Exotic Thai fruits at 12 restaurants for a limited time

With a five-day celebration in Daley Plaza, the annual Thai Chicago Festival will have dancing, music and of course, food.

But our Hungry Hound says a notable addition this year will come in the form of exotic fruit.

It isn't just any Thai salad. it also contains fresh longan and rambutan, two native fruits that were - until recently - only available frozen or canned in this country.

"We do have longan and rambutan, but we get it from the can, but now we can get them fresh. That's very nice," said Somsiri Lertpanichpun, Thai Classic.

Thai Classic in Wrigleyville isn't alone. More than a dozen other local Thai restaurants are starting to see their beloved produce there, allowing them to add fresh mangosteens or lychee to curries and pan-fried crab crakes.

"Yes it's very exciting because we never see anything fresh like that before," said Lertpanichpun.

Getting the fruits to Chicago wasn't easy, but Thai government officials are doing their best to make them available.

"We use these fruits in both our desserts as well as in our main dishes. And Thai fruits are known for exotic tastes," said Narong Sasitorn, Thai Consul General.

The Thai government has been working with the City, to prepare for next week's Thai Festival in Daley Plaza.

"We are going to have lots of Thai food, Thai cultural performances and especially for this year, the Thai tropical fruits will be the main theme of the event," said Sasitorn.

Back at Thai Classic, the coveted longan joins a Philippino mango, adding fruitiness to sweetened sticky rice. Meanwhile, the hard-to-find mangosteen and rambutan rest in a tropical salad. Thai restaurateurs say even though they're cost-prohibitive to keep on their menu year round, they realize for a short time, their menus will be bursting with native favorites.

"It's very good for all the restaurants because it's so much better taste," said Lertpanichpun.

Now that Thai fruits are going to be on the menu here at Thai Classic and about a dozen other restaurants around the region through the 23rd, if you do get a chance to enjoy them, "delicious in Thai, is "arroy."

There are a total of 12 local Thai restaurants, all using the exotic fruits until the 23rd in the city and the suburbs.

Thai Festival Chicago
June 16-20
10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Daley Plaza

Thai Classic
3332 N. Clark St.

Special Menu until June 23rd:
Goong Lum-Yai
Grilled marinated shrimp, white onion,sweet pepper and longan in ginger soy sauce

Thai crab cake with Rambutan
Pan fried Blue crab, white onion, cilantro wrapped with wheat paper served with rambutan and cucumber salad, dressed with sweet chili sauce

Fresh and Tasty fruit salad
Mixed green mango, longan, rambutan and mangosteen in fish sauce, lime & chili dressing garnish with carrot topped with peanut

Fruit and Shrimp curry
Shrimp, longan, lychee and pineapple in red coconut curry sauce, served with steamed jasmine rice

Frozen longan stuffed with coconut ice cream and frozen rambutan stuffed with pineapple ice cream, served caramelized fresh pineapple

Lychee Sorbet
Mangosteen Sorbet
Longan Custard

Other Thai restaurants featuring the imported fruits through June 23rd:

600 S. Dearborn

Chang Thai
7634 W. Madison St., Forest Park

Dharma Garden
3109 W. Irving Pk. Rd.

Miss Asia
434 W. Diversey

Ruby of Siam
9420 Skokie Blvd., Skokie

Siam Rice
117 N. Wells St.

Sticky Rice
4018 N. Western Ave.

3124 N. Broadway

Thai Thai
475 Lake Cook Rd., Deerfield

Thai Urban Kitchen
500 W. Madison

Tub Tim Thai
4927 Oakton St., Skokie

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