Hungry Hound tracks down Thai fare

May 13, 2009 (HARWOOD HEIGHTS, Ill.) ABC7's Hungry Hound is focusing on Thailand in this segment as he salutes Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

There are so many dishes in the Thai repertoire.. but two really stand out: som tom, a traditional green papaya salad; and pad Thai, the ubiquitous noodle dish found just about everywhere. At the new Thai Pastry in Harwood Heights, they tend to recommend the latter quite a bit.

"Most people when they come in, they don't know the food. They just say please recommend me something then we (are) going to recommend pad Thai is a popular one, people eat that a lot," said Aumphai Kusub, owner of Thai Pastry.

It begins with stir-fried eggs and bits of chicken, then long rice noodles are tossed in, the hallmark of the dish. A quick succession of ingredients, such as radish, sugar, fish sauce and tamarind are all added, these provide crucial notes of salt, sweet and sour. Bean sprouts and green onions go in at the end for some color and crunch.

Speaking of crunch, the som tom is another textural gem. But this time, its green papaya that's the star. Fresh garlic and hot chile are added to a mortar; they're pounded along with a few shards of the crunchy papaya. Next, in goes green beans, tomatoes, and then a large handful of papaya. Fish sauce and sugar offer that one-two punch of salt and sweet. Finally, a healthy dose of roasted peanuts add further crunch, making the salad a textural dynamo. The two dishes form the backbone of just about any Thai feast.

"Thai people they eat like a Buffet style. We don't eat like American people with each plate for everybody. We gonna share all the food together," said Kusub.

Also worth a mention-- the fish cakes, the skewers, the roast duck; but if you go with a salad, a noodle and a curry, it's a pretty good introduction to Thai cuisine.

The original Thai pastry is in uptown, but any Thai restaurant in the region will have both dishes.

Thai Pastry II
7350 W. Lawrence Ave.


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