Thai food is easily the most recognized Southeast Asian cuisine in the world today. It is often the non-native eater’s introduction to the Southeast Asian palate. By some, it is deemed more flavorful and intricate compared to the cuisine of Thailand’s Far East Asian counterparts. And others find the food more visually stunning compared to its sister cuisines of The Philippines or Indonesia. With Vietnamese and Malaysian fare chomping at the bit, the flavors of Thailand continue to lead and inspire many a culinary fanatic not only in the U.S., but across the globe.
Like many of its neighbors, Thailand boasts a cuisine that is part native, part influenced by the surrounding cultures. Over the course of centuries, the Thai palate has been subjected to the cuisines of China, India, and nearby Laos – among others. And while Thailand has never been colonized by a European country (as The Philippines was by Spain, and Indonesia by The Netherlands), Thai cuisine still offers a glint of European influence from years of trade with countries like Portugal and France. Thai food is both calming and spicy, hearty and light, simple and complex.
Recently, Travel + Leisure published their “Best Thai Restaurants in the U.S.” list. And among the 20 or so restaurants listed by the magazine, one Southern Maryland restaurant made the ubiquitous list: Ruan Thai in Wheaton.
As the Washington, DC area has recently birthed amazing Thai restaurants that have been striking an indelible chord with the local culinary fan-base (Thai X-ing and Little Serow, for example; the latter also making the T+L list), Ruan Thai goes to show that not all of the area’s best restaurants are within the District’s borders. Located just off University Boulevard, not too far from Georgia Avenue, the family-run restaurant has been serviing traditional Thai dishes to locals and visitors since 1998. Ruan Thai serves up authentic flavors ranging in different levels of spice and diverse ingredients.
The restaurant has made Washingtonian magazine’s “Cheap Eats” list twice in the past, and has also been dubbed as one of the mag’s “100 Very Best.” It is known for its heat-packed dishes, and for being quite good to the wallet. Highlights include Penang curry with chicken, duck slices rubbed with chili paste, lime, red onion and scallions, and the ever-famous mango with sticky rice –which is called the best in the area by some of DC’s food critics.
T+L’s list includes some of the country’s best-known Thai spots like Ayada in Queens (NY; in the heart of the borough’s Thai community), Tom Silargorn’s Lers Ros in San Francisco, and Portland, OR’s Pok Pok –the famed Thai outpost of James Beard Award-winning chef Andy Ricker. Interestingly, the DC area is well represented on the list. In addition to Ruan and Little Serow, new-ish kid on the block, Doi Moi, was also minted by T+L.
Oddly, only one of L.A.’s Thai Town restaurants made the list, although the east-of-Hollywood neighborhood certainly vaunts some of the nation’s best authentic Thai cuisine. (It also is where you can find the infamous Thai Elvis, if you make it at the right time.)
No matter where you are in the States, or in the world, Thai food will always be one of the most balanced when it comes to spicy, sweet, and acidity. And while the cuisine is as varied as the many regional nuances found across the small nation, one thing is for sure – Thai food is definitely more than just spring rolls, pad thai and tom yum. It’s an art form all on its own, tied together by talented hands and a lot of heart.
11407 Amherst Avenue
Wheaton, MD 20902