Penang: Thai Basil Summer Wraps (Now CLOSED)

June 2013 Update: Yelp and Urbanspoon report that this restaurant has closed.

Where: Penang Malaysian and Thai Cuisine, 431 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC, 27516

GF Menu: No.

What I ate: Thai Basil Summer Wraps (appetizer) + Rendang Lamb + Singapore Rice Noodle. The portions are hearty and perfect to share.

How to order it: Thai restaurants traditionally rely on rice and rice noodles as the basis for a dish. It is becoming more common for some restaurants in the United States to use other kinds of noodles (egg, wheat, etc.).

You’ll need to ask some questions:

1. Ask the server whether any of the items you are selecting from the menu use a soy sauce, an oyster sauce, or sambai (shrimp paste), any of which may contain gluten.

2. If you are ordering a dish made with crab meat (as some summer rolls are), make sure it is real crab and not imitation crab, as the latter typically harbors gluten.

3. Be wary of pancake-type items (fish cake, patties, or roti) or fried dumplings (pot stickers or gyoza) on the menu, as odds are good that they are made with flour.

4. If, like me, and many other Gluten-Free diners, you are sensitive to MSG, you may want to ask whether the dish you plan to order contains any. Click HERE to read a hypothesis about the connection between sensitivity to MSG and Celiacs.

What it looks like:

The taste of summer encapsulated – fresh basil leaves, shrimp, jicama, lettuce, and cucumber rolled inside a thin rice paper wrapper. The peanut dipping sauce was so scrumptious with its nutty, red peppered, gingery taste, that my dining companion and I ate the rolls and then went after the carrot garnish just to have more of the sauce.

Want to know why the picture above is a little blurry? I must have been intoxicated by the aromas emanating from this dish! Cinnamon, cloves, lemongrass, red pepper flakes, and coconut milk hugged the sides of these simmered pieces of lamb. This dish gets hotter (spicy) as you eat. If your palate prefers something milder, order a side of coconut rice to help beat the heat.

Stir-fried rice noodles (modified with vermicelli) in a special mild sauce with shrimp, bean sprouts, onions, and lettuce. This dish may look light, but it is pasta-based, therefore quite filling.

Green Note: Penang uses washable dishes, glassware, chopsticks and cutlery. I did not see the take-away boxes, as there was no need after my meal, but there was very little waste on the tables in the restaurant. They also provide cloth napkins. Here is one argument for cloth napkins over paper napkins from

Tossing out a napkin doesn’t seem all that harmful but consider that when paper breaks down it releases methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas and, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, can remain in the atmosphere for up to fifteen years. Most paper napkins are also bleached which means chlorine gas seepage as well. Considering the millions of paper napkins that wind up at the landfill every day, these gases contribute to decreasing air quality and declining environmental health.

Penang on Urbanspoon

Published in: on June 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Celeste,
    Every single blog post makes my mouth water and makes me want to eat out every night to sample all the wonderful gluten free options you highlight. Keep up the great work!

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