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Thai Food House (Flushing NY)
||144-20 45th Avenue,|
Flushing, NY 11355
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(2) page: 24 and 25
Multi-ethnic restaurants serving more than two different cuisines are on the rise. For example, there are many Chinese restaurants that also serve Japanese food; this is particularly true for Taiwanese places because Taiwan was ruled by the Japanese for more than fifty years and they have learned to know and love Japanese cuisine. Then there are those folk who believe that all Chinese food is the same and that Chinese restaurants serve but one cuisine no matter the menu or what the sign specifies. They are unaware that several Chinese cuisines are available.
A few months ago, a trio of cuisines with a like number of chefs open under one roof in the borough of Queens. Called Thai House; 144-20 45th Avenue, Flushing NY 11355; phone: (718) 961-3094, it is across the street from Flushing Hospital. This Thai Food House serves much more than just Thai food. Here you can get Burmese, Thai, and Chinese cuisine, most of which is Yunnanese (that is Chinese food from the Chinese province of Yunnan). If you are unfamiliar, let us advise that a lot of Yunnan food is Hmong in taste. There are many minority populations in the Yunnan Province, to read about one of the largest, the Hmong, and their cuisine see the article in this very issue.
Thai House opens at seven in the morning, no doubt to accommodate the round the clock shift for those working at its neighbor, the hospital. It also opens early to serve breakfast for the local multi-ethnic community. It closes at nine each night during its six day week, and is closed on Mondays. The staff is multi-ethnic, too, as exemplified by our two waitresses. One advises she is born in India, in Hyderabad to be specific, but is ethnically Chinese, the other just says she is Burmese and the fellow doing dishes in the kitchen is Thai.
Everyone on the front of this house is female. The rest of the staff is manning (if you’ll excuse the expression) a large steam table with gorgeous-looking fresh foods of all of the aforementioned cuisines. They are also serving Asian bakery delights left-over from their breakfast trade, including sweet and non-sweet cakes of every description.
As we want to go to their dining room, we need to go out and find the sliding glass door next door. We had been alerted to this restaurant by a Taiwanese gentleman whose family was from Yunnan. He advises that the restaurant is home-style and that the dining room is akin to a "Jewish tent used for the Sukkot holiday." My American informer says it all, when he comments about our Chinese informer: "What a great New Yorker he’s become!" New and old immigrants and those born in the United States really are ever so multicultural.
After sitting at one of the half dozen tables, we browse the take-out menu. Though not as pretty as the one for those eating in, it does list Thai Cuisine first, with sixteen selections; next the foods listed as Southern Chinese Cuisine, but most are specifically from Yunnan. That group has twenty-four dishes and the waitress advises that though the menu does not say so, more than half of them are Yunnanese. Then comes Burmese Cuisine with eight dishes to choose from. In addition to these are eight Rice & Rice Cake, Chow Fun choices, thirteen Noodles, five Soups and an equal number of Dessert items. Beverage choices include twelve called: Drink and ten under: Fresh Juice, a like number listed as: Bubble Black/Green Tea, and half dozen titled: Milk Tea.
We begin with a noodle salad made with mung beans, it is called Bean Curd Salad. It is fine but a bland starter. The Sliced Pork with Thin Rice Noodle does not so indicate, but is a delicious soup. It is made with sour cabbage, carrots, pork, and noodles and we adore it. On another visit we have the Lazybone Sour Soup with Pork. It is a smaller portion, but even better. Both of these soups taste similar to Hmong soups we ate in the past, home-style and heart-warming.
Our Southern Chinese Style Chicken with Sour Papaya is Yunnanese, as are both soups, and it is a real surprise. It is loaded with whole cloves of garlic and lots of dried papaya which is probably dried very young. It is deliciously tart, and it makes us want to visit an Asian store and buy some to use at home. We want to try the Beef Belly Salad, a Thai dish that we once did enjoy, but unfortunately they are out of it already. Squid with Ginger and Hot Pepper, also Yunnanese, is really hot, and really a nice dish. So i the Sliced Pork Salad and the Sesame Beef.
There is the usual Sweet and Sour Shrimp, that tastes better here; The Shrimp with Broccoli and the Sesame Beef do, too. The Chow Fun with Seafood comes short on sea creatures, and we do not have room in our stomachs for the Celestial Chicken, so we can not report if it is really heavenly. We can say that the Pickled Vegetable with Shredded Pork is good, its greens long pickled, its tomatoes and carrots not pickled at all.
Unusual is the Burmese salad with Tea Leaves. The Scrambled Egg with Bamboo Shoots is cooked a little longer than we like our eggs to be, and when the waitress notices we do not finish this dish she asks if it is in need of being redone. Guess she likes her eggs on the soft side, too. The Papaya Salad with Dry Shrimp and Peanuts uses fresh fruit, and we like it just the way it is.
As to the Beef Salad with Onion, the Benakium Nam Sausage Salad, the Preserved Egg with Onion, and the Pataya Chicken, they are waiting for our next visit. We’ll do desserts then, too, and indulge in the Burmese Ice Cream Plate which looks great, something called Pataya Ice Cream, which we never saw and have no clue as to what it is, and the Peanut Soup and Small Rice Ball, just to see how small it really is.
The bottom of the menu says the red stars are ‘Spice Optional’ and we did not need to be concerned because their use for Caucasians is very timid. Not so in the Burmese Salad with Ginger. Speaking of foods Burmese, do not leave without trying the Paratha with Curry Chicken; it is a wonderful bread and dipping sauce that will make you want to return often.
And about which foods are from the Yunnan province, just ask. The waitress tells us that not only are half under Southern Chinese really foods from the Yunnan province, so are about half in the section called Noodles. You will know them by tasting. They will be different and those that have Hmong influences will taste deliciously sour.
Thai House has a daily lunch menu with fifty-nine selections that is not available on holidays. It is served from eleven in the morning until three-thirty in the afternoon. They also have something called a Business Special allowing three entree selections from the ready-made foods on the hot table. Rice and soup, and soda or fruit comes with this less than five dollar meal.
This is a three-family-owned inexpensive neighborhood restaurant. It really is a find. However, what you may not find is a place to park your car if you drive to it. Use the bus that runs down Parsons Boulevard instead, it gets very close. And, if you live within ten blocks, the staff is so neighborly that they deliver your food if your order costs at least nine bucks.
Our thanks go to those who told us about the Yunnanese food here, If you know of other places, especially those with Chinese foods from regions or groups not well represented in most Chinese eateries, do let us know about them too.