Once again, I have fallen way behind in updating this blog, which is a huge shame because I’ve been cooking up a storm and eating at a bunch of delicious new (and old) spots in El Paso that I need to tell y’all about! So, to make up for it I’ve rounded up some Thai curry spots around town into one post! Please tell me about your favorite places, as well as your experiences at Thai joints.
Thai curry is one of my absolute favorite dishes because it is so flavorful and complex. I love and hate that you get options; I can never choose between red, green, or yellow and I never know whether to go hot or Thai hot, but I always choose tofu as my protein! It’s also one of those dishes that is hard to replicate at home due to the laundry list of ingredients that are at times hard to find.
I was first introduced to green curry in Denver at Tommy’s Thai Restaurant over on Colfax. My cousin has an adventurous palate and she takes me to all the good spots when I visit. Unfortunately, no other Thai place has lived up to Tommy’s for me, but we do have some pretty good options in El Paso now. As you’ll notice in the following pics, I’ve since moved onto red curries. One thing I’ve noticed about El Paso Thai restaurants is that they are expensive and servings can be small. They also don’t seem to be very stringent with vegetarian options; either I’m paranoid or they are not omitting the fish sauce/ingredients.
5 Local Thai Restaurants:
- Tara Thai (UTEP area)
- Thai Chef Cafe (northeast)
- Mekong Thai (eastside)
- Thai Delight (Mesilla, NM)
- Renoo’s Thai Restaurant (Las Cruces & the only one I haven’t tried)
Thai Chef Cafe
This review was originally published in What’s Up Weekly on June 11, 2014, and can be found here.
What used to be the Siam Chit Chat Club on Lower Dyer is now Thai Chef Cafe. Fans of Tara Thai will rejoice in the similarity between the two restaurants, most likely due to familial owners. You’ll find the same popular green, yellow and red curries, but in a casual setting with slightly lower prices.
Meals at Thai Chef begin with a small, complimentary lettuce salad dressed in a sesame-ginger dressing. You can also start your meal with cream cheese and crab wontons, peanut chicken satay, wings and fried chicken gizzards with sweet chili sauce. Most will have a hard time deciding between the curry menu and the noodle bar menu. Further indecision is driven by four enticing soups, three fresh salads and over ten dishes, including classics like larb (ground pork or chicken served on romaine) and Prik Khing (similar to red curry, but dry). Customer favorites include Thai Beef Salad and Panang Curry.
Curries are made from spice and herb pastes mixed with coconut milk, simmered with vegetables, your choice of chicken, beef or pork and steamed jasmine rice. Not noted on the menu is the vegan option for most dishes, where tofu is subbed for meat and fish sauce omitted. The curries pack a huge amount of flavor with a perfect balance of sweet and savory and your choice of heat – mild, medium or Thai spicy.
The noodle bar menu contains both soups and entrees that contain rice, egg or glass (bean thread) noodles. The quintessential Pad Thai is available, but other favorites are chicken and shrimp noodle soup and Pad Kee Mow (rice noodles, protein, chili, mint leaves, onion and tomatoes over romaine lettuce).
Besides fountain drinks, the restaurant serves Singha beer and Thai iced tea, as well as a mango sticky rice dessert. Although portion sizes tend to be small, this two-year-old spot has its customers touting it as the best Thai in town.
Additional Veg Snob Notes: I tried the Red Curry and liked it better than Tara Thai, which I swear always has a fishy taste even though I specify veg and no fish sauce. My only complaint is that the portion size of the curries are ridiculously small for the price they’re charging; although, the noodle soup bowls that I saw other customers ordering looked very large.
This review was originally published in What’s Up Weekly on December 10, 2014, and can be found here.
The eastside has the answer to anyone who has ever had a craving for sushi, Thai curries and pho all at the same time. Mekong Thai is a tiny 12-table restaurant in the busy Zaragosa area near Saul Kleinfeld. What’s not tiny is their spiral-bound booklet of a menu as well as the serving sizes.
Besides egg rolls and spring rolls, you’ll find papaya salad, Thai beef jerky, deep-fried pork ribs in a spicy paste and more on their appetizer menu. The usual Thai standards are served here, like Pad Thai, larb (a spicy ground beef salad), as well as red, green and panang coconut milk-based curries. Pad Kea Mao is a popular dish that has wide rice noodles stir-fried with bell peppers, onions, carrots, basil leaves and your choice of chicken, beef, pork or tofu.
Over forty sushi rolls are on the menu, as well as nigiri, sashimi and the ability to order combinations of the three. Customers recommend the chef tempura roll, which combines smoked salmon, cream cheese and avocado into a tempura-battered and fried roll. Diners also love the July 4 roll with its combination of crab meat, cucumber and avocado topped with shrimp tempura and spicy crab roe.
The Vietnamese menu is the smallest of the offerings, but still has plenty to choose from including various rice noodle dishes and a Banh Mi sandwich with liver sausage. Pho soup with beef and meatballs can be ordered as a small or large serving. The most popular dish is the BBQ pork, which comes with veggies, rice noodles and an egg roll.
Mango sticky rice, fried banana ice cream and Asian sweet corn are just a few of the many desserts served here. They also serve red or green cream soda with basil seeds and boba pearls.
Prices might seem a bit steep for a tiny casual spot, but servings are enough for two or saved as tomorrow’s leftovers. Note that the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.
Additional Veg Snob Notes: Same issue with fishy taste. I also wasn’t a fan of their tofu preparation and texture. Good serving size though.
My last visits to Las Cruces have been for the sole purposes of visiting Mountain View Market Co-op, Spotted Dog Brewery and/or Bosque Tap Room. Spotted Dog is located in Mesilla, and Thai Delight is probably only a couple of blocks up the street from Spotted Dog. I had been wanting to check it out, because the Yelp and Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon) reviews were good. Thai Delight has by far the quirkiest menu I’ve ever seen at a Thai place, and apparently Renoo’s is very similar. Besides the Thai standards, they offer American-style sandwiches (like Clubs and patty melts) and German stuff like yeager schnitzel. Weird right? Well, even weirder is that their onion rings are pretty delicious. So, you might not want to snub the other non-Thai options.
All of the Thai dishes are $10.29, served with miso soup or salad (try their house ginger carrot dressing), a good-sized portion, and can be ordered with chicken, beef, pork or tofu (shrimp costs extra). I tried the red curry with tofu my first time here, and thought it was pretty good, but I could taste a hint of fishiness even though I specified vegetarian, no fish sauce. The second time, I ordered the green curry and it was much better although it looked red (I asked for it hot, so I guess the chile made it red). My partner had the panang curry both times and highly recommends it. This place is a must when in Las Cruces, and they’ve got great hours, as most most restaurants in Mesilla close early.
Bonus: You can bring your picky children here; they have a kid’s menu. Try not to steal all of your child’s onion rings.