CHICAGO (WLS) --There's a lot more to Thai food than simply hot chilies. An Uptown family is taking a unique approach, serving traditional "street food" dishes from Bangkok and beyond.
It's part of our Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Coverage in which each Friday Feast in May is linked to a different country
Thai food is really more about balance, rather than in-your-face heat. There's always salty, sour and sweet, in addition to heat, and at one restaurant along Broadway, in a sea of Vietnamese restaurants, there is a relatively new Thai option where you can pretty much taste anything before you commit.
Thai street food is among the world's most delicious, and complex, ways to eat. Each dish contains a myriad of ingredients: salty fish sauce, tart, fresh lime juice, fermented shrimp and herbal lemongrass are a few of the hallmarks. At Immm Rice and Beyond in Uptown a large chalkboard and steam table up front, gives some indication of the kitchen's committment to not dumbing it down. Take the som tom, or green papaya salad. They offer a half dozen versions, but the classic is the way to go for beginners. Fresh garlic and Thai chilies are pounded in a mortar and pestle, along with crunchy green beans, then the thinly-shredded green papaya is added, along with some carrot. Palm sugar adds sweetness; lime and fish sauce give it complexity and it's all pounded together with cherry tomatoes before hitting the plate.
"It's green papaya salad. It varies. It depends on what you want to put in there. But the best is papaya and lime juice and fish sauce," said co-owner Dew Suriyawan. "People even put salty egg in there or grilled pork neck."
A classic dish from Chiang Mai, in the North: khao soi. Think of it as a chicken-coconut milk curry soup with boiled rice noodles, then topped with a mound of crispy noodles for crunch, plus a condiment plate of pickled mustard greens, fresh shallots and cabbage, as well as extra chile if you like it hot. Since so many dishes may not be familiar to most, they let customers take a taste before committing.
"It's really hard to explain what it tastes like, so I have my customer sample everything there, so they have some idea what to do, what to eat for this meal."
Immm Rice & Beyond
4949 N Broadway
EXTRA COURSE: Papaya salad at Immm Rice & Beyond