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A Great New Special at TAC

A Great New Special at TAC
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  • A Great New Special at TAC

    Post #1 - October 15th, 2006, 7:53 pm
    Post #1 - October 15th, 2006, 7:53 pm Post #1 - October 15th, 2006, 7:53 pm
    This afternoon, I ventured out looking for a little comforting noodle soup to ward off the effects of a chilly Sunday. I decided to avoid Argyle because it can be such a nightmare to find parking on Sundays.

    I ended up at TAC intending to order the Ground Pork and Roasted Pork with Rice Noodle Soup.

    After looking at the specials board, I inquired about the Crispy En Choy. I was told that it was a deep fried choy (broccoli rabe-like) lightly sauced with ground chicken, shrimp, basil, red onion peppers and a fiery sauce.

    Let me tell you, folks. It was one great dish. The choy was deep fried in a batter similar to what one might deep fry squash blossoms in. They were crispy and tasty, mounded atop a stir fry of ground chicken, thai chilis, and basil. Marinated red onion added great contrast to the dish. The sauce, which was light and used sparingly, was the same sauce that they use to finish the fish maw salad. The whole entree salad was topped with steamed prawns.

    Every element of this dish just jumped off of my palate.

    I hope they'll put this one on the menu permanently.
  • Post #2 - October 15th, 2006, 9:56 pm
    Post #2 - October 15th, 2006, 9:56 pm Post #2 - October 15th, 2006, 9:56 pm
    In Thai it's called yam phàk bûng, or "water spinach salad."

    A photo can be found here.

    E.M.
  • Post #3 - October 16th, 2006, 12:31 am
    Post #3 - October 16th, 2006, 12:31 am Post #3 - October 16th, 2006, 12:31 am
    Thanks, Erik. The mushroom salad sounds like my next "must try".
  • Post #4 - October 16th, 2006, 9:08 am
    Post #4 - October 16th, 2006, 9:08 am Post #4 - October 16th, 2006, 9:08 am
    YourPalWill wrote:Thanks, Erik. The mushroom salad sounds like my next "must try".


    Yes, that, too, is fantastic.

    Regards,
    E.M.
  • Post #5 - October 16th, 2006, 10:07 am
    Post #5 - October 16th, 2006, 10:07 am Post #5 - October 16th, 2006, 10:07 am
    Erik,
    I remember once seeing a pronunciation guide for the system of romanization you use, but I am having trouble locating it. Can you post a link?

    Thanks
  • Post #6 - October 16th, 2006, 11:52 am
    Post #6 - October 16th, 2006, 11:52 am Post #6 - October 16th, 2006, 11:52 am
    (If this is a double post I apologize)

    Just adding my two cents: Both the water spinach salad and the mushroom salad are delicious to the point of addiction. I need to go soon by myself so that I don't have to share...or go with someone who will get their own and keep their paws off mine.

    Mine! Mine! All mine!
    Anthony Bourdain on Barack Obama: "He's from Chicago, so he knows what good food is."
  • Post #7 - October 16th, 2006, 12:39 pm
    Post #7 - October 16th, 2006, 12:39 pm Post #7 - October 16th, 2006, 12:39 pm
    d4v3 wrote:Erik,
    I remember once seeing a pronunciation guide for the system of romanization you use, but I am having trouble locating it. Can you post a link?

    Thanks


    I am not aware of an online version of exactly the same, which is a modified version of the Royal Thai General System of Transcription (RTGS), but I can direct you to the links page of my website, which contains links to both The Royal Institute's website and the Thai2English.com website. Both of these sites are sources of information on systems of romanized transcription which are very close to the one that I use.

    NB Neither of these sites may be of much use to you without some familiarity of the written Thai language.

    E.M.

