On’s Thai Kitchen: My first, non-ammoniated crab.

May 15, 2011
On’s Thai Kitchen
1613 University Ave W.
St. Paul, MN 55104

Deprivation can lead to some strange fascinations.

My mother viewed cooking more as a necessity than pleasure.  She began to enjoy trying different recipes when I was in college.  I never saw a real onion or clove of garlic until I experimented in my own kitchen laboratory in college.

During my childhood, I grew up reading cooking magazines and watching cooking shows on television.  I watched Lidia Bastianich and Rick Bayless on PBS, Great Chefs of the World on the Travel Channel, and Anthony Bourdain in A Cook’s Tour on the Food Network.  I used to bike ride to the Galaxie Library and borrow 10 cookbooks each visit.

As a result, I have longstanding fascinations with certain foods that developed from a childhood of admiring, not tasting.  Examples of my food fascinations include shellfish such as bivalves, lobsters, and crab, eggplant, lamb chops, and stinky cheeses.  On a related sidenote, a couple years ago I was convinced I had gluten allergy (which I don’t) and remained gluten free for most of a year.  I now have a residual bagel obsession.

On Sunday, Jake and I embarked on what began as a quest to eat my first whole, bone-in fish.  A few people on Chowhound recommended choosing a fish from the menu at On’s Thai Kitchen.  I quickly abandoned my quest for a fish once I noticed crab.

Thai iced coffee, $3
Jake ordered a Thai iced coffee.  Overall, I enjoyed the strong coffee flavor.  I am a fan of adding sweetened condensed milk to coffee and tea, but the sweetness almost bordered on “cloying.” 
Beef laab, Thai Style, $7.99
We ordered this beef lab at a medium-spicy level.  We considered the laab to be satisfying spicy, meaning sweat inducing but not inedible.  The laab contained a generous portion of beef and fresh vegetables and herbs.  I especially enjoyed the intense lime flavor and savoriness of the toasted rice powder.  I have tried laabs with various protiens from Bangkok Thai Deli, True Thai and Amazing Thailand and prefer On’s version.  
Sticky rice, $3
For an extra charge, you can order a basket of sticky rice to eat with your laab.  
Pad-phong ga lee, $16.99
Pictured above is a stirfried dungenous crab in a yellow curry sauce with green onions and scrambled eggs.  I adore this crab.  The curry was warmly spiced and sweet.  The crab was plumply filled with flaky meat that was easy to remove from the shell.  Typically, yellow curries aren’t my first choice, I but slurped as much sauce as I could from the crab shell and spooned it over the accompanying rice.  
The first time I ordered my own crab was this past winter at a local, high-end restaurant.  A chilled, whole dungenous crab was offered as the evening seafood special for a similar price.  The small crab’s meat was sparse and dry and tasted strongly of ammonia.  I will think twice before ordering a seafood special.  
On a nostalgic visit to Red Lobster, I was turned off by the crab legs’ ammoniated flavor.  
On’s Thai Kitchen provided me with a warm and succulent crab do-over.  
Pad Thai with chicken, $8.99
Jake wouldn’t be Jake if he didn’t order Pad Thai with chicken.  All of the ingredients were cooked well and the vegetables were fresh.  If you enjoy a sweeter Pad Thai, you may enjoy this version.  Our preferences lie with peanuty versions that are more savory than sweet and have a thicker sauce, like you would find at Bangkok Thai Deli.  
All in all, I had a lovely dinner at On’s.  The service was warm and friendly and I welcomed the curried crab like a gift.  There are many other interesting menu items I haven’t seen before and a whole, fried, three sauce fish I would like to try.  


  1. We went recently and ordered the beef laab and curry crab too! We don’t really have other Thai food experience though, so can’t really compare but I have heard On’s being described as authentic. We liked the beef laab though husband thought it was a bit strong on the fish sauce. I LOVED the curry crab! This was exactly the curry flavor I loved! I didn’t realized it had scrambled eggs in it to soak up the juice until I asked… I was getting full, and yet I ate almost all my rice because I loved it that much! We also tried the coconut soup (interesting combination of flavors though hubby thought it was a bit salty). Also had the fish-husband in leaf appetizer which was quite good.

    We were so full… I wish I could have taken the left over curry home! I should try the Pad Thai. I had it at a non-Thai restaurant in SE MN and boy it was so sour! I hadn’t had Pad Thai before so I was curious to try, but probably shouldn’t have it at a non-Thai restaurant… it’s not even on the menu anymore so I’m glad they took it away!

  2. glad you enjoyed your meal as well! thanks for the report:)

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