Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: Whenever Siam in the Mood for Thai Food...

Ruby of Siam
9420 Skokie Blvd., Skokie

What I ate: Panang Kuay Tiew, Khao Soy, Pad Thai

I can’t precisely recall when I came to know and like Thai food. It doesn’t go back to my childhood, like my enjoyment of Italian, Chinese and Mexican food, but perhaps sometime in the mid-’90s a friend suggested we get some Pad Thai—a popular noodle dish—and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Over the subsequent years, I have probably dined out for Thai food more times—and at more different restaurants—than I have sought out any other international cuisine. But although the menu at Thai restaurants is usually pretty extensive, I primarily have ordered only two or three different entrees.

Pad Thai is my main staple. On the Ruby of Siam menu, it is described as: Stir fried rice noodles or bean thread noodles with your choice of protein. Prepared with tofu, bean sprouts, eggs, ground peanuts and green onions.

I get it with either beef or pork, and because I like it on the sweet and tangy side with a touch of spice, I typically ask for some tamarind or sweet & sour sauce and some chili paste that I add to it. And though it comes with ground peanuts, a little more never hurts.

Though I acknowledge that it’s pretty much Thai Food for Beginners, I like Pad Thai enough that I would pretty much be happy with it any time I eat at a Thai joint. But to switch things up a bit, I also commonly order beef with a curry sauce, either Panang or Mussaman, both of which have coconut milk at their base. Panang tends to have green peppers in its mix, while Mussaman has peanuts and potatoes; both are typically served with rice, and though one tends to be thicker than the other, even if I could remember which, I think this has varied from restaurant to restaurant.

For an appetizer, I often get either soft Spring Rolls or Satay, if pork or beef is available (as I’m allergic to chicken).

Though I have eaten at many different Thai restaurants around the Chicago area and beyond, Ruby of Siam is probably the one I’ve most frequented. Their Skokie location is closest to my home (and, IMHO, better than other Thai places in Skokie) and their Loop location on Washington is convenient for pre-theater dining.

The other night, inspired in part by having visited the Peanuts (as in Charlie Brown) exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, my mom, sister and I once again dined at Ruby of Siam.

While in conducting my Chicago Dining World Tour, I certainly don’t mind highlighting some places that are longtime favorites, I did feel compelled to order something different than my typical Pad Thai, Mussaman or Panang.

I went with Panang Kuay Tiew, which falls under Noodle Dishes on the menu and is described as: Steamed noodles and bell peppers topped with panang curry prepared with choice of protein.

So I got the Panang flavoring that I like, with pork as my protein, a few peppers and some ground peanuts that I requested and added. But rather than the Pad Thai noodles, which are under 1/2 centimeter wide, the Kuay Tiew noodles were over an inch wide.

It was certainly tasty and nothing I really regretted ordering, but I can’t say I liked it more than Pad Thai or the Panang or Mussaman over rice.

I also sampled my sister’s Pad Thai with Tofu, which was good—though devoid of the extra sweetness and slight heat I like to add—and had some of my mom’s Khao Soy, shown at right (steamed egg noodles in a coconut curry soup topped with crispy egg noodles and onions prepared with choice of protein, in this case tofu). I liked the flavoring, as well as the mix of soft and crispy noodles, but even prepared “mild” it had a kick that was a bit too strong for me.

All in all, it was a typically satisfying meal at Ruby of Siam, even without any appetizer or dessert, but I imagine on my next Thai food excursion, I’ll go back to the tried and true.

What can I say, Siam what Siam.

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