-Grubbing in Chicago
Iconic Thai Food in Uptown
Chicago has some damn good Thai restaurants. So much so I’d name Thai food as one of the city’s better food strengths. We have some top heavy spots that would be good anywhere, including LA. Today we head over to the one of the city’s oldest Thai restaurants. A place that sat on Sheridan road in Uptown for close to 30 years before moving into new digs a few years back, also in Uptown.
The new space sits on Broadway and it's the anchor of a small strip mall (free parking). It’s a long and narrow spot with a decent amount of space due to the two dining rooms separated by the entrance. It’s big enough to where they have their own takeout section which is typically busy with people picking up their to-go orders. The menu at Siam Noodle & Rice offers all of the Thai classics and then some. There’s a section for Northern Thai dishes like dry fried beef jerky, bamboo shoot salad or larb with sticky rice. Then you got a handful of chefs specials such as the basil duck and a basil fried rice dish that you won’t find everywhere. In fact it’s the Basil chicken aka Pad Ka Prao that first turned me onto this place. This classic combination of stir fried minced meat mixed with Thai basil sitting atop a big pile of white rice is comfort food for Thai people. Lots of spots around town will serve some sort of basil chicken dish but if the chicken isn’t minced (not ground) it’s not made right. Not only does Siam make it right but they make it spicy in the perfect way (not too hot but definitely not mild).
Pad Khe Mao aka drunken noodles is a good dish to judge a Thai restaurant by. It’s not hard to make but some spots do a better job with the wok than others. Most importantly is the stir frying of the wide rice noodles, when done right they get that smoky flavor aka wok hei. Another part that’s important is the meat itself. Nine times out of ten the beef at these type of spots is not good. It’ll be too chewy or more steamed than stir fried which gives it a not so sexy look. The beef at Siam is one of the biggest exceptions to this. Bite size pieces of extremely flavorful beef is just tender enough to not fall apart but can easily be ripped apart. It’s similar in taste to the beef in a bowl of pho, just sliced a bit thicker. Siam rounds theirs out with egg, collard green, bean sprouts, basil leaves, black bean sauce and chili sauce. It’s one of the better versions in town, if not the best non-crispy version that I’ve found.
Siam Noodle & Rice is also one of just a few spots I know of where you can score a bowl of dry noodle soup, meaning a bowl of noodles without the broth. It’s common for noodle shops in Bangkok and beyond to serve their bowls of noodle soup without broth, making it a stir fry of sorts. You can order a number of the noodle soups at Siam “dry” for a $1 extra. I enjoy the traditional version with beef and a bunch of their house made hot sauce on top. You should also ask for their ginger sauce to go with it. When your dry noodles arrive they’ll be decorated with a handful of ingredients including ground peanuts, sugar and dry chile flakes. Mix it all up and squeeze the lime on top and you got a dish that brings me right back to Yaowarat. Bangkok’s Chinatown is the largest outside of China.
Siam Noodle & Rice
4142 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60613