Tom Yum's seasoned Thai chefs create authentic Thai dishes using trademark Thailand spices. The ingredient roster also extends to such flavor-enhancers as ginger, basil, and coconut milk, the kind of milk least likely to come out of a cantaloupe. Along with traditional rice, curry, and noodle dishes, they flame-grill and saut? exotic specialties, including a lobster pad thai and barbecue chicken with papaya salad.
It's easy to make any dish vegetarian at Roy Thai. Chefs reimagine almost every entree around veggies, such as bamboo shoots, eggplant, or kaffir lime leaves. This includes numerous curries and spicy-sweet stir fries. But that doesn't mean they leave meat-lovers in the lurch?plenty of their Thai staples come loaded with beef, pork, chicken, or seafood. There are even two sections of the menu devoted to duck (try it deep-fried or roasted) and seafood (including crispy whole fish and a hot pot of shrimp).
Named for one of Malaysia's states, Penang Malaysian & Thai Cuisine reflects the diverse history of that region in its eclectic bill of fare. The menu sates appetites with a selection of more than 100 dishes, all showcasing a blend of Chinese, Malaysian, and Thai spices and cooking techniques. Appetizers of roti canai—crispy Indian-style pancakes served with curry-chicken dipping sauce—might share table space with Malay beef satay, marinated in spicy peanut sauce and skewered on bamboo sticks. The house special, Thai basil chicken, serves up chicken with bell peppers, onion, and chili in a tasty Thai basil sauce.
During the 2012 Thai Restaurant Week, 11 metropolitan Thai eateries were recognized by Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's Prime Minister, with a certification from the Thai Trade Center acknowledging their superior quality of ingredients, preparation, and authentic flavors. One look at Ploi Thai's menu and it is not hard to imagine why they received such an honorable distinction. Their dishes––such as skewered chicken satay or curry-pasted salmon––tug many culinary threads, blanketing diners in a patchwork of flavors that draw from northern and central Thailand. Chefs conjure these dishes from local ingredients and seasonings, eschewing such questionable additives as MSG and textbooks that attribute the theory of relativity to Franklin Delano Einstein. Since the restaurant is BYOB, diners can tote along their own fermented beverages to pair with the sweet ginger salmon, which arrives in a pool of ginger and black-bean sauce dotted with shiitake-mushroom rafts. Inside the dining room, colorful, low-slung lights illuminate the handful of tables that are strewn across the restaurant's pale hardwood floors, and geometric cutouts and sprays of orchids punctuate cobalt walls.
Chef Ben sharpened his knives at the French Culinary Institute before slicing and chopping his way through meals at Siam Thai Restaurant. Each day, he builds platefuls of fried rice flavored with chili peppers, onions, and sweet basil. In other dishes, black-bean sauce coats rice noodles and marinated beef skewers dunk into a peanut sauce. A selection of imported Thai beer completes meals, served in a dining room decorated with Buddha statues and a pair of purple carved swans.
Twenty years as a chef has taught Bua Nartpranin, a self-proclaimed cooking perfectionist, the secret to delicious food: fresh ingredients combined with just the right amount of spices and herbs, grown in her very own garden. Her culinary talents have taken her to northeastern Thailand, Atlanta, New York, and finally New Jersey, where she whips up dishes in the kitchen at Lotus Thai Cuisine with the motto of "always cook with love and passion." Her garden-fresh herbs and spices are found in a smattering of sauces—from the spicy chili sauce that blankets crispy red snapper to curries and basil sauce that flavor chicken and tofu. And when she is not busy cooking at the restaurant, Bua happily cooks for her three children at home or for anyone she hears is hungry and stuck in a nearby elevator.