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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Amelia Kashian
Amelia Kashian
Features Editor

Being passionate is one of the best parts of being human, and I am glad that writing has helped me recognize that. I have been writing stories since I was a little girl, and over...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

A tale of two Thai joints

I have never been to Thailand, but it can be said that the best way to experience a culture and place is through its food. After all, the practice of eating and drinking is one definitive commonality we homo sapiens share in house LIGHTER

How and what we eat, however, is what defines us as separate bodies. Food can stir your emotions and bring back old memories. Wars have been fought over food. It’s powerful stuff.

Thai cuisine, to me, is immediately evocative of smoking hot woks and crowded market stalls. The smell of gasoline exhaust from the constant parade of motorbikes mixes with the intoxicating aroma of chilies and garlic, and suddenly you find yourself on a bustling Pattaya street corner, slurping down noodles and spicy grilled pork.

Sadly, this is not Pattaya. But fear not—Marquette’s vibrant food scene is no lost cause. There are two Thai restaurants within walking distance of each other, and they’re both worth checking out.

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Let it be said, however, that they are distinctly different in their approach to the classic cuisine.

Located near the east side of campus on Presque Isle Avenue is Rice Paddy, a Marquette staple for many years. Placing an order here on a Friday night involves a bit of pre-planning, as orders stack up quickly and can take upward of an hour to process.

This is okay, considering the kitchen is really just a one- or two-person show, with chef and owner Aoy Lachapelle standing solo guard over the stove.

Upon entering the restaurant, Aoy happily greets you with a “hello boyfriend,” or “hello girlfriend,” as the sounds of boiling oil pop and sizzle in the background.

Here, the menu consists of filling and affordable dishes like deep fried fish with lemon sauce, pork satay, pad thai and curry fried rice. Americanized Chinese-style dishes like orange chicken and chow mein are also available for the less adventurous. On my most recent visit, I enjoyed the curry fried rice, which is made up of chicken, water chestnuts, broccoli and a delicious curry sauce which is heavy on the coconut milk.

It’s a very rich dish, but a guilty pleasure for me, especially since saturated fat is back in vogue. This combined with Aoy’s to-die-for cream cheese wontons is enough to send me into a coma.

One drawback in particular is the fact that the Rice Paddy does not accept credit cards. Simple credit card readers are convenient to use and transaction costs are much lower these days.

I’m not sure if this is a conscious choice by the owner to keep things simplified, but I often choose another place if I’m not carrying enough cash.

Also, if you’re used to other Thai restaurants in larger metropolitan areas, you may find the flavors here a bit subdued, as though it is tailored for local tastes. This isn’t something that a little chili sauce can’t overcome, but I thought it was certainly worth noting.

This brings me to the next restaurant: Thai House, located on 3rd Street across from Valles supermarket. Here, the decor is much more polished and designed for both table service and carryout. As such, the prices are a bit higher than Rice Paddy, but the portions more than make up for the discrepancy, and wait times are quite fast for carryout orders, often between five and 15 minutes.

Up for grabs on the larger menu are starters such as spicy steamed mussels, barbecue style chicken, stir fries, noodle dishes and fragrant curries, as well as house specialties like their spicy basil duck, which comes served with fresh garlic, chilies, basil and other vegetables.

Unlike Rice Paddy, Thai House also offers full cocktail service and a selection of refreshing Thai beers. My personal favorite here is pad-see-ew, a stir fried noodle dish extremely popular at lunch wagons throughout Thailand.

Here, slender and flat rice noodles are combined with the meat of your choice, broccoli, scrambled egg, and a dark, sweet and salty version of soy sauce called see-ew-dum or kecap manis in Indonesia.

Secretly, I enjoy combining starch with starch and eating this dish over fresh steamed rice with lots of chili sauce. I don’t know if that’s sacriligious somehow, but that’s my preference. Due to generous portion sizes, I can make one order last for two solid meals.

Another favorite is the Thai House curry, a spicy red curry dressed up with peanut sauce, vegetables and the meat of your choice.

It’s a bit thinner than, say, an Indian curry or even the ones found at Rice Paddy, but it can generously feed two hungry people. Vibrant in flavor, I like to crank up the heat on this one and sweat it out with a bottle of Singha and a bowl of rice.

Overall, I give both restaurants a respectable four stars. Rice Paddy earns its keep with competitive pricing and delicious, if not subdued, dishes.

Aoy’s wonderful personality seems to keep regulars coming back and flooding the store with orders, though credit card machines could be a help.

Thai House stands tall with authentic and delightfully executed dishes, as well as an intimate seating environment, full bar and generous portions.

It may not have all the charm of Pattaya, but it certainly has all the flavors right.

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