Thai Singha House

3939 Chestnut Street
(215) 382-8001

Bunya, Chitsomkuan, Deangdeelert, Jirapatnakul, Mumanachit, Pornmukda, Somboonsong and Yothchavit are just some of the last names of the finest Thai chefs, bakers and restaurateurs in Philadelphia's environs.

Chumlong and Sunanta Deangdeelert were the first to open a Thai restaurant, along with chefs Sirinant Yothchavit (whose Siri's French Thai Cuisine in Cherry Hill has doubled in size), Phitak Jirapatnakul (whose Silk Cuisine just tripled its expanse in Bryn Mawr), and Manoch and Somboon Pornmukda (whose triplex, now sold to others, Thai Singha House, Pattaya Grill and Thai Singha at Reading Market Terminal complemented each other geographically). There was none other than Siam Cuisine at 10th & Arch twenty years ago.

Siam Cuisine itself has already spawned a twin vista in Newtown. All participants in the original venture have prospered in geometric progressions with their own respective culinary creativeness. If at first you do succeed, Thai, Thai again!

Often, the Thai New Year falls squarely on April 15. I usually attend a Bountiful Banquet at Thai Singha House whose location at 40th and Chestnut allows for last minute reworking of Income Tax Returns' figures and calculations for delivery just before midnight to the 30th and Market Street Post Office.

At the restaurant, begin with liquidity. Soups are a must to quell one's overly taxed nerves. For cheap endearment, try Thomas and Thanyarat Gamble's amber and tranquil Wonton (Kiew Nam: $2.50). A large white bowl is gluttonously replete with snow peas, hoisened pork, shrimp and dumplings in a chicken broth made poignant by calm overnight simmering. On the other hand, to languish in soon-to-be-unaffordable luxury, request the "Yen Ta 4" ($6.95). Thai style noodles, heavy and turgid, swell slowly, immersed below sprigs of watercress, fried tofu and wontons, shrimp and ground round fish patties. The ingredients seem to perform a synchronized swimming routine in an opaque spicy tomato-chicken broth as you swirl them about contemplating exemptions and reductions.

"Americans don't know how to save for tax-time," Thanyarat purses her lips in warning. "Old Thai saying: If you are fat like Buddha, everyone wants to touch your belly."

"That's the rub," I woefully reply, without much more stomach for the conversation.

In the past, I've seemingly hidden my head in the sand with each quarterly estimated payment due over the previous year. Usually, I owe a small fortune. There's only one thing to do: my meal on April 15 shall be Thai Ostrich (Pla Mun Ee: ($15.95), to commemorate my having acted like such a bird with regard to the Tax Code.

Thai Singha's version of ostrich breasts are singularly tenderized by pounding over crushed green peppercorns. They are then exquisitely and quickly charcoal grilled while being basted and brushed with red curry condiments. The medium rare cutlets are sliced to resemble mignon filets, whose texture they feign to replicate. The mounds of ostrich meat are covered by sultry curls of roasted sweet green and red peppers, and laid to rest in a bombastic basil bath. Swirled oranges, a wooden-handled knife, a scoop of white rice and a maraschino cherry complete the surroundings. Chopped cabbage in coconut sauce sidles along.

"Ooohs" and "Aaahs" and "Wows" can be heard from onlooking patrons whose demeanor and dress would indicate tendencies to be other than monosyllabic. You cut to the quick, while all remembrances of 401(K)'s and Roth IRA's are turning into innocuous desuetude.

When the shining pink morsel of breast passes between your lips, tens of flavors spice your tongue. The aroma is beefy, but bereft of fattiness. It melts as if it were cotton candy. Then a jolt of heated Thai aftertaste spikes at nostril height, clearing sideways to your ears. A single tear begins to emerge from the eye closest to the side of your chew. Swallow. Since there is hardly a chomp involved, you supplement with rice and cabbage to add form and crunch. When all has been devoured, I swoon.

The 1044 upon which you've pasted "Post-its" to mark the spot for signatures is by your white place mat, above your plate in candlelight. "In Bangkok this winter, Thai money lost half its value overnight," Tom whispers over my shoulder as he peeks at my notations. "You are most lucky," he grins, "your bite is only 28%, not hard to digest."

Thanyarat joins us carrying small samplers of Thai Rice Pudding with fresh waterchestnuts, Coconut Ice Cream topped with chopped jackfruit and crushed peanuts, a Chocolate Opera Cake wedge and a White Chocolate Tulip. "Eat all but 28%, it will help your waistline, and teach you a lesson for next year," she prescribes and forewarns.

After having carefully proportioned and delighted in the luscious offerings, I write my check to the I.R.S. and prepare to sign it. I can still taste the smoothe coating of chocolate at the base of my larynx, and sense the wisdom of the Gambles as they pat my shoulders. My signature appears on all documentation, as it should after Thai dining: "Kinnaherra Fekactadeducta."


Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq. Back