Wednesday, July 18, 2012

goodness and graciousness

The first time I met Mu, she wrapped our arms together as she led me to a table, all the while chatting with me in her quiet way, as though we were long lost friends.  She'd just met my sister a few days before and at Ruang Thai, no one is a stranger for long. 

Mu and her husband Tai own this little gem named after Mu's father.  Don't let the dull, suburban retail strip fool you; Ruang Thai is a warm and inviting restaurant. 

Opened just over a year, Ruang has many dedicated fans who claim it to be the best Thai food in Dallas.  My knowledge of the cuisine is limited but of the several places I've tried, I do exclaim it's the best I've ever eaten.  It's a feast for the eyes as well by the owners' attention to the beautiful presentation of their food. 

Appetizers are often, to me, the highlight of meals and at Ruang I've enjoyed several; shrimp wrapped in filo dough and fried until they are golden and crisp, the classic, crunchy egg rolls, and my absolute favorite, corn patties which are always fresh and hot.  So good!

The first entree I ate at Ruang was a broccoli-black pepper-cilantro dish to which I added shrimp.  I liked it a lot and would order it again if only I could stop eating the lemongrass!  In it, a variety of vegetables cooked to perfection, are submerged in a most fragrant broth.  Why have I never tried lemongrass until now, I ask myself.  Shame, shame, shame on me.  

I am so taken with this newest discovery, I attempted to cook myself a similar lemongrass dish last night.  I knew I couldn't replicate Ruang's but I hoped mine would be a decent first trial.  Here's a quick version of what I did.  Better than decent; it was actually very good. 

For an excellent version though, head to Ruang Thai where Mu will graciously greet you.  Be sure to give her my love.

Vegetables with Lemongrass

I got some Jasmine going in the electric rice steamer; comes out perfect every time!

Roasted some peanuts.  (Didn't have cashews.)

Heated a few cups of vegetable stock. 

Using a blender, I made a paste of (close to) equal parts garlic, ginger, scallions, and the usable part of one stalk of chopped lemongrass.
Thinned the paste with a little water to get it to pulse in the machine.

Chopped another stalk of lemongrass and simmered it in a bit of the vegetable stock.

Chopped vegetables for the stir-fry.
Used what was on hand:  yellow onion, carrots,celery including the leafy tops, one small ear of corn-cut off the cob, scallions, mushrooms.
Advice: keep the vegetables in large chunks.  I chopped all the vegetables too small.
Big mistake; resembled a mirepoix more than stir-fry.

In a little oil, I cooked together over fairly high heat, the onion, carrots, celery, and corn for about 10 minutes.  Needed to add more oil.
Threw in the scallions and cooked a few minutes longer. 

Mixed in about 2 tablespoons of the garlicky paste and cooked for a minute or so.  Added the lemongrass and its broth, mushrooms,
and additional stock a half-a-cup at a time. 
Added a few splashes of fish sauce. 

Simmered until the liquid had somewhat cooked down.  It looked a little thin
but worked out fine and it tasted fresh and full of lemongrass. 

Served with steamed rice and hot peanuts.  

Ruang Thai
1301 Custer Road just south of 15th Street, Plano 
972.422.4143   BYOB!

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