    P.S. If you wish to discuss this matter with me further, I would ask that you do so via the personal messaging system.
  • Post #8 - October 16th, 2006, 5:27 pm
    Post #8 - October 16th, 2006, 5:27 pm Post #8 - October 16th, 2006, 5:27 pm
    Erik, you've probably posted this before, but is there a pronounciation guide for the transliteration?
    I have a fair idea from your (English) spelling/transliteration - still, I hope to achieve greater fluency in Thai (at least for anything that can be on a menu :) - even if I'm told, "People don't eat that" or "It smells, we don't keep it in the kitchen" :roll:)

    Thanks!
  • Post #9 - October 16th, 2006, 5:35 pm
    Post #9 - October 16th, 2006, 5:35 pm Post #9 - October 16th, 2006, 5:35 pm
    sazerac wrote:Erik, you've probably posted this before, but is there a pronounciation guide for the transliteration?
    I have a fair idea from your (English) spelling/transliteration - still, I hope to achieve greater fluency in Thai (at least for anything that can be on a menu :) - even if I'm told, "People don't eat that" or "It smells, we don't keep it in the kitchen" :roll:)

    Thanks!


    Let me research the issue vis-a-vis copyright and then I might post one. As I said above, I am not aware of an online pronunciation guide for the system that I use.

    Now, please, let us get back to the original subject of this thread.

    Regards,
    E.M.
  • Post #10 - November 10th, 2006, 9:08 am
    Post #10 - November 10th, 2006, 9:08 am Post #10 - November 10th, 2006, 9:08 am
    This is something I've mentioned before, but it bears repeating: I often take out-of-town guests to TAC as an example of what I consider to be the source of the most interesting, tasty, and inexpensive food available in Chicago. Also, it is likely that my out-of-town guests are unable to find anything quite like it in their hometowns.

    Every single time, without fail, my guest proclaim TAC not only to be the most enjoyable Thai meal they've had, but among the best restaurants they've been to in Chicago. This happened again last night and I have a hard time disagreeing with my guests.

    First, let me mention the standards that we ordered. These are items that are always excellent. They have become comfort food for me, and remain eye-opening to people who are new to authentic Thai food:

    Thai-style fried chicken: Crispy and delicious as usual. The sauce provided was thicker and more aggressive than I last remember, and I enjoyed the change very much.

    Issan-style sausage: Among my favorite dishes wherever it is served in town. The sourness of the sausage, paired with the heat of chiles and brightness of ginger is fantastic.

    Deep-fried holy basil with minced chicken over preserved egg: Delightful. The crispy basil leaves, tasty bits of chicken, and meaty egg makes a nice combination.

    Green curry over omelet with pork (other meats available): There is something special about curry-soaked eggs.

    Now for the two dishes from the specials board (the reason I'm posting to this thread):

    The crispy en choy that Will introduced us to at the top of this thread is a marvel. I cannot add much to the descriptions already provided here other than to say that this dish displays an extremely high level of culinary skill. Often times I will eat in a restaurant and think, "this is a good dish, but I could probably reproduce it". The crispy en choy made me think, "this is a wonderful dish, and I think there are very few people in town, if any, who could reproduce it." It's among the best things I've eaten in a while (5 out of 5 people at my table agreed) and I highly recommend everyone get a plate before it goes away.

    Thanks a million, Will.

    Also, introduced here, the "nam pork ribs" taste like Issan Sausage 2.0. If you love the sausage but wish there was more of a chewy, charred BBQ experience, then this is the dish for you. The Thais really know their "drinking food".

    If you haven't been to TAC in a while, or never have, you really must make a trip soon. Andy (TAC's chef) is at the top of his game.

    Continued thanks to Erik M for his recommendations and translations that help make this food more available to everyone. TAC's most recent translated menu can be seen here.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #11 - November 12th, 2006, 12:55 pm
    Post #11 - November 12th, 2006, 12:55 pm Post #11 - November 12th, 2006, 12:55 pm
    So after an event last night (to be posted about soon, I'm sure) we went to TAC last night. I warned the others that since I was along, the roti and curry would be out-- I've never successfully managed to be there when roti was actually available-- and sure enough that proved to be true, but the new dishes we did manage to try, the tiny but succulently grilled nam pork ribs and the crispy en choy, are both wonderful.

