As Thai food has gained a foothold in the United States in recent years, it seems that pad thai is as ubiquitous as spaghetti. The rice noodle dish with its sweet, sour and salty elements balancing each other, is a common street food in Thailand, though few Thais would actually make this at home.
During World War II, the Thai leader Luang Pibulsonggram named Pad Thai the national dish, in part as a way to encourage the citizenry to increase their rice noodle consumption (leaving rice available for export). After the war, the dish was promoted as a way to increase employment by increasing noodle production.
Thai Na-Korn in Mount Vernon is a simple, traditional Thai restaurant, with a large menu of 60 plus items including a variety of curries, seafood, and noodle dishes. At least eight of the entrees are vegetarian.
On a recent visit, we began with a fried squid appetizer with a sweet and sour sauce. The squid was exquisitely tender and fried in a heavy batter. The sauce was subtly sweet, not cloying. They were gone in minutes.
We could smell our order of Duck Basil before it arrived, the Thai basil aroma thick with liquorice tones. The saltiness of the duck was almost balanced by the sweetness of the red pepper, but not quite.
Pad Thai was just as expected, with a nice sprinkle of crushed peanuts and lime, but was a bit on the sweet side.
Where Thai Na-Korn stands out is the dessert menu. Only three items, but they were unexpectedly lovely. The sweet rice with mango, a common Thai menu item, was sticky sweet but flavorful, with slices of perfectly ripe mango. The banana rolls with honey were delightfully fresh, the warm fruit oozing out from the light crispy pastry packet.
Thai iced coffee and tea are prepared with lots of sweet milk and sugar syrup, and are dessert-like on their own.
During our visit, other customers came and went, many ordering great quantities of what were clearly family favorites. Thai Na-Korn could make a nice addition to your list of reliable take-out.
Thai Na-Korn is located at 8733 Cooper Road, and is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 9pm, Sunday, noon to 9pm.