Dining on a budget: Start with the specials

Dining at a new restaurant can be confusing, even overwhelming. With more than 100 different items on most menus, ordering the right dish is like picking the winning lottery number or guessing the exact number of jelly beans in a candy jar.

The problem gets worse when youre trying a new cuisine. The dishes use new flavors, different ingredients and are sometimes in a foreign language.

Offering popular yet simple dishes, Rosie Thai Food in Covina is an excellent introduction to Thai food, especially if youre not familiar with the cuisine.

First, try all-day specials. Youll find familiar Asian dishes, such as Kung Pao chicken and teriyaki chicken, as well as classic Thai favorites like pad Thai and spicy beef with mint.

For $5.95, the all-day specials come with rice and salad, and during lunch, a small cup of soup. For a few extra dollars, the specials include more exciting dishes, such as stuffed chicken wings, shrimp sauteed with black pepper and garlic, and Thai barbecue spareribs.

Keep in mind that Thai food expertly combines sweet and savory flavors, so the beef and broccoli stir fry at Rosie will taste very different than at a Chinese restaurant. The combination of the two flavors creates dishes that will make you hunger for more but not weigh you down.

Once youve graduated from the specials menu, I highly recommend dining family style and ordering more authentic Thai dishes from the second half of the menu. Not only is the food delicious and flavorful, but its also very affordable.

One of my favorites is panang curry with chicken, a sweet and savory coconut-based curry. I also like the Tom Kha Gai soup, which includes coconut milk, lemongrass, straw mushrooms and various herbs. Both sweet and savory, the soup is light enough as a starter or can be ordered as an entree. On a cold night, its especially satisfying.

If you enjoy spicy food, the hot mint leaves and chili paste with chicken is a highly addictive stir fry dish. However, you may want to keep a large glass of ice water or milk close by.

Rosie Thai Food is at 474 E. San Bernardino Road in Covina. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays. For more information, call (626) 339-4935.

By Esther Chou

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