Without exception, every Thai restaurant in the region offers some type of pad Thai, the ubiquitous rice noodle dish stir-fried with peanuts, tofu and bean sprouts. But the menu at Tub Tim Thai in Skokie is anything but predictable. True, they have pad Thai - and a pretty good one at that - but they also carry a few dishes that would be right at home in someone's restaurant back in Bangkok, like the miang kum.
"What we have famous is miang kum, really hard to find in Thai cuisine around here," said Krai Jirathitikal, one of the managers at Tub Tim Thai.
And that's too bad, because if more restaurants made it, it would become popular. Giant, herbaceous chapoo leaves are topped with bits of fresh ginger, shallot; bits of lime, shards of coconut and dried shrimp then at the table, add a tiny fleck of Thai chili, then a spoonful of palm sugar. Wrap it all up into a thumb-sized bundle and pop it into your mouth. The range of flavors and textures is beguiling.
There's also a wonderful rendition of som tom here, the popular street food snack of shredded green papaya, pounded in a mortar, along with chilies, garlic, tomatoes and green beans, seasoned with fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. It's a vibrant, crunchy starter to any meal. Another excellent salad, or laab, is their chicken version: ground chicken is seasoned with lime juice, chilies, red onions and loads of cilantro; every mouthful is a fiery, tart, crunchy pleasure.
Other unique, only-in-Skokie offerings include a Thai crepe, seasoned with coconut milk, jammed with bean sprouts, tofu and dried shrimp.. plus the classic Thai dessert - too often absent from many "Thai" restaurants: fresh mango with sweet, coconut cream-laced sticky rice. The kitchen will prepare any dish as you like it, but be sure to clarify your tolerance level.
"Many people, they love spicy, they come to us. We have scale, 1 - 4 and we are Thai spicy, so if they order four, they can taste really Thai spicy," he said.
A lot of Thai restaurants will be celebrating Songkran over the next three days. If you really want to impress your Thai server with the ultimate compliment, let them know everything was "aroy," or delicious.
Tub Tim Thai
4927 Oakton St., Skokie