Ronnarong Thai Tapas Bar is a Founding Business Member of Somerville Local First (SLF)

We are proud of the creativity, originality and uniqueness of Ronnarong, and are committed to sustaining the ethnic diversity and character of Union Square. Chain stores, chain restaurants and national banks have decision makers whose priorities are far from our community. Your conscious patronage of locally owned independent businesses like Ronnarong strengthens Somerville.

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Feast and Drink to Ronnie!

Friday 08 June 5-8pm

Ronnarong Farewell Union Square Party

Advance tickets purchased through Union Square Main Streets

Ronnarong's Thai Classics
Paired w/Dry Sherries
A Special Dinner held Tuesday January 11th
(The big winner: Ronn's Red Curry Beef with an Amontillado)

The January Edition of our Thai Tapas Tuesday Series featured a special guest: passionate foodie and wine expert, Richard Auffrey.

His respected food blog ( http:/ ) often includes notes about a misunderstood and under-appreciated wine category, the wines popular in tapas bars across Spain which fall under the general heading of sherries. I had a drink with Richard awhile back and we joked about how Ronnarong, as a tapas bar, really should have a sherry list.

Richard surprised me with the assertion that sherries would pair quite well with Thai spicing. I acknowledged that I had little experience of sherries, and thought of them, frankly, as uninspired, unmemorable cheap cooking wines. Richard is a Certified Spanish Wine Educator and he quickly assured me that 1) what I had tasted was not at all representative of a terrific and affordable wine category, and 2) sadly, mine was a typical American experience. The idea for this dinner was born. We met a week later at Ronnarong and tasted a number of dishes so Richard could select sherries to pair and we set the date for January.

The plan included a variety of dry sherry types, which Richard explained as the dinner progressed. His selections included three Manzanillas, two Amontillados and two Olorosos, affording attendees a broad introduction.
All of these sherries are made to accompany food. We tried them with Thai rolls and three classic Thai dishes: seafood lad nah (mixed seafood and asian broccoli with an oyster sauce, served over wide noodles), beef with Ronnarong's red curry, and a larb (very spicy ground chicken dish). All of the pairings worked nicely -- the slightly briney quality of the Manzanillas with the seafood dish and the rich caramel flavors of the Olorosos with the spicy larb -- but the flavor explosion of the Amontillado paired with Ronn's red curry beef caught everyone by surprise.

We decided on the spot that an Amontillado had to be added to the Ronnarong wine list so others could try this spectacular combination.

Richard will be back later this year for a Thai Tapas Tuesday program focussed on sake.


Want to learn more about sherry?
Here's a link to blog posts by Richard Auffrey:

You'll find articles with these titles:
History of Sherry (Five Parts)
Manzanilla: The Neglected Sherry (Two Parts)
Does Alvear Produce Sherry?
Sherry News
Bound for Spain: Sherry!
I Have Returned!
Ten Things I Learned About Sherry
Five More Things I Learned About Sherry
Aged Sherry: Prepare To Be Wowed
The Mystery of Palomino
Bodegas Tradición: Only Aged Sherries
Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana: Manzanilla Mecca
Bodegas Harvey: Peacocks, Gators & Aged Sherry
Bodegas Sánchez Romate: Flamenco, Momo & Moscatel
Bodegas Gonzalez Byass: Apostles & Thirsty Mice
Bodegas Grupo Estevez: Music For the Flor
Sherry and Spanish Cuisine
Sherry Food Pairings: More Bellota Please
A Taste of Menton, With Sherry
Sherry Bodegas: Beware The Aliens!
Rant: Dumbing Down Wine Lists
The Veil of Flowers
Sherry Day: December 6

Why is Chef Grinning?

In 2008 Ronnarong went home to Thailand for the first time in many years, concerned about his mother’s health. He met Anong, a friend of his sister who was helping to care for his mother and her home. Anong had been a family friend for a long time and is the sister of the monk at their temple, but since Ronnie had immigrated to the US twenty years earlier, she had never met him.

Long story short: They got married in Thailand before Ronnie returned! He has been busy renovating his Union Square restaurant The Great Thai Chef, reopening as Ronnarong Thai Tapas Bar, tending his garden and cooking six days a week ever since reopening, but they have talked on the phone every day since Ronnie came back.

It has taken thirty months to gain a visa for Anong but this was finally achieved just last month. We immediately made arrangements for her to fly here!

Although Anong studied English in school (and a lot more recently) she has had little opportunity to practice speaking. She is going to language school mornings and working at Ronnarong the rest of the day.

Please join us in welcoming Anong to our community and to the restaurant!

Anong and Ronnarong

Event Photos from CitySearch Boston's "Thai Me Down" party at Ronnarong

From time to time CitySearch Boston hosts "Thai Me Down" at Ronnarong featuring a single ingredient as the theme for the party's food and drinks. For the September 22nd event, we featured the chile pepper. Chef Ronnie brought one of his chile pepper plants from his home garden for all to see. He made a delicious (and spicy!) oyster mushroom soup -- guests commented that the fresh tomatoes really added to the tastiness. We also served Ronnarong's spicy Basil Fried Rice w/Tofu. The bar offered a spicy Thai Patio Punch for a starter. If you missed the party last night, we hope to see you next month for the October 27th "Thai Me Down" adventure. If you have a suggestion for October's featured ingredient, share your idea in the comments.

