Immm Rice & Beyond serves traditional Thai street food that leaves with a healthy food baby. Located right next to one of Chicago’s most popular Vietnamese restaurants Tank Noodle, it’s the first truly authentic Thai restaurant I’ve discovered in the city, and is a must-go place if you’re looking for rich and aromatic flavors, a bright and colorful atmosphere and a great price.
If you know of any other delicious Thai spots in Chicago, please let me know in the comments!
A small restaurant that seats 30 or so, the first thing you notice is the spiraling canopy of flag streamers spreading out in every direction over the dining area. There are huge bags of rice stacked in the corner. One wall is bright yellow, and the other has a colorful mural featuring the Chicago skyline. Next to the hot bar is a chalkboard wall with the menu items scrawled on, and a short mantra telling the story of the restaurant’s name, Immm:
The menu refuses to simplify for any palate. The names are in Thai, but yield detailed descriptions outlining the dish’s ingredients. While they do serve Pad Thai (and it’s a great Pad Thai – more on that later), the emphasis is more on authentic dishes central to Thai street food.
At the restaurant’s hot bar, you can sample as many curries and stews as you’d like. Andrew and I tried the Tae Poe Curry (tamarind-red curry), Panang Pork (traditional peanut curry), Paa Lo (pork belly in Chinese five-spice stew), and even Whoo Whan (caramelized pork belly).
Immm offers many of its dishes in a “tasting size,” so that you can order smaller dishes and try more things on the menu. And with the wait time being less than 5 minutes, our table was quickly crowded with all sorts of small plates filled with food that beckoned my eyes, nose and tongue.
Our fried chicken skin appetizer (Nung Gai Todd, $6) was served in an adorable fryer basket, paired with Thai sriracha. The chicken skin was super crunchy but not too oily, and the portion was just large enough that we finished it, but didn’t get bored of the texture.
The Boat Noodles (Kuay Tiew Ruea, $5 – tasting size) were Andrew’s favorite. This soup was swimming with rice noodles, cilantro and bean sprouts, and initially reminded me vaguely of Vietnamese pho. However, the broth was dark grey and much thicker and richer than that of pho. We opted for the pork soup, which was served with pieces of pork and crispy fried pork skin.
We also ordered tasting sizes of braised pork (Mhoo Whan, $6 – tasting size) and red tamarind curry (Gaeng Tae Poe, $5 – tasting size). The braised pork reminded me of my mom’s Hong Shao Rou (red braised pork belly), except with a lighter, sweeter sauce.
Our dish of Pad Prik Khing ($10) balanced out the heaviness of the meats we had ordered. Firm tofu and green beans were covered in a sweet and spicy curry sauce, which was thicker and more pungent than most of other curries.
Our plate of Khao Moo Dang ($10) balanced a serving of delicious BBQ pork doused in a bright red sauce with plain white rice topped with Chinese sausage and cucumber slices.
On another occasion, Andrew and I also got O Liang (Thai iced coffee, $3) which was delightfully strong and rich. We also ordered Pad Thai ($9.50), which was a great dish but felt kind of like a safe excuse not to try other things. We also ordered Pad Pak, which was a light veggie dish tossed in a wok with tofu ($9) and the Gai Todd ($9), which was the star of the meal.
Thai fried chicken with the bone in made for a moist, tender and flavorful bite from the trinity marinade, made with fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic and cilantro.
At Immm, you could easily get a meal for $10 or less, though, to be honest, Andrew and I shared a $50 meal and brought home a healthy portion of leftovers. We just wanted to try a lot of things.
4949 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60640