Sunday, September 9, 2012

There is Thai -- and then there is Wondee's

Tom Yum Soup at The Green Papaya in River Edge. The medium-size bowl contained mostly spicy broth, in addition to a couple of shrimp, okra and other vegetables.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss The Green Papaya, a Thai restaurant; the use of za'atar thyme mixture in tomato-and-egg dishes and lazy shoppers at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

My friend Stanley invited me to lunch the other day at The Green Papaya, a Thai restaurant in River Edge I had driven past many times before.

I had never eaten there, convinced as I am of the superiority of Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles on Main Street in Hackensack.

My first -- and last -- meal at The Green Papaya started with Tom Yum Soup ($3). I also had Green Papaya Salad ($5). 

Neither compared to Wondee's versions. My friend had Pineapple Fried Rice with chicken ($8).

Pineapple Fried Rice with chicken at The Green Papaya.

A nice touch is a welcoming cup of tea and refills.

I met my friend at the restaurant a little before noon. By the time we left, the place was full, and over customers' conversations I could hear the stir-frying of food in woks from the open kitchen in the back.

My friend, who lives in River Edge, said he didn't know about Wondee's.

Compare the Green Papaya Salad served in River Edge to Wondee's salad, below.

Wondee's salad cost more, but is big enough to share with one or two others.

The Tom Yum Soup served at The Green Papaya contained a surprise -- a couple of pieces of pineapple -- but there was more broth than shrimp and vegetable.

My Green Papaya Salad had a nice crunch, though when I finished it, there was way too much dressing left in the bottom of the dish. 

It also was missing the fresh green beans in Wondee's salad, as well as lettuce leaves you could use for wrapping the green papaya.

When we lived in Englewood, we enjoyed many Thai dinners at Pawana, but after moving to Hackensack in 2007, Wondee's has been our go-to place for Thai food from an extensive menu, including whole fish and vegetarian dishes.

Now, Pawana is closed. 

The Green Papaya, 110 Kinderkamack Road, River Edge; 201-678-1888. BYO. Parking lot.

Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700. BYO. Parking in rear.

Organic eggs with za'atar, sun-dried tomato and cheese shavings.

Exploring za'atar 

The Middle Eastern thyme mixture called za'atar is usually found on chewy, fresh bread, moistened with olive oil.

You could roll it up and eat it, or toast it until the mixture's sesame seeds sizzled.

The mixture, sold in green and brown versions, contains dried thyme, wild sumac, sesame seeds and salt -- it's both sour from the sumac and crunchy from the seeds. 

Another version is to sprinkle lots of za'atar over fresh bread spread with yogurt cheese.

Since I pretty much gave up bread to lose weight, I've sprinkled za'atar over sliced tomato, and in the past, I used it on broiled chicken. 

Now, I'm adding it to egg-and-tomato dishes.

An open-face omelet with cheese, Campari tomatoes and za'atar.

You can buy za'atar at Fattal's Bakery, 975-77 Main St., Paterson; 973-742-7125. 

But don't come home without eating at Aleppo Restaurant (939 Main St.), and visiting Brothers Produce in the Paterson Farmers' Market and Corrado's Family Affair just over the border in Clifton.

At Costco Wholesale, the lines were short, but the parking lot was a zoo.

Lazy shoppers

Costco Wholesale members must be fairly fit to handle all of those very large economy sizes the warehouse store is famous for.

Shopping carts are oversized to accommodate enormous rolls of paper, cases of spring water and 50-pound bags of rice.

If you fill up your cart, it takes quite an effort to push it to the car.

So, I'm floored every time I go to the Hackenack Costco on a busy Saturday at the laziness of many shoppers, who insist on parking in the rows closest to the doors and who clog up the single entrance road.

That was the case on Saturday, when cars were backed up to River Street.

Inside the store, I mentioned the problem to one of the employees, and said Costco should hire someone to direct traffic, but she dismissed my suggestion, saying the store can't do anything about drivers who clog up the entrance road.

Two other employees were just about as helpful when I asked whether Costco had discontinued Della-brand Organic Long Grain Brown Rice, which was missing from its usual spot.

Both told me to go look in the rice aisle, where I had just been. One didn't even break stride or stop eating something.

Another worker checked the computer, and said the Hackensack store no longer carries Della brown rice.

When I got home, I went online and ordered Lundberg Organic Brown Rice from -- six 2-pound packages for about $20.
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  1. Speaking of SE Asian food, have you tried Thai Lao Kitchen in Maywood? It just got reviewed by the Times today.

  2. 1 - Say hi to Wondee for us, we miss her.
    2 - If you cant find something at Costco, the best thing to do is ask at the customer service desk, not a random employee. They can look up your previous purchases, then look up the product you want by its item #.
    3 - So, Pawana finally closed? Can't say I'm surprised, it was usually pretty empty. And Wondee's is better.

    All the best, Rachel Perlow


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