    As was everything else; TAC Quick continues to impress me every time (and it had been too long since my last time) with the brightness and novelty, yet accessibility, of the authentic Thai flavors. I agree with Eatchicago, it may be the very top choice of a place to take an out of town visitor for a more-or-less-unique-to-Chicago experience. In the past I would have said one of our high-end Mexican places, and they're certainly right up there, but still, probably no place in town delivers more life-changing, tastebud-resetting revelation for the buck than TAC. Just look at the specials board and order as much as you can handle, and you're guaranteed a marvelous meal.

    In fact, I would venture to say-- what is the term that the youth of today use-- ah yes-- I would venture to say that I was, in a word, pimp-slappedby the combination of gustatory delights on offer last night.

    P.S. Oh man, I forgot one of the best new things-- grilled liver, not that I'm that big a fan of liver but this was crispy-edged and surrounded by mint and onion and all kinds of good Thai flavors-- wow.
    Last edited by Mike G on March 29th, 2007, 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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  • Post #12 - November 12th, 2006, 4:43 pm
    Post #12 - November 12th, 2006, 4:43 pm Post #12 - November 12th, 2006, 4:43 pm
    just came back from my third day in a row of crispy en choy. a combo of unique and delish. one of the best dishes i've eaten all yr. i've found myself craving it since fri lunch there w/the boys and girl. went back last pm (saw the lth effect and goes well w/bourbon) and then today again for a late lunch. to good to keep to myself, needed to share it w/people i knew would appreciate it. so good...
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #13 - November 13th, 2006, 11:53 am
    Post #13 - November 13th, 2006, 11:53 am Post #13 - November 13th, 2006, 11:53 am
    I second Mike G's props to the liver--my favorite thing on a table loaded with great stuff.
  • Post #14 - November 15th, 2006, 10:01 pm
    Post #14 - November 15th, 2006, 10:01 pm Post #14 - November 15th, 2006, 10:01 pm
    Image
    Crispy On Choy.

    Image
    Roti with beef curry (roti kaeng kàrìi néau).

    I finally got to try the roti. They're a little greasy, more beignet than naan. But the combination of the stew-like curry, comfy and a little sweet, reminiscent of the wonderful Indonesian food I had in LA; and the crispy on choy, piquantly fishy and hot and minty all at once, was just about the perfect TAC Quick combination. It's enough food for two people, so drag someone to convert along.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #15 - December 30th, 2006, 7:51 pm
    Post #15 - December 30th, 2006, 7:51 pm Post #15 - December 30th, 2006, 7:51 pm
    While at TAC today with my parents--who were tricked into enjoying the maw salad; I didn't tell them it those bits were bladders until the end--I noticed a couple of specials that have not been talked about here: sweet liver and pork neck. Introducing the restaurant to my dining companions kept me from ordering these dishes, but my interest has been piqued...can anyone offer some insight on them?
  • Post #16 - December 30th, 2006, 7:59 pm
    Post #16 - December 30th, 2006, 7:59 pm Post #16 - December 30th, 2006, 7:59 pm
    The pork neck may be the finest pork preparation I have ever consumed. From the glaze to the perfect grilling to the bite of the onion and herbs that go with, it's a symphony of piggy goodness.


    DAMN YOU! I was here in Northfield all set with a book and a Fat Tire ale and now I have to get in the car and drive into the city where I will probably get a parking ticket


    and it will be worth every penny:)
  • Post #17 - December 30th, 2006, 9:07 pm
    Post #17 - December 30th, 2006, 9:07 pm Post #17 - December 30th, 2006, 9:07 pm
    i love liver in most forms legal and illegal, but for me, the grilled pork neck wins hands down. there's a raw crab salad w/ green papaya i believe that erik m ordered last time i was there w/him that was tremendous as well.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #18 - December 30th, 2006, 11:02 pm
    Post #18 - December 30th, 2006, 11:02 pm Post #18 - December 30th, 2006, 11:02 pm
    Erik M. wrote:At any rate, this reminds me, if there is enough interest in liver preparations in general, I should ask Andy to return kũay jáp to the Specials board.


