Siam Cafe

If your taste buds are craving excitement, Siam Cafe offers authentic Thai food that is worth a try.

Tucked into the corner at West Main and Sixth streets near downtown Medford, Siam Cafe is a casual establishment where diners will find a mix of appetizers, soups, salads and curries along with meat, vegetable and seafood dishes. Rice and noodle dishes and combination plates also are available.

The dishes can be prepared spicy hot — or not. Just ask for mild, medium, hot or very hot when placing an order.

The owner, Ornsurang Yoorungruang, or "Boo," hails from Bangkok, so she knows whereof she cooks.

"People in Thailand have first names and last names, but no middle names," Yoorungruang explains. "Our names are long. That's why we have nicknames. In Thailand, 'boo' means 'crab.' "

The nickname must be derived from her stature, not her disposition, for whenever I meet Yoorungruang, she is warm, friendly and smiling.

Yoorungruang has extensive experience cooking for American audiences. She owned a Thai restaurant near Ventura, Calif., after coming to the United States, and she had a restaurant in Grants Pass before opening Siam Cafe in Medford about 10 years ago.

She uses a little Thai pepper known as "prik kee nu," (roughly little, red chili) to liven up her recipes. It's full of flavor and heat, too.

"It has something to do with the soil and climate of Thailand," Yoorungruang says. "I've tried growing the peppers here, but the flavor is not the same."

Yoorungruang prepares three condiments from these mighty, little peppers. My level of heat tolerance is limited to the roasted, ground peppers that can be sprinkled onto any dish to provide a rich, toasty flavor and just the right amount of bite. The same peppers, crushed with their seeds, are spicier yet, and the hottest version includes the roasted, ground peppers mixed with garlic and oil.

I haven't had the courage to try the last two, but I have two friends who are addicted to heat when it comes to Thai food. When the three of us visited Siam Cafe for lunch last week, they ordered their dishes hot, and they sampled the condiments. They weren't disappointed.

The restaurant is a quick stop for lunch and a good place for fresh and delicious take-out in the evenings. My favorites on the lunch menu are stir-fried vegetables, with broccoli, napa cabbage, carrots, baby corn, mushrooms, onions, celery, tender asparagus tips and tofu, and Pad Thai, with thin rice noodles, egg, onions, bean sprouts and crushed peanuts. These dishes are light, and the portions are sized to make a perfect midday meal.

The lunch menu is available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cost is $6.95 for dishes made with chicken, beef, pork or tofu and $7.95 for dishes with shrimp. A small salad and a fresh spring roll come with sit-down lunch items, but the small salads are not available with take-out orders.

Siam Cafe's dinner menu offers a lengthy selection of Thai cuisine, and prices are reasonable — ranging from $8.50 to $12.95. For meat lovers, there's a half chicken or ribs barbecued with one of Yoorungruang's Thai sauces. Almost all of the dishes are served with a choice of white or fried rice.

Yoorungruang also recommends her spicy vegetable coconut soup, with or without tofu. I see this dish in my near future, along with her spicy shrimp or chicken coconut soups.

For appetizers, there are spring rolls, pot stickers, wontons, calamari, tiger rolls and much more. The restaurant's Thai iced tea and coffee — made with sweetened beverages topped with dairy cream — make delicious desserts, and Yoorungruang offers her homemade coconut ice cream at Siam Cafe.

The restaurant accepts Visa and Mastercard, but no personal checks.

— Laurie Heuston

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