Thanks to everyone who voted for us as Best Thai Restaurant in the "Best of CitySearch 2010" poll! If you have a minute, share a quick review of your experience at Ronnarong on CitySearch. We appreciate it!

Here are photos from the chili pepper adventure!

Thai Tapas Ideas Invited - Gift Card to the Winning Dish

Awhile ago I had an on-line conversation with an insightful reviewer of Ronnarong. As it turned out, MC Slim JB is a professional food writer who has lived in Thailand and has dined at just about every Asian themed restaurant in the Boston metro area.

When I asked MCslimJB if he had ideas for Thai tapas, he encouraged me to open the question to you.

I thought that was a great idea, so this is an open invitation to readers of this blog. What do YOU wish Ronnie would offer on the next tapas menu. We will listen, and you may just find your dish on the menu the next time you visit.

To work as a new tapas, here’s what’s needed:

1) It must use classic Thai ingredients.

2) It must be kept very simple once ordered. For example, Ronnie’s tod mund (photo at very top above) is a plate of spicy shrimp cakes prepped by grinding shrimp and blending with kafir lime, red curry and eggs, then forming cakes and pan frying them in the wok. Their preparation is a little complicated but the complicated part is all done ahead of time. Once you order them, all Chef does is flash fry them and plate them. This makes them a good tapas item. The dish can be sent out promptly along with other tapas.

So, we ask you: What can we serve you?

Comment here by 11/1/10 for a chance to have your Tapas on the Ronnarong menu and a $20 gift card.

Thai Me Down with “Phantom Chicken”

We are so excited to have a new event series with Christine Liu, Citysearch's National Community Manager and a Union Square resident. Together we’ve devised a recurring celebration on our patio of one Thai ingredient.

Thai Me Down (Christine has a gift for naming events) happens from 6:30 to 8:30. Our July evening featured Lemongrass.

To start, we featured a little known Thai tradition. Yom Pla Kra Pong (or as we called it, phantom chicken) is a combination of condiments often used to make a chicken dish. The concept is, if you can’t afford to buy the chicken, by shooting some sake and eating a combination of small bits of the condiments (and shooting more sake) you can imagine you are eating the chicken. And if you eat enough phantom chicken (thanks to the sake), you may just forget your troubles anyway. Try it!

The format for Thai Me Down includes a tasting of the house offerings in beer, wine & sake (This month we tried, among other things, champaign with lemongrass syrup. Though some can't resist our Thai Sangria, especially on the patio.)

Throughout the event, we experiment with the theme ingredient, this time offering lemongrass with both Golden Curry and Sardine Salad. Yum!

We hope to see you at the August Thai Me Down. Find out what we're featuring by following @ronnarongthai and @citysearchbos on twitter.

On Independents - Selecting Craft Brews for A Thai Tapas Restaurant’s Beer List

We celebrated Independence Day by locking the door, disconnecting Ronnie’s entire kitchen, ripping out four previous layers of flooring and mudding in a new quarry tile floor. It actually took four days, twice as long as expected. I was reminded that independence entails a lot of work and responsibility…

Ronnarong’s beer list, as you might guess, is chosen for quality and for pairing with Thai flavors. But we have also insisted that the brewers be independent. In recent years the beverage world has been “consolidated” (the polite word for “taken over”) by huge corporations. Did you know only two companies now control the overwhelming majority (over 80 %) of the American beer market?

So when you see names like Pretty Things, Dogfish, Great Divide, Brooklyn, Allagash, Stone, and Green Flash on our list, we want you to know these are fiercely committed independents as well as great brewers.

Some Belgian brewers have taken things one step further. In 2007, Hugues Dubuisson, the owner of a family brewery dating back to the 1700s, invited other long standing independent brewers to form The Belgian Family Brewers Association. Look for this symbol on the label:

There are now thirteen breweries that carry this designation. To qualify, they must be independent breweries, family owned and operated in the same location for over fifty years. Together the active family members have over 1500 years of brewing experience! They pledge not to create or sell “label beers,” the fast growing cynical trend to market beers produced in large batches under multiple brands, giving the appearance of small local brews. (A lot of those cute names and labels you see in the store are all owned by a handful of corporations, and are brewed in the same giant facilities. And of course, to these brewers, anything labeled "Belgian Style" should be labeled "An Imitation Not Brewed in Belgium".)

If you look at the list, you will see Ronnarong offers three Belgians in addition to the house favorite Delirium Tremens. All three are Belgian Family Brewers:
The Straffe Hendrik Tripel (a.b.v. 9%) is produced by De Halve Maan in Bruges, in the same location since 1856. It is amber colored, bitter, full bodied and a delicious match with Ronnie’s curries.

