Yum was my immediate reaction to news of the first annual Thai Restaurant Week in New York, but Yum Yum and Yum Yum Too -- both winners of the coveted Thai Select award -- would have been more appropriate. On September 24, I had the privilege of watching H.E. Yingluck Shinawatra -- Thailand's first female P.M. -- award Thai Select status to local establishments and officially launch the festival of Thai cuisine.
The 11 metropolitan restaurants honored by Her Excellency included Manhattan's Ember Room as the Thai Select Premium Winner; Mee Thai Cuisine and Udom Thai in Brooklyn; Pa De Thai and Ploi Thai in New Jersey; Yum Yum in Queens; and Ngam, Silom Thai, Soi 30 Thai Cooking, TAAN Thai and Yum Yum Too, also in Manhattan. During Thai Restaurant Week (21-28 September 2012), these are among the 50 restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester and New Jersey offering dining discounts, cooking classes and special treats to their guests.
The Thai Select decal certifies quality ingredients, authenticity of Thai flavors, and cooking methods, as judged by the Thai Trade Center. Nearly 500 restaurants across the US have received the designation. With Thailand's food exports amounting to US$1.3 trillion, according to Minister of Commerce Boonsong Teriyapirom, the country recognizes that "Food is now culture, experience and fun" and is a large part of promoting tourism.
In our family, Thai has replaced Chinese food as the go-to ethnic dining experience wherever we travel. No longer do you have to be in Southeast Asia to introduce the kids to yummy Pad Thai noodles or healthy Som Tum salad made with green papaya. And there's a wide range of spicy-ness too, so you'll always find a dish for everyone in the family.
After the festival ends, it's time to visit the website www.thaiselectusa.info to check out the top Thai places in your region. You can search Thai Select restaurants by name and even peruse a variety of recipes if you want to make your own.
Thailand, a wonderful family destination and home to the most authentic cooking, has long been known as the Land of Smiles. But not to the protesters in front of the luxe Plaza Athenee Hotel where H.E. Yingluck Shinawatra and the U.N. delegation were staying.
In addition to being the country's First Mom, Yingluck Shinawatra is the youngest sister of former P.M. Thaksin Shinawatra, whose supporters rocked Bangkok and the countryside in 2010 with protests against the traditional, military-backed government. Demonstrations that closed the Bangkok Airport and killed more than 90 civilians had a very negative impact on tourism. Thaksin, based in Dubai, is said to be behind the landslide election of his sister, who did graduate work in public administration at Kentucky State after getting her degree from Chiang Mai University, but had no political experience.