title - I think I saw dharma garden and never bothered to look - anyway, Erik anything on the veggie menu you'd recommend or anything in particular on the tranlsated menu that's veggie and esp. good?
  • Post #17 - February 6th, 2007, 4:53 pm
    Post #17 - February 6th, 2007, 4:53 pm Post #17 - February 6th, 2007, 4:53 pm
    Erik M. wrote:Joel, if you are a vegetarian, and if you dine at Dharma Garden with some frequency, would you be willing to share a few of your favourites with us? Every once in awhile I am asked to suggest vegetarian dining options to others, and it would be nice to be able to provide some pointed suggestions.


    Joel Wanek wrote:My favorite vegetarian dishes seem to be...


    zim, it's a long topic :wink: but there are some veggie recs included herein, in addition to the new menu items, just a couple posts up. This place seems like a match made in zim family heaven.
  • Post #18 - February 6th, 2007, 6:30 pm
    Post #18 - February 6th, 2007, 6:30 pm Post #18 - February 6th, 2007, 6:30 pm
    zim wrote:was "menu translation" always on this thread title - I think I saw dharma garden and never bothered to look...


    No, it wasn't, and I added it for precisely this reason.

    zim wrote:anyway, Erik anything on the veggie menu you'd recommend or anything in particular on the tranlsated menu that's veggie and esp. good?


    As Aaron indicated, Joel has already provided a few suggestions from the Standard ThaiAm menu.

    Now, as far as the above two (translated) menus are concerned, you really only have two options:

    1. súp nàw mái : pickled bamboo shoot salad with roasted rice powder

    2. sôm tam (thai, puu, plaa ráa, tam sûa) : papaya salad w/ dried shrimp, pickled crab, fermented fish, or thin rice noodles *

    Fortunately, both are very, very good.

    Remember, though, as these items appear on the Thai Language menu(s), they are made with the inclusion of fish sauce.

    E.M.

    * I am particularly fond of the traditional Isaan variant, tam sûa. Be warned, though, it is general practice to prepare this dish with pickled crab.
  • Post #19 - February 13th, 2007, 6:32 pm
    Post #19 - February 13th, 2007, 6:32 pm Post #19 - February 13th, 2007, 6:32 pm
    Every time I have an authentic Thai meal, it is a new learning experience. Often times, I only get the opportunity to try a dish from one or two different restaurants, and every time I add a new location and get to try their interpretation of a dish, it is an excellent learning experience.

    I was pleased to have the opportunity to dine off the Thai menu at DG recently and it was quite interesting. Good in many aspects, merely educational in others.

    I was most enthused by the fish maw salad, which on this night was served with dry fried squid and small fried anchovy. This was a crunchy delight, full of pungent flavors. It's a salad that is familiar to me from TAC, but this preparation was totally new and a lot of fun. I also had a similar reaction to the minced fish salad, quite good, and a new dish for me.

    Another eye-opening dish were the deep fried sour pork ribs, which is another preparation that I've had only at TAC. At DG, the sourness is much, much more prevalent and gives these ribs a funky flavor that goes great with beer.

    As far as other deep-fried meats, you can't really go wrong with the quail or the frog legs. Both very tasty.

    The shrimp nam prik with grilled mackerel, which I was most excited to taste, was spicy beyond my level of enjoyment this particular evening. Having the whole grilled fish with it was quite a treat, but I'd need this dialed down a bit before I can really enjoy it.

    I'm pleased to have DG as part of the vast array of Thai options within 10 minutes of my house. I've passed it by many times (due to the vegetarian thing). I'm not sure if it'll replace my favorites, but I'm pleased to have it in the mix as a counter-point.

    Thanks for your hard work on these translations, Erik. I hope more people get out to give some of these dishes a try.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #20 - January 25th, 2008, 11:24 am
    Post #20 - January 25th, 2008, 11:24 am Post #20 - January 25th, 2008, 11:24 am
    I recently had the privilege to dine with a Thai regular at this unassuming spot on Irving Park and I cannot wait for the next visit. I honestly wasn't expecting much seeing the generic-looking sign with the phone number as prominently displayed as the restaurant name, but of course, I should've known better. My friend couldn't stop talking about one particular dish so I knew I was in good hands.

    The dish is a crisp-fried rainbow trout (sometimes pomfret) that is the best sampling of the intricate balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy I've ever hard. The fish was topped with cilantro, scallions, red onions, and something completely unexpected, julienned green apples, tossed with a light dressing of lime juice and fish sauce. The apples are supposedly a stand-in for a specific type of green mango native to Thailand, but I have no complaints whatsoever with that substitution. It was impressive how all of the flavor elements remain distinctly identifiable while playing well with each other. There was a dull heat buzz that lingered on the tongue but nothing overwhelming.

    We also had clams stir fried in chili paste and sweet basil which had a sour tang to it (probably tamarind). I could have the thick oil slick of a sauce by itself with steaming hot rice and call it a meal. The clams are usually served in the shell but it was off the shell this particular visit. For a moment I considered getting the Rosetta Stone software in Thai.

    On a separate specials menu written in the native language, a standout was liver which I have never had in a Thai preparation. The only thing I could read off of this menu was "Boc Choy" written on the bottom but I didn't get to ask about it. Maybe next time.

    The owner was very friendly with everyone at the restaurant and seemed genuinely amused seeing a new face (me). It was immediately obvious that all of the other patrons were also regulars. Upon leaving, he enthusiastically mentioned soft shell crab more than a few times. It definitely wasn't on the regular menu... Anyone care to try this one?

    Dinner was finished just short of midnight and it was oddly just starting to get packed on a weekday. It all made perfect sense when the lights got dimmed and the karaoke equipment was busted out. It even made more sense when it was explained to me that this is where people who work at other Thai restaurants eat and hang out after hours. I couldn't think of a much better reason to pick this restaurant over other countless options in the city. At this point, several brown paper bags containing 2 liter bottles were being passed around. BYOB in full force. The party supposedly goes on until 5 am.

    In the time it took for the car to heat up, there were several more walk-ins. More brown paper bags being brought in. If only I didn't have to work the next day...

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