CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are dozens of Thai restaurants in and around the city, but our Hungry Hound says a relatively new one that opened shortly before the pandemic is now making some of the best versions of traditional dishes you probably won't see elsewhere in town.
Plus, everything- including the curry paste- is made from scratch.
The bold flavors on the plates, and in the bowls at Same Same - a tiny Roscoe Village Thai restaurant with the benefit of both a front and a back patio - are a result of Kris Henry's frequent backpacking trips with his wife.
"We spent three winters in Southeast Asia and a portion of that was in Thailand so a couple months," Henry said.
They fell in love with the cuisine's complexity.
"It's such a great balance of so many ingredients all at one time, kind of firing on all levels," said Henry.
His vibrant green curry is a great example. But so is his khao soi, a dish hailing from Chiang Mai in the North. It starts with toasted curry paste, which he makes from scratch.
"It starts with our homemade paste, that's a toasted spice blend of coriander, cumin, some black cardamom really brings that earthiness to it," he said.
Lemongrass, dried shrimp and a host of aromatics are added. Coconut milk gives the dish its body and richness, while palm sugar provides earthy sweetness. Wheat noodles are boiled - some will go into the base of the dish. Then he tears up dark meat chicken to make it easier to eat. A mound of crispy wheat noodles graces the top, along with tart mustard greens, fresh lime and cilantro.
"Always a side of our homemade nam prik - chili paste," he said.
Just mix thoroughly and enjoy.
Another Chiang Mai classic: Khao Kha Muu.
"It's a whole pork shank that we braise for three hours in pandan leaf and Shaoxing wine, palm sugar; fish sauce, thin soy sauce, black soy sauce," said Henry.
That braising liquid also hard-boils an egg, and the pulled and shredded pork is balanced once again by those tart greens.
Henry also recreates a fried chicken he had in the town of Hat Yai.
"You'll see fried chicken all over Thailand. Hat Yai makes it in a specific way: marinating with oyster sauce, coriander root and a ton of white pepper, which gives a great punch," he said.
Rice flour and limestone water in the dredge help create an extra crispy exterior. Served with a small mound of sticky rice and chili honey, the bird is doused in fried shallots. Henry says he loves playing with sauces, sides and condiments, which allow guests to customize their meal.
"That's kind of what it's all about, how spicy do you want it, do you want it more sour more salty, so it's kind of all about using those extra sides to really making it the way you like it," said Henry.
They also make creative cocktails and have an interesting beer list - both of which go great with the assertive Thai food, that is not always spicy, despite what a lot of people think.
2022 W. Roscoe St.
Chicago, IL 60618
Traditional, made from scratch Thai cuisine at Same Same in Roscoe Village