Thai game

Chef and owner Pim Marshall presents a plate of garlic salmon at Lanna Thai.

Chef and owner Pim Marshall presents a plate of garlic salmon at Lanna Thai.

Photo/Allison Young

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Thai food is one of those popular ethnic foods that you can probably find in most major cities. Thai cuisine is famous for its spiciness and unique combination of flavors. Chef Pim Marshall’s passion comes from growing up cooking with her mother in Chiang Mai, in the northern part of Thailand (Lanna means people of the north). She cooks every dish to order, making sure that each bite has the traditional taste.

Traditional Thai cooking methods are stewing, baking or grilling. Frying, stir-frying and deep-frying techniques are a result of Chinese influences on Thai cuisine. Thai curries are a modification of Indian curries and another example of the Thai way of adapting foreign food by mimicking cooking methods and substituting ingredients.

Lanna has a good variety on its menu, with traditional appetizers ($6-$8), salads ($10-$15), curry ($11.95-$15), and soup ($10-$15), and a good selection of traditional entrees ($10-$15). A proper Thai meal will have several dishes and a bowl of rice, creating a harmony of tastes and textures with each bite.

A noodle salad ($10), just coming on the menu, was my first adventure: thin rice noodles with fresh ginger, Thai chilies, green and red bell peppers, green onions, a little tofu and chicken, and a light brown sauce that was a bit tart but also finished savory—these are signature Thai flavors.

Goong Opp Woon Sen ($15) is a traditional dish: bean noodles with shrimp, scallions, peppercorn, garlic, green onions, ginger and cilantro root. It’s a medley of textures and flavors, defining the elegance and flavors of this food. It congealed with aromatic tastes and textures ranging from smooth to chewy, satisfying as well as intriguing to the palate.

Salmon bites ($12) were next and the most unique dish I tried. Little morsels of salmon rolled in corn starch, pan fried and steamed and served with Pim’s homemade Thai “Teriyaki” sauce, Korean mushrooms, garlic and ginger. Again, aromatic flavors with a hint of sweet caused these salmon bites to almost melt in my mouth, turning somewhat cream-like with the thick sauce.

Since I like heat, curry was the next obvious choice, and I went for the “five star”—the hottest. Panang beef ($11.95) carries with it flavors and aromas of Malaysia, India and Burma.

Served over white rice, it starts with a coconut milk base, then adds garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander, red chili, cayenne pepper, chili flakes, onion, soy sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and lime juice for a typhoon of flavors that builds in intensity with every bite. Death Valley in mid-July is cool by comparison.

There’s a simple wine list with a few wines by-the-glass ($7-$8), two Thai beers and a couple of Chinese beers in the bottle ($5). GM Glenn Marshall offered me a glass of Cabernache ($60) from Daviana Vineyard in Napa. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, 57 percent, and Grenache, 43 percent, shows lush aromas of licorice-infused raspberries, violets, strawberry jam, cinnamon and pepper. The well-balanced mid-palate is dominated by black cherries, mint, pomegranate, mocha, smoky oak and a well-structured savory finish.

For dessert, mango sticky rice ($6) is a popular dish in Southeast Asia in countries such as Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It’s a dessert dish where sticky rice is cooked by steaming, and sweetened with coconut milk and sugar. Slices of mango are put on the plate, and then you enjoy. For anyone with a sweet tooth, this is nirvana.

Thai food is harmony. It is a blend between centuries-old Western and Eastern influences that make it into something unique.