Daily Archives: September 17, 2006

Hunting Down Authenticity

“Oh. My. God. This is the BEST!” proclaimed Tom.

This was before Tom and his girlfriend backpacked through the world over the summer of 2004. Thailand was one of their destinations. So, I wanted to introduce him to Thai cuisine before he embarked on the journey. There was a Thai restaurant not terribly far from where I worked at the time, so me and the boys headed there. Because of the location of the place, in the middle of a very white and rich Seal Beach, I originally had a little reservation, but what the hey…let’s give that place a shot.

I regret now for taking them to that place without actually trying it first.

“Dude. This is NOT Thai food,” I told him. “Everything is sweet. This place is terrible. Don’t get use to the flavor of this stuff because it’s not what you’ll have in Thailand. Next week, I’m taking you to another joint.”

“Is it not good, or is it not authentic?” asked Robert, who was also having Thai food for the first time.

“It is not authentic. AND it sucks.”

“I think this is one of the best foods I’ve ever tasted in my life,” Robert, went on. “Just because it’s not authentic, it doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

“Well, it doesn’t taste good to me because this is NOT how I had it. So, yes, Robert. It’s bad because it’s not authentic,” I shot back.

“It tastes good to me. I LOVE it.”

“Good for you. It still doesn’t make this a good Thai food place.”

That whole philosophical issue of “good” versus “authentic” raged on for a few more minutes, ending with me promising to take them to a REAL Thai food place next time.

I did take the boys out to a more authentic place just a few blocks from the office, the opposite direction of that other place. I’ll give you one guess what Robert said.

“I like the other place better.”


Nonetheless, Tom and the other coworker Terry followed my path to authentic Thai food, leaving in the dust that “Farang’ed” up version. Long after Tom and I left the company, the guys still go to that other joint except for Terry, who I have turned into a real fan of Thai food. He would actually go to hole in the wall up the street alone while the gang trekked down to the sweetened, overly peanut sauced joint.

And here’s my point.

Inspired by a recent post by Pondering of the Midwestern USA, I am here to present a little guide on what to look for in a Thai restaurant that would get you the most authentic tastes of Thailand while in the U.S. (and some other countries, I would imagine).

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