Made in Uptown: Immm Rice & Beyond

Immm Rice & Beyond, since opening in 2015, has won many fans for its fragrant, flavorful dishes and pop-up dinners that bring Chiang Mai to Chicago. Uptown United spoke with Immm owner Dew Suriyawan about what it means to serve Thai food that doesn’t cut corners.

Dew moved from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand 10 years ago to pursue a Master’s in Network Engineering at DePaul. But Dew says he’s happiest when cooking, thus while studying he decided to open a Thai restaurant. In 2012, he took over Lincoln Square’s beloved Spoon Thai with his sister. He added its once-secret menu to the regular menu and made other subtle changes but knew he couldn’t change much without upsetting Spoon’s many fans.

Immm, meaning stuffed in Thai, realizes a vision of a restaurant all his own, where Dew can take an uncompromising approach in serving truly Thai dishes, where he can avoid swapping inauthentic ingredients only because it’s easier. Immm’s specialty is Kao Rad Gaeng, long-simmering curries served over rice. It’s a true “street food” experience that is much like what you’d find at any Thai market.

Seasonality is critical to Dew. For him not compromising also means not using out-of-season ingredients and not lying when something is not available. Thus, the menu changes frequently. One day he might be serving Larb Mueng, a Northern-style ground pork salad, and the next it might be Kua Gai, a dry curry with bone-in chicken with kabocha squash with herbs and chili paste.

For Dew, the location couldn’t be more ideal. He sources most of his produce from Tai Nam a few doors down and other ingredients are shipped from abroad or D.C. so as to capture that authentic flavor.

Immm is also popular with foodies for its pop-up meals. Representing food from all regions of Thailand, including the North and North East, they feature freshly made dishes rarely seen in Chicago that can’t be stored even a few days. He has hosted five such meals so far and each has been sold out. He has plans for another one in early spring.

Also, last year Dew co-hosted Chicago’s first Thai Food Festival that attracted over 15,000 attendees over its two days.

He says while he spent most of last two years stuck in the kitchen building up the restaurant this year he plans to get out more and is working on many other ideas. Meanwhile, stop in to Immm to sample its ever-changing roster of curries and stay tuned to see what else Dew is cooking!