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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Eating Out + Eating In: Bangkok Garden, plus shopping for fish at the Super H Mart

At Bangkok Garden Thai Restaurant in Hackensack, a celebratory dinner for three included a whole fish, top left; wide rice noodles with shrimp and egg, bottom left; and a soft-shell crab special.



Sad to say, but fans of Wondee's Fine Thai Food & Noodles in Hackensack will have to console themselves by visiting its longtime competitor, Bangkok Garden, only a block away.

First, Wondee's founders, Chef Wandee Suwangbutra and husband Tom, retired and handed over the kitchen to Air-Arisa Katengamkam, a young woman who trained by the chef's side.

The transition in 2015 was unannounced, but the quality of the food remained high, and customers noticed the dining room was spruced up with fresh paint and a new wooden floor to replace the worn, torn-in-places dark-blue carpet.

I had always been loyal to Wondee's, a BYO at 296 Main St. in Hackensack that had tastier food and lower prices than its rival on the next block.

Still, by last summer, Wondee's was on the ropes, a year or so shy of its 20th anniversary. 

In March, I visited Chef Arisa after lunch at Bangkok Garden, which was busy, and found her and a woman server alone in a restaurant without any customers.

Then, Wondee's closed for the chef's maternity leave, and now has reopened.

Yet, the dining room can only be described as shabby, at least judging from what I saw when I looked into the restaurant's plate-glass window on Main Street recently.

Bangkok Garden Thai Restaurant's dining room is decorated elaborately. The restaurant, which says it was the first Thai place to open in Bergen County, also has a liquor license.

Bangkok Garden

We had a big dinner at Bangkok Garden to celebrate a birthday and Mother's Day, but made sure to do so the night before that big holiday.

Both my wife and son loved the food:

Two Won Ton Soups ($4.50 each), Green Papaya Salad ($8.95), a shrimp appetizer called Tod Mun Goong ($8.95); a Jumbo Soft-Shell Crab, deep fried and served over Bok Choy with a homemade Chili Sauce ($18.95); Siam Noodles with Shrimp ($11.95), and a deep-fried whole Striped Bass with Chili Pepper and Garlic Sauce ($26.95).

I also enjoyed the meal, but recall sauces were a little too sweet for me.

Tod Mun Goong, an appetizer special, was described as shrimp kneaded with egg, white ground pepper and light soy sauce, then breaded and deep-fried. The "light plum sauce" was a little too sweet.
When I ordered the Green Papaya Salad, the waitress asked how spicy we wanted it. Be cautious. "Medium" was about as spicy as I can take. Other choices are "mild" and "hot."
Bangkok Garden's Won Ton Soup is served with chicken, not the sliced pork my son and wife remember from Wondee's.
Bangkok Garden's dishes appear in vivid color on this dining-room screen, and we ordered one of them, Pad Sea-Eyew Beef, for a fourth family member who stayed home.

Bangkok Garden Thai Restaurant, 261 Main St., Hackensack; 1-201-487-2620. Liquor license. Open 7 days. See website  for hours. Metered parking on street and behind restaurant in municipal lot off State Street.


Penang Malaysian & Thai Cuisine in Lodi has closed. We enjoyed the food on two visits.

An enormous fish head was on display last Sunday in the seafood department of the Super H Mart in Ridgefield.
Live Crawfish were offered at $4.99 a pound. 
I've never heard of Mud Fish, which were a pricey $19.99 a pound.
The Super H Mart rolls out carts filled with ice to accommodate all of the fresh fish the Korean market offers.
Last Sunday in Ridgefield, fresh wild Red Snapper were only $3.99 a pound. The week before, red snapper were going for $5.99 a pound at the H Mart in Englewood (25 Lafayette Ave). 
At home we seasoned the cleaned red snapper, stuffed minced garlic into the cavity and added fresh lemon juice. We wrapped up three fish and vegetables individually in aluminum foil, and roasted three of them for about an hour at 400 degrees.
Don't miss the tender "cheek" just below the eye.
In addition to fresh and frozen fish, the Super H Mart offers a wide selection of prepared seafood and sliced raw fish or sashimi, above and below.
Meat eaters also are well served with shelves of marinated beef, pork and chicken, above and below.

On weekends, you can find more free samples of Korean food in Ridgefield than at other, smaller H Marts in Bergen County, above and below.

Outside the store, I picked up a large seedless watermelon from Texas that turned out to be perfectly sweet ($8.99).


Super H Mart, 321 Broad Ave., Ridgefield; 1-201-943-9600. Open 7 days. H Mart is short for "Han Ah Reum" or "One Arm Full of Groceries."

Website: One Arm Full of Groceries

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