    Image
    Tada!

    Ask and you shall receive!

    Oh, wait, you didn't ask.

    Anyway, it's back for a limited time.*

    E.M.

    * So too, the roti kaeng kàrìi néau, or "beef curry with roti bread"--which sells out almost immediately--and the hãwy thâwt, or "mussel omelette."
  • Post #19 - January 28th, 2007, 7:10 pm
    Post #19 - January 28th, 2007, 7:10 pm Post #19 - January 28th, 2007, 7:10 pm
    Had the pork neck--thanks for the heads up. Eating it was bliss: it had the sweet tang of korean bbq and the texture of sweetbreads...what could be better?

    Had the sour pork ribs too, and those were also excellent.

    An observation: every time I'm there, I never see anyone order off the chalkboard or the thai menu...I've had some bites off the regular menu, and it's good, but is the general attitude toward the place that of the usual neighborhood noodles/rice place?
  • Post #20 - January 28th, 2007, 8:29 pm
    Post #20 - January 28th, 2007, 8:29 pm Post #20 - January 28th, 2007, 8:29 pm
    chezbrad wrote:An observation: every time I'm there, I never see anyone order off the chalkboard or the thai menu...I've had some bites off the regular menu, and it's good, but is the general attitude toward the place that of the usual neighborhood noodles/rice place?


    It sounds like you have never shared the room with any Thai patrons, or even any LTHers, for that matter.

    But, to get back to your question, yeah, pretty much.

    "I'll have the phat thai."
    "I'll have the phat thai."
    "I'll have the basil chicken."
    "May I please have some chopsticks?"
    "I'll have the sweet & sour chicken."
    "I'll have the cashew chicken. Oh, and a side of peanut sauce."
    "I'll have the phat thai."
    "May I please have some chopsticks?"
    "I'll have an order of crab rangoon and the phat thai."
    "Do you have any soy sauce?"

    E.M.
  • Post #21 - January 28th, 2007, 8:38 pm
    Post #21 - January 28th, 2007, 8:38 pm Post #21 - January 28th, 2007, 8:38 pm
    The diners to my right and left both had crab rangoon. It smelled disgusting.
  • Post #22 - January 28th, 2007, 8:56 pm
    Post #22 - January 28th, 2007, 8:56 pm Post #22 - January 28th, 2007, 8:56 pm
    chezbrad wrote:The diners to my right and left both had crab rangoon. It smelled disgusting.


    Apparently, a number of Americans have a thing for piping hot cream cheese.

    I have never known a Thai to touch the stuff, unless, of course, they were making it for Americans. :wink:

    At any rate, in TAC's defense, the crab rangoon is made in-house and from scratch.*

    E.M.

    * A lot of establishments simply reheat a frozen commercial product.
  • Post #23 - January 29th, 2007, 2:02 am
    Post #23 - January 29th, 2007, 2:02 am Post #23 - January 29th, 2007, 2:02 am
    If figures- almost every time someone discusses a restaurant on this board, they'll post the full info on said establishment at the bottom of the initial post as a useful help. I'm clueless and have never heard of "TAC", and am interested in checking it out after reading about it. Sure enough, NO INFO! :?
  • Post #24 - January 29th, 2007, 2:39 am
    Post #24 - January 29th, 2007, 2:39 am Post #24 - January 29th, 2007, 2:39 am
    that's what the search option would be for. try it, you'll like it. learn all you want.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #25 - January 29th, 2007, 8:04 am
    Post #25 - January 29th, 2007, 8:04 am Post #25 - January 29th, 2007, 8:04 am
    My apologies, Sandman. I didn't post it due to the familiarity that many on this forum have with it. Hope you enjoy it.

    TAC
    3930 N Sheridan Rd
    (Under the Sheridan El Tracks)
    Chicago, IL 60613
    (773) 327-5253
  • Post #26 - January 29th, 2007, 8:27 am
    Post #26 - January 29th, 2007, 8:27 am Post #26 - January 29th, 2007, 8:27 am
    YourPalWill wrote:My apologies, Sandman. I didn't post it due to the familiarity that many on this forum have with it. Hope you enjoy it.


    There's also a lot more information about TAC, including links to many related threads, in the TAC GNR thread

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #27 - January 29th, 2007, 9:06 am
    Post #27 - January 29th, 2007, 9:06 am Post #27 - January 29th, 2007, 9:06 am
    LTH,

    I'm a fan of TAC, never had a bad meal there, but yesterdays lunch was, and I have no idea why, elevated even from their typical gold standard. Thai fried chicken crisp, flavorful, juicy, Isaan sausage with it's light fermented tang in perfect counterpoint, Chicken laap loaded with fresh herbs, grilled pork neck so bright, fresh, bursting with clear lovely flavor I didn't know whether to eat it or take it to Vegas.

    We also had TAC's deconstructed pad Thai and fish maw salad. First choice was Crispy En Choy, which I, along with half the city of Chicago, love, but they were out so we went with the old favorite of fish maw salad, which has a similar flavor profile.

    Far as crab rangoon, never had it at TAC, but I do like the stuff, at least my home made version

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #28 - January 29th, 2007, 6:24 pm
    Post #28 - January 29th, 2007, 6:24 pm Post #28 - January 29th, 2007, 6:24 pm
    Oh, someone please tell me that a server or manager at TAC speaks English well enough to communicate dietary restrictions. . . we generally have a relatively easy time at Thai restaurants, but also restrict what we order to things we believe to be relatively gluten-free to begin with. However, for us, no dining experience can be had if we can't communicate well with the staff.

    We have walked by here many times and each time say, "Gee, we need to try this sometime." Now, with all of the wonderful remarks here, I want to make that soon!
  • Post #29 - January 29th, 2007, 7:09 pm
    Post #29 - January 29th, 2007, 7:09 pm Post #29 - January 29th, 2007, 7:09 pm
    ViewsAskew wrote:Oh, someone please tell me that a server or manager at TAC speaks English well enough to communicate dietary restrictions. . . we generally have a relatively easy time at Thai restaurants, but also restrict what we order to things we believe to be relatively gluten-free to begin with. However, for us, no dining experience can be had if we can't communicate well with the staff.

    We have walked by here many times and each time say, "Gee, we need to try this sometime." Now, with all of the wonderful remarks here, I want to make that soon!


    If you ask pointed questions, you shouldn't have any problem.

    But, if you make mention of gluten, celiac disease, or the like, you will probably cause some confusion.

    E.M.
  • Post #30 - January 30th, 2007, 12:02 am
    Post #30 - January 30th, 2007, 12:02 am Post #30 - January 30th, 2007, 12:02 am
    Thanks, Erik M - you've made my evening.

    I appreciate the breadth of knowledge here. I wonder if Erik M or anyone would have a greater knowledge of the ingredients used in Thai restaurants that we could have or should avoid. If anyone could help us expand our limited knowledge, I would be extremely grateful. Here's the little we know:

    Fish sauce is normally gluten-free, but twice we've run into places that have wheat in theirs. We also avoid soy sauce, check the ingredients in the rice noodles, and know we can't have most rice wrappers. I know that Maggi seasoning has wheat, but I don't know if it's commonly used in Thai food or not. I don't think I've ever asked about it, maybe I should be. We also don't know that status of curries, so never order them. We usually take a small bottle of fish sauce and soy sauce just in case, and have taken rice or tapioca wrappers a few times, too.

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