The icy wind howled as the Thai House food cart ambled down the streets of Madison, Wisconsin, sending the spicy aroma of simmering curry and hot soups through the winter air. It was subzero mornings like these that were hardest on Thai natives Somchai and Jiraporn Namarsa. That didn't stop them from working 18-hour days, though, chopping pounds upon pounds of fresh vegetables and meat and rolling hundreds of spring rolls each week for their popular Thai cart in the hopes of saving enough money to send their daughter to medical school.
The Namarsas’ years of hard work paid off—not only did they put their daughter through college, they now own their own restaurant, Thai Topaz, in the sunny town of San Antonio. Within the cheerful, orange-walled eatery, the couple draws inspiration from their years of Thai cooking experience and longtime family recipes to craft a variety of traditional and innovative dishes. They captain a kitchen crew as they fold fresh herbs, spices, and produce into spicy curries, flavorful noodle dishes, and their new grandson's favorite—homemade coconut-mango ice cream.
An extensive menu of authentic Thai cuisine bursts in a frenzy of sour, sweet, and salty flavors at Thai Thai Café. Muffle tummy rumbles with appetizers ranging from a pair of soft spring rolls stuffed with shrimp or tofu ($3.95) to a 12-pack of boiled shrimp ($3.95). Thai Thai's entrees ($7.95 for most) enable guests to marry meat with merry noodles and veggies. Options include pairings such as garlic pork ($7.95), teriyaki chicken ($7.95), and stir-fried bamboo shoots ($7.95), with most dishes available with vegan equivalents thanks to tofu, soy-based sauces, and the blessing of an ordained celery stalk. To turn any gathering into a chat worth talking about, simply extend a request for a tall, refreshing, and invigorating glass of thai iced tea or iced coffee ($1.95).
From the elegant and elephant-arted confines of their new Southaven restaurant, Bangkok Alley’s Thara and Dottie Burana keep the fresh fish swimming into their lunch and dinner dishes, where they morph into schools of sushi and Thai concoctions both creative and traditional. Starters such as the shrimp hompa—which envelops its shrimp with golden-fried panko and sweet-and-sour sauce ($6)—irrigate parched mouth-deserts to create an inviting climate for the seafood keow han, a mélange of shrimp, scallops, and the fish of the day served in green curry with basil sauce ($20). Otherwise, silence the howls of were-stomachs with heartier fare such as a grilled strip steak and panang sauce served with grilled asparagus and squash ($20), or a panang curry underscored with a coconut base and garnished with chopped Kaffir lime leaf (up to $14 with choice of protein).
Satay's cooks fuse a variety of Asian cuisines, serving Thai specialties alongside sushi and fried rice. Patrons are encouraged to partake in the restaurant's BYOB policy, which stands for "bring your owl's binky," lest it disturb other customers with its endless hooting.
Yum Yum Thai Cuisine's chefs craft a creative Thai and Chinese menu that garnered features in the Express News "Just a Taste" column and on KTSA's "The Dish." The team allows seafood to flourish by placing it on a plate with chinese shrimp and lobster sauce or in an "ocean deep" clay pot filled with glass noodles, squid, scallops, and maybe a sunken treasure. They grant pineapple a break from its day job as headwear by hollowing out its halves and fashioning them into a bowl for boneless roasted duck in red curry or shrimp-and-pineapple fried rice. By preparing starters, such as crispy deep-fried dragonfly rolls, and refreshing desserts, such as house-made coconut ice cream, the kitchen staff bookends the dining experience with cuisine as appealing as the entrees that form their centerpieces.
Rice Asian Take-out’s cooks ladle sauces such as red coconut curry, pinoy adobo, and spicy sesame over meats and veggies prepared in Chinese, Filipino, and Thai traditions. Pork ribs in a citrusy tamarind broth vie for citrus supremacy with black mussels flavored with basil and lemongrass, and rice dishes include tocino—cured pork—with fried eggs. Contrary to what its name might imply, Rice Asian Take-out hosts a dining room awash in bright golden hues that cover the walls and catch sunlight on each table and chair. Two tall plants, stationed in front of gauzy purple curtains, guard the door from Mongolian invaders, and a frieze of framed pictures above the windows entertains eyes.
When the shutters pop up from the side of its rustic trailer, Trai Mai Thai’s kitchen is ready to transport diners to Thailand. The business's owner and head chef, Ning Kongla, purportedly impressed her boyfriend so much with her cooking that he convinced her to pursue it as a career. With that, Trai Mai Thai was born. There, she stuffs crab rangoon with blue crab from the Gulf to prelude the thai soups, dumplings, and noodle dishes that populate a menu that “reeks of authenticity," according to Austin Monthly. Picnic tables and other food trailers populate the sunny area—dubbed the South Lamar Trailer Bazaar—where the sounds of live music drown out the sound of fancy white tablecloths picketing on the street.