The Cuvee "van de Keiser" Blauw is in limited supply. It is Het Anker’s celebration of Emperor Charles V’s birthday, brewed on February 24th every year with the finest hops and higher alcohol (this release has an a.b.v. of 11%). The Cuvee of the Emperor is mahogany brown ale, with sweet brown sugar, a fig-like note and a bunch of yeasty flavors, pairing beautifully with Ronnarong’s sweeter noodle dishes. This is a 750ml bottle, meant to be shared on celebratory occasions. (It's Wednesday. Let's celebrate!)

The Bacchus is a Flemish sour from Van Honsebrouck Brewery (a.b.v. 5%). This tart dark ale has complex flavors from barley malt and wheat. It just works with food, anything you choose.

If I’m around, I’ll gladly raise a glass of any of these with you!

Ronnarong is Named for the Chef

Thai restaurants around here are generally named for ingredients (Lemongrass, Thai Basil, Green Papaya, Sweet Chili etc) or for general Thai references like House of Siam or The Silk Elephant.

However, as his landlord and a frequent patron for the last ten years, I was aware that Ronnie’s food has always been a very personal expression. He has a taste for limiting sweetness (which is out of control in many Ameri-Thai kitchens), he mortars his own spices and has an insistence on doing everything scratch and a la minute, even if it means his kitchen is slower. (“Not fast food!” he has said to me more than once when I stuck my impatient head in his kitchen.)

As we prepared to renovate and re-open as a Thai Tapas Bar, we had to address the question of re-naming the place. My thinking immediately ran to Ronnie’s full Thai name, Ronnarong. It frankly did not occur to me that people would find it hard to grasp. It’s actually easy to pronounce once you get it (Ron-Ah-Rong). And the place IS Ronnie. He closes on Sunday because he has to have one day off. If Ronnarong is not in his kitchen, it’s just not happening.

How The Great Thai Chef became Ronnarong Thai Tapas Restaurant

The re-launch of The Great Thai Chef as Ronnarong Thai Tapas Bar began with American friends of chef/owner Ronnarong (Ronnie) Saksua (myself – his landlord and a retired restaurateur; event chef and locavore JJ Gonson; and pastry chef and food blogger Linsey Herman ) telling him we wanted smaller portions of his food. This way we could taste more of his great dishes at one meal.

As the conversation continued over a period of weeks, we started saying “tapas” as a shorthand for small plates. Ronnie related our request to the Thai idea of gup gla-em or "drinking food", small portions of fried food and other snacks served in Bangkok’s bars.

Then one day JJ said “Why don’t we just call it ‘Thai tapas’ – people seem to understand the idea right away when I say that.” We decided to go with it. Weeks later it occurred to me to Google “Thai tapas.” Sure enough, there are Thai tapas places in LA, Montreal, Shanghai, NYC, even Pittsburgh.

Thai Tapas Menu

Tapas (Yum)
V = can be made vegetarian (vegan)
* = spice index

In Thailand these savory bites are called gup gla-em or "drinking food".
Try them as starters, or make a meal of them!

Spicy Thai Soup - hot & sour broth w/shrimp, mushrooms, lemongrass & lime leaf $6 - *

Coconut Soup - chicken in coconut milk, w/galangal, lemongrass, mushroom & onions $6 (spicy on request)

Tofu Satay - w/grilled zucchini & spicy sauce $7 - **V

Papaya Salad - green papaya w/tomatoes, string beans, and ground peanut tossed in tangy sauce $7 - V

Stir Fried Asian Broccoli (aka Chinese kale) - sauteed w/oyster sauce $6 - **V

Homemade Shrimp Curry Cakes - ground shrimp in patties, served w/cucumber sauce $7 - *

Paradise Beef - ancient recipe, marinated then dried, deep fried upon order $7.50

Mango Salad - fresh mango w/red peppers, red onion and cashews $7 - * V

Grilled Shrimp w/ Stir Fried Asian Broccoli - sautéed w/oyster sauce, topped w/grilled shrimp $9 - **

Chicken Wings - marinated whole wings served w/sweet & sour sauce $8

White Mushroom Salad - asian variety mixed w/red pepper, lime juice, chili sauce & onion $7 - **V

Thai Roll - crispy rolls w/choice of chicken OR vegetables $6 - V

Fresh Roll - paper thin rice wrapper, choice of shrimp & vegetable OR tofu $7 - V

Tasty Pork BBQ - roasted pork w/spicy sauce onions and cucumber $8 - **

Handmade Golden Crowns - crispy cups filled w/shrimp, chicken & peanuts $7

Mixed Seafood Salad - shrimp, squid & scallops mixed well w/lime juice, fish sauce & onions $8.50 - **

Steamed Mussels - steamed w/lemongrass, lime leaves & basil $8 - *

Ronnie's Spicy Squid - steamed squid, mixed w/housemade chili sauce, onions $8 - **