|Steamed Whole Fish with chili pepper at Wondee's in Hackensack.|
|Fresh Green Papaya Salad.|
"Where do you want to eat tonight? Jamaican? Cuban ...?"
My teenage son surprised me by picking not Jamaican, his favorite, but Wondee's Fine Thai Food & Noodles in Hackensack.
OK. It was no surprise. We've loved Wondee's for years, and often, we go there when we can't reach a consensus on our weekly meal out.
I grabbed a bottle of Dos Equis Mexican dark beer from home and drove to Wondee's on Main Street, parking in a rear lot and entering through the back door.
|Wonton Soup with roast pork.|
Often, we see Chef Wandee Suwangbutra eating her dinner at a table between the register and kitchen doors, but we arrived about an hour later than usual on Saturday night.
I ordered salad and a whole fish to share with my son, and for him, soup and dessert.
I almost always have Som Thum, the Fresh Green Papaya Salad, which to me is the essence of Thai cuisine -- sweet, sour and spicy with an emphasis on vegetables ($8.50).
I asked Wandee about the dressing, and she listed lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar from the coconut tree.
The salad is crunchy with strands of green papaya, green beans and ground peanuts, and it's so good, it elevates the iceberg lettuce leaves that embrace it on the plate.
My son had Geuw Nam, Wonton Soup with roast pork and vegetables ($3.50), but I skipped my usual spicy shrimp-and-mushroom soup, Thome Yum Koong.
My son drank coconut juice ($3).
Whole red snapper
Whole red snapper
We ordered and shared a second favorite dish, Pla Ma Now or Steamed Whole Fish with chili pepper, garlic and lemon juice ($18).
We chose red snapper -- one of three kinds of fish available -- and found it perfectly cooked with firm pieces that easily separated from the bones.
The fish, swimming in a spicy broth, is served in a metal, fish-shaped dish heated from below.
I spooned the wonderful broth over brown rice, but when the bill came, I was surprised to see a charge of $2.50. A bowl of white rice is free.
Still, Wandee recognizes that her food is meant to be shared, and provides serving spoons and, with the whole fish, a serrated knife.
It's maddening how few restaurants do likewise.
|Fried Bananas with Vanilla Ice Cream ($6).|
|Go for the great food, not the dated interior.|
At home, watching a movie on TV, I had a full, satisfied feeling from our meal at Wondee's until I went to sleep.
Wondee's Fine Thai Food & Noodles, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700.
BYO. Parking in rear. Closed Mondays. No delivery.