By Dan O’Heron 12/02/2010
When the owner of Nine & Nine Thai Kitchen suggests online that most Thai food in Southern California is too “Americanized,” is he being, well, un-American?
And why does he follow with a printed statement on the menu that “some dishes contain MSG?” Isn’t this a little like Marie Callender saying she adds alar to apple pies?
Chatting with owner Sid Chatapolchuntaya about it, I came to respect his frankness. With such freedom from conventional reticence to speak of such things, when he claimed that his cuisine was “authentic Thai,” I believed it was the gospel truth.
Sid’s criticism of “Americanized” food did not come off as spiteful calumny. “I figured that real American tastes would appreciate authentic Thai food that is not so bland as I often taste here.”
He emphasized that there is no need to tinker with Thailand’s classic use of a mouth-watering array of fruits and vegetables, plus myriad morsels of beef, pork, fish, chicken and noodles, each absorbing heady fresh herbs and a judicious blend of spices.
For an off-the-street authentic Thai dish, Sid suggests you must test “choo choo,” jasmine rice mixed with scrambled egg, meat, onion, broccoli, tomato, then topped with a fried egg.
“It’s what I always ate as a child on the train going from Bangkok to grandma’s house in the province,” Sid recalls.
Asked about MSG, Sid made it not sound like such a negative acronym. He pointed out that MSG has the ability to intensify the flavor of savory food and that it is unfortunate that some people have a very bad reaction to its use. “But some of my customers expect a certain flavor, and using MSG is the only way I can reproduce it. It’s only used in a few deep-fry dishes and I make separate batches of the dishes for people who don’t want MSG. Everything I do here is to personalize the tastes for my customers.”