The dishes are pad thai and khao soi. Most Thai restaurants have them these days, as both fresh and packaged ingredients have become easier to find. But I truly appreciate it when they take a few extra steps when making each dish that make all the difference.
EXTRA COURSE: Hom Mali Magic
Pad thai is on pretty much every Thai menu in town, including Hom Mali Thai and Sushi on a busy stretch of North Avenue.
"Pad thai is really popular dish in our country. If you go to Thailand, you can see it everywhere in the country," said Supasin Ratchadapronvanich, the chef of Hom Mali.
Rice noodles are doused in a bit of vinegar, cooked in a wok, along with an egg, plus the addition of bean sprouts and garlic chives, one of the two important elements here. The other is a homemade tamarind sauce, which comes from the thick, sticky tamarind pulp.
"We're using the tamarind sauce. Most of the Thai restaurants here, they're using vinegar. We're using the fish sauce instead of the thin soy sauce, to make the smell more like fresh Thai," Ratchadapronvanich said.
They also use three giant head-on shrimp, briefly boiled then tossed in the wok with some tamarind. After they plate the noodles and the shrimp, they also serve it with tiny amounts of chopped peanuts, white sugar and ground chilies.
This way, you customize the dish at the table - perhaps adding a squeeze of fresh lime - then mixing it well to give you a balance of sweet, salty, spicy and sour.
The other dish is from the north, called khao soi. Chicken is cooked with curry and coconut milk, but that packaged curry paste is fortified with three extra ingredients.
"We add more ingredients in there, when we cooking the curry, we add the turmeric, fresh turmeric, red onion and garlic and mash it into the chili paste," he said.
The chicken curry is poured over boiled egg noodles. Crispy, fried noodles are placed on top of the dish, and again, at the table, you do the doctoring, squeezing on fresh lime, adding pickled mustard greens, red onion and chili paste as you wish, but being certain to mix it all up.
"When you combine together, it make like crispy and chewy. That makes the khao soi a lot better," Ratchadapronvanich said.
Hom Mali Thai and Sushi
417 W. North Ave.