Monday, August 9, 2010

Thai Dining

As part of preparing for Penny’s arrival, we decided to try eating at a Thai restaurant while my dad was here.  I had sent Penny’s mom Linda a link to a menu for a local Thai restaurant and asked her to suggest some dishes for us to try.  She sent a whole list back, but when we went over to that restaurant, it was closed!!  So I remembered seeing a restaurant on Route 1 called Garnjana Thai and told my dad to drive over there.  (Click here for a review of the restaurant in the local paper.)

We explained to the proprietor that I was hosting a Thai student soon and that we would like to try some of the Thai dishes that her mom had recommended to us.  He gave us quite an explanation of Thai food and of American reactions to Thai food.  He made some suggestions and then  let us decide based on Linda’s recommendations, which were closely in line with the owner’s.

P1050096Our host between courses, reading the NY Times

P1050098 We started by ordering two different kinds of soup, Tom Kha Gai and Tom Yum, as well as an appetizer of spring rolls.  My dad is eating the tom kha gai, a soup with a coconut milk base and a hint of lime.  Of the two soups, it was the one I liked the best, although I did not especially care for either one of them.  I think just on account of it was too hot for soup maybe.  The tom yum is the traditional Thai soup, and is a hot and sour soup with lemon grass, shrimp, mushrooms, and cilantro.  I loved the mushrooms and shrimp, but not the broth, which is weird because it seems like all things I would enjoy!

P1050101One of the delicious mushrooms in my soup!

Leah was starting to get antsy.  So I asked the owner if he would bring us out some rice for her to eat.  Let me just say this:  the 50 pound bag of rice we bought earlier that day* is not going to last long.  Leah breezed through one bowl of rice in under 2 minutes and through a second one in no time flat.  She L-O-V-E loves rice.


P1050104See her scraping the bowl?  You’d think I hadn’t fed her in a week!  The owner came over and we asked for more rice.  He said, “Wow!  I didn’t think she could handle one bowl!”  We admitted that neither did we, but surprise surprise!  It was hilarious.

Leah also tried the soup, but I think it was a little too spicy for her, because she started sneezing!


For our main meal, we ordered two different entrees. One was lad na, a traditional rice noodle dish.  The noodles can be prepared two different ways: fried or a broad, boiled noodles.  The owner said that Americans tend to prefer the noodles fried, so we agreed to eat them that way.  We had it made with beef.  The second dish was called panang.   It is a traditional curry dish with bell peppers and coconut milk.  We had it with shrimp.  They were both very tasty dishes, but we were practically scrapping over the panang!  It was ridiculously good.  I will definitely be eating that again!

P1050105 Afterwards, we were so full, we could scarcely think about eating dessert, but we decided to soldier on.  I ordered sticky rice with mango and coconut milk and Dad had homemade coconut ice cream with fried bananas.


I loved the ice cream and the rice both.  (I don’t do bananas, so I skipped trying them, although it strikes me that if one is forced to eat a banana, deep frying it is probably the way to go.)  It’s hard to describe how delicious everything was.  It is definitely a foreign cuisine to how we typically eat in my very meat-and-potatoes American home, although I fancy myself pretty adventurous in trying new foods.  The blends of spices and ingredients were amazing.  We were very lucky to have the owner spend literally a couple of hours with us, teaching us about Thai food and he said he would remember us for next time and adjust the spices accordingly.  (He explained that most Americans find Thai food quite spicy.  I asked for our food to be a little bit milder than they might ordinarily make it, and my nose was still running by the end of our meal!)  Penny has been hard at work learning to cook with her dad before she comes to the US, and I for one am extremely excited to try the dishes she has been learning.  She has even learned a special egg dish for Leah’s enjoyment!


*Penny and I talked about food once on MSN Messenger and she said that she just doesn’t feel full if she doesn’t eat rice at all three meals.  I asked what kind of rice she wanted to eat and she said jasmine rice.  Our local grocery stores all carry little boxes of jasmine rice, but I knew that in that quantity, I’d need to find a bigger supply than that.  Consequently I went down to the Asian market on the far side of town and presto!  They carry jasmine rice in 50 pound bags!!!  I brought one home and Leah decided it was pretty darned cool that a bag of food was as big as she is!

IMG_0062 IMG_0061Hopefully we will have plenty for a while.  But if not, I know where to get more!  If you are in my house visiting, the red “trash” can is not for trash—it is a rice storage container.  Thank you!


  1. This post reminds me of just how diverse our very own country is. In Seattle there are as many Thai restaurants as there are Starbuck's and it's a very common kind of food for everyone to eat. My sons favorite food of all time ti Tom Ka Gai. I love Pud See Ew. We probably eat Thai food at least twice per month, which is about how often we go out to eat!

    How wonderful that you took this opportunity to explore such wonderful cuisine. You are going to be a wonderful host mother.

    Leah is so adorable!

  2. I agree with Nina! Leah is really adorable. I also agree about the diversity of the US. I grew up and live in a small town. In fact, the only shopping that I don't have to drive an hour for is WalMart and Home Depot. I have spent time visiting my best friend who lives in the Twin Cities, and I have to get Thai food every time I go. It is only second to getting Caribou coffee daily. It is the two things that I can't get readily at home. Well the coffee I can order on line as a treat sometimes, but due to its cost it is a treat only.
    We do have an authentic German restaurant we will be taking Jannis to eat. It is run by immigrants. Oktoberfest celebration is the week after he comes, so we bought tickets to that. It will be interesting to hear what he thinks of the food, and if it really is as good to a German as it is to us.

  3. Hey! Your Dad's wearing a Rutgers shirt. I went to law school at Rutgers! Also, that restaurant has the same chairs that we have in our dining room.

    I was just thinking of you, and your post on Facebook about what to feed Penny for breakfast.

    If you don't have one, look for a rice cooker. They are made of magic. You just put in the rice and the water and push a button and you don't have to think about it again, ever. Perfect every time.

    You can get really fancy ones, that have different settings for different kinds of rice, including one for the congee/porridge I mentioned on facebook, if you are kitchen gadgety, but they're pricey. You can get a decent, rudimentary one, though, in the under 50 buck range, and they will make your life easy as pie. (I can never make decent rice on a stove top).

    The congee can be made in a crock pot with ease.

  4. My dad is convinced that Leah is going to go to Rutgers and play basketball. :-D

    We do have a rice cooker already. Tomorrow I will get out of storage and dust it off.

    Which is your favorite congee recipe?

  5. Oh, dear, I don't think I have one. I have only tried to make it once... I guess my favorite one is the one that was ready every morning when I woke up in Thailand.

    The one I made, that my people liked, used chicken broth as a base, and sat in the crock pot over night. I think it had some ginger root, and maybe garlic powder in it too...

    We go back and forth flirting with vegetarianism, so I didn't put meat pieces in it, even though the chicken broth rendered it carnivorous. I'll look and see what I can find.

  6. I'd probably try the pork one here.

    or here

    and for an excellent Thai food blog - Appon is my favorite