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Texas Thai – An Unlikely Hