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Thai Secret Menus

Thai Secret Menu---from Chicago Board

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Thai Secret Menu---from Chicago Board

malcarne | Nov 11, 2003 02:39 PM

This post is in response to a thread on the Chicago board regarding the supposed condescension inherent in “secret” menus-First: Thai food, it's width and breadth, while(in this case) limited? to the "height" of Thai cuisine circa ninteenth century royal banquets, is available for all to see and learn about in David Thompson's not obscure(any library should either haved it or have it available through inter-library loan) Thai Food. I own it, but, I have a huge interest in Thai food and culture. Any bookstore can get it for you. I open with this recommendation because I take offense at the idea of an implicit snobbery in the search of all that's available in a given cuisine. Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet is another great, readily available, beautiful cookbook, that, while enveloping the Mekong River as its cuisine raison d'etre, includes a wealth of Thai food out side of Pad Thai. At least in the case of Thai restaurants with secret menus("secret" being an innapropriate appellation and offered only in so much as its efficacious to search chowhound plugging in the words "secret menu."), the hope is not to offend the intrepid patron. The Thai are enculturated with a conviviality, an eagerness to please...perhaps an eagerness not to offend. If a menu is kept from farang(foreigners) its in the hopes that an overabundance of fish sauce, spice heat, cured, tangy, strong, "off" flavors won't upset the patron seeking, at most, Shrimp Tom Yum, etc. In the case of the Thai its ridiculous to ascribe this eagerness to please with a smear of condescension. I've encountered the hairy eyeball, an unwelcome feeling, and the like at Chinese and Vietnamese joints but never Thai. Years ago a friend and I went from Vietnamese restaurant to Vietnamese restaurant on Argyle street poking our heads in doors and ascertaining the vibe before we finally chose a place. We stuck with it. There are so many more variables in ethnic restaurants trying to make a go of it by pleasing their foreign customers than mere unwillingness to share the fruits of their cuisines. Either you're up to the challenge or not. Whatever. In this case Thai restaurants hope to survive as much as any other ethnic restaurants, if they choose to only serve basic curries, noodle dishes and pad thai, well, I'm not going to patronise them. That's not what I look for in Thai food. It's important to mention that Thailand has diverse cuisines(often posted about on this board). I wonder if in the same way Chicago has an abundance of Cantonese restaurants and influences our Thai population isn't necessarily more Chinese-influenced as per the appearence of very Chinese stirfries on many Thai menus.

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