CHICAGO (WLS) --There are dozens of Thai restaurants in the region, but most serve a hybrid of Thai, Chinese or even Japanese to appeal to a larger audience.
Now, there's a trend toward cooking dishes considered "street food," which is where some of Thailand's best eating can be found.
The Hungry Hound has found a new spot - JJ Thai Street Food.
He says some of the best meals he has ever had have been on the streets of bangkok. The food is fresh, vibrant and yes, usually spicy but not always. Thais tend to love the harmony of sweet, salty, sour and spicy all at once. And a new west town restaurant is delivering on some of those promises.
The kitchen at JJ Thai Street Food couldn't be any simpler, and the women running it don't have a ton of professional experience. What they do have is years of experience cooking for friends and family.
"I always have a party at home with Thai people and always invite my friends, and they say 'oh, so good, so good, you need a restaurant.' I said 'no!'" said owner Jiranya Thosatheppitak.
That encouragement led to the West Town spot, which has been perennially packed, seeking out rarely seen treats like miang kham, a one-bite snack featuring bits of toasted coconut, lime, ginger, Thai chile and peanuts, topped with sweet palm sugar, wrapped up in a leaf and summarily devoured. Tiny chicken balls, made from ground meat and fat are grilled, then topped with a sweet chile sauce and cilantro. But her big winners are noodles and salads.
"I have a stir-fried noodle, and papaya salad with sticky rice," she said.
The sticky rice is steamed in a traditional basket, transferred to small wicker baskets, where it will keep it warm; the papaya salad - or som tom - is pounded together in a mortar, with chilies, dried shrimp, tomatoes, green beans and handfuls of the crunchy green papaya.
Like most dishes, there is a balance of sweet from palm sugar or tamarind, salty from fish sauce, sour from fresh lime juice and heat from chiles. In the case of the grilled pork salad, there is all of the above, plus some texture from a dose of toasted rice powder added just before serving.
"Some customer they say 'I want spicy.' I say 'are you sure?' They say 'yeah!' she said.
JJ Thai Street Food
1715 W Chicago Ave