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Cooking with Patch: Thai Food's Ins and Outs

Tusnee "Lee" Chaisiri, owner of Thai Noodles Café in downtown Libertyville, talks about her passion to serve Thai food in a tasty and healthy way.

Make it Healthy

Few joys in life can compare to home-cooked food. Since opening in 1999, Tusnee “Lee” Chaisiri has been sharing that joy with Libertyville residents for more than a decade.

The restaurant features dishes that are not only culturally authentic, but also part of Chaisiri’s childhood. Almost every dish comes from her mother’s recipes. According to Chaisiri, her mother’s cooking knowledge allows Thai Noodles Café’s customers to enjoy more than just tasty food.

“My mother cooked for our entire family,” Chaisiri said. “When you cook for the people you care about, you want to make sure they eat as healthily as possible.”

The healthy side of Thai cuisine comes from its balance. According to Chaisiri, one entrée can provide nutrients from all the food groups. Her most popular dish, Pad Thai, includes rice noodles for carbohydrates, a hint of chicken or beef for protein, and a mix of vegetables for essential vitamins.

“It gives you everything,” Chaisiri said.

Herbal Treatment

Thai cuisine also features a variety of herbs known throughout Thailand for their medicinal properties. To ensure her food has the herbs’ freshness and full taste, Chaisiri frequently grows her own basil and lemongrass, which she says benefit digestion.

“It can relieve the discomfort and bloating feeling in your stomach caused by an excess of carbon dioxide,” she said. “Growing up in Thailand, Western medicine wasn’t readily available, so these ingredients were used in treating certain common illnesses.”

Lemongrass also has the versatility to be cooked fresh, dried, or powdered. It complements pork, beef, poultry or seafood because it infuses a dish with a light citrus flavor and eliminates odors of raw meat and seafood.

From Hotdogs to Thai Food

Like her mother, Chaisiri's drive to serve healthy food came from cooking for her own family. Chaisiri took her first step into the restaurant business by working at a hotdog stand in Glenview. One day, she accidentally dropped a chunk of shortening near the grill.

“When I saw that the shortening hadn’t melted even exposed as closely as it was to the hot grill, I could only think of what it must have looked like sitting inside my body, and our body temperatures are lower,” Chaisiri said.

“My family was eating there every day, and I didn’t want that stuff going in their stomachs.”

As a result of health concerns and poor business, Chaisiri gradually added Thai food to her hotdog stand menu. In time, her Hotdog Hut turned into Your Choice: Thai Food and Hotdogs.

“I found out I was selling more Thai food than hotdogs, so I changed completely to Your Choice: Thai Cuisine,” she said.

Chaisiri’s Thai food brought good business, and she decided to open a sister restaurant in Libertyville. Chaisiri sold her restaurant in Glenview seven years ago to work solely on .

Jen Merrill January 04, 2012 at 01:38 PM
I *love* Thai food, but rarely eat out because of celiac. If I knew for certain there was no wheat hiding in sauces I'd be a very happy regular there. Any way to find out? Thanks!
Chi-an Chang January 07, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Hi Jen, You could call the restaurant beforehand and I'm sure they would be able to tell you if the sauces contained wheat. Best, Chi-an
Jan Leasure January 28, 2012 at 04:17 AM
One of my favorites! The garlic vegetable soup w/chicken or tofu cures my cold every time! The Peanut sauce is to die for!!! (ask for the crispy garlic on the side and add it when you get home! YUM)

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