We're a month into 2016 and it seems that one of the years biggest food trends has already been established. Southeast Asian food is really taking off even further in Chicago. In the last couple months there's been five different Thai spots to open up and compete with the really good ones that have already established themselves. Today's stop is JJ Thai Street Food, one of the aforementioned new spots to open up. This one under the guidance of a former Yuzu cook in the old Yuzu space.
Newly Opened in Ukrainian Village
When the owners of Yuzu Sushi & Robata Grill decided to move into bigger digs down the block, they were able to convince their friend, Chef Jina, to open her own spot. JJ Thai Street Food was eventually born and it's here where she's permanently cooking up many of her popular Thai dishes. I've been a few times and the service is great. They're genuinely happy to have you and come to check on how you're doing more than a few times each meal. It has a little bit of a street stall feel with the kitchen being open air and a few people usually working in there.
Thai Style Isan Sausage
The Isan Sausage (Sai Krok Isan) is always a good place to start and Chef Jina's is right up there with the other really good ones around town. If they just had a bit more snap I would've been giddy but the funk and the flavor notes were on and there was plenty of ginger slices, peanuts, and sliced Thai peppers to enjoy the sausage balls with. Unfortunately there are no fish options under the salads however the grilled pork salad is another item I was really happy with. Nice hints of fish sauce mixed with plenty of fresh red onion slices and a nice bowl of sticky rice which is rec'd getting on the side.
Grilled Pork Salad
JJ has some very attractive menu items under both the noodle and rice options. The Khao Man Gai is certainly one of them. This dish is basically Thailand's take on the popular Chinese dish Hainanese Chicken. It's poached chicken served atop rice. Usually there's a potent cup of broth on the side but I didn't get one at JJ. The chicken was still pretty good but poached chicken can only go so far. Luckily the ginger rice and spicy dipping sauce on the side were there because they only enhanced it.
Khao Man Gai
My favorite item tried thus far is the Khao Kha Moo. This is a dish somewhat similar to Khao Man Gai except it's pork thats simmered until tender. Pork Shank is cooked in a broth with plenty of Chinese 5 Spice powder. Once tender it's served atop a mountain of rice. It comes with a hard boiled egg on the side and also some greens, mushrooms, and a gnarly cup of red chile sauce. This is a popular street dish in Thailand and said to be the favorite of former Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej who was also a celebrity chef. I think he'd be happy with this version. I know I was.
Khao Kha Moo
JJ Thai Street Food
1715 W Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622