It's confirmed: I am a wimp.
At Bangkok Thai Restaurant and Sushi Bar last week, my lunch companion ordered his soup and entree “hot.” The restaurant offers its Thai dishes with four levels of heat: mild, medium, hot and “Thai hot.”
I ordered my dish mild, but asked for a taste of his soup and entrée.
After both tastes, my eyes watered, nose ran and throat burned. I coughed and grabbed for my glass of water.
And that wasn't even “Thai hot.”
Therein lies the beauty of Thai cuisine. You can order it as mild or hot as you can stand.
The restaurant in a strip center on Jefferson Boulevard has been open since August. Tamee and Smith Tun run the business. The day we were there their adorable 3-year-old daughter, Everest, also was there charming the customers. Smith Tun is the sushi chef and Tamee Tun is the server.
The restaurant is small but elegant with cloth tablecloths and napkins and beautiful menus embossed with the image of an elephant. It was doing a good lunch business the day we were there.
I watched with envy as a platter with several types of sushi was delivered to a neighboring table. My lunch companion is not a fan of sushi, so I settled on a single piece for $2. I chose crab stick nigiri sushi, which was cooked crab on a clump of rice wrapped with a thin strip of seaweed. It was bland, but came alive when garnished with a tiny bit of wasabi and pickled ginger.
Since it was lunchtime, we ordered off the lunch menu. Be forewarned, even the lunch portions are huge. We each took home leftovers.
My companion started with a cup of Tom Yum hot pot soup, served in an adorable lidded white pumpkin-shaped bowl. It could be ordered with pork, beef or chicken; he chose the latter. It was thick with chunks of chicken, large chunks of tomato, mushrooms and onion, and was flavored with lemongrass, cilantro, galangal and kaffir lime leaves.
And as I said, it was spicy. I couldn't get beyond the heat, but my companion could, and once his palate adjusted to the heat, he could really savor the flavors.
His entrée was Pad Thai with pork, also ordered “hot.” Again, I couldn't get past one bite due to the spiciness. The traditional Thai dish of fried rice noodles was topped with pork, eggs, tofu, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, carrots, green onion and sliced lime. By this time, he was accustomed to the heat and was able to enjoy the complex flavors, only excusing himself once to go to the restroom to blow his nose.
I hope I haven't discouraged the timid from trying Thai food, because I can assure you my “mild” dish, Lad Nar, did not make me cry or choke. Served in a large bowl, it was a colorful dish with stir-fried, wide rice noodles, large chunks of carrots and broccoli, baby corn, and tender white-meat chicken in a gravy.
It wasn't thin enough in consistency to be considered soup, but I did eat it with a spoon. The vegetables retained just a bit of crispness, and the chicken was sliced thin and tender. The gravy had just a hint of sweetness.
So you see? You can eat Thai without burning your lips off. But if you're a wimp like me, start out with the “mild” level of spiciness before progressing even to “medium.” My lunch companion even admitted he probably could have “kicked it back to a 'medium' for the first time.”
I struck up a conversation with Tamee Tun after the meal and learned about how she and her husband and daughter ended up in Fort Wayne. Smith Tun was born in Burma but grew up in Thailand. She grew up in the Mon region of Burma. The two were introduced by their parents, who knew each other.
They were married in 2005, and moved to the United States in 2006, first to Wisconsin and then to Ohio before moving to Fort Wayne in 2009. Tamee Tun wanted her daughter to grow up in Fort Wayne because it has a large Burmese community.
Smith Tun worked in Ohio on a contract basis as a sushi chef for some grocery stores before they decided to open their own restaurant here.
Fort Wayne is all the better for their decision.
Every other Tuesday, Larson describes a one-time dining experience at an area restaurant. The N-S pays for meals. It's the personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The N-S. Call at 461-8284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See other columns at www.news-sentinel.com/ section/LARSON.