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Downpours of Flavor at Monsoon Siam

By Jake Levin

With menu items such as the "River Monster" and "Drunken Noodle," it's not hard to get intrigued by Pooh Wonglaka's Thai restaurant.

A native of Thailand, Wonglaka and her business partner, Kitty, were working together at a Thai restaurant when they decided to go it alone and open one up themselves. They felt like naturals, Wonglaka said.

After successfully opening a location in Charlottesville, Va. in 2011, Wonglaka's husband received a transfer to a new job at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Some 900 miles away, Wonglaka succeeded in launching a brand new Monsoon Siam where the goal remains the same: to make people happy with delicious food.

"It is the real food I grew up eating in Thailand, and I use premium ingredients, never any MSG," Wonglaka said. "A lot of our dishes are also gluten free, and we can make most of them vegetarian. Our food is truly flavorful, our sauces delicious."

Monsoon Siam operates with an open kitchen, enabling patrons to see their dishes being prepared from their tables. Wonglaka believes it feels comfortable that way, like eating at home with family and friends.

"I treat my staff, and they treat me, pretty much like family, so that shows in the ambiance," she said.

The "River Monster and "Drunken Noodle," in addition to their attention grabbing names, are also Wonglaka's favorite dishes. The River Monster is a fried whole tilapia with a spicy lime sauce, while the Drunken Noodle is a famous dish full of texture and flavor. As far as Wonglaka can tell, she's the only Thai restaurant that uses fresh noodles as opposed to dehydrated noodles for the dish, and the results are telling.

There's also the Boat Noodle Soup, a tasty soup with pork, fresh noodles, Chinese broccoli, bean sprouts and a special broth.

"It is really popular in Thailand," Wonglaka said. "We serve it with a spice tray so people can mix in as much chile pepper/vinegar/fish sauce as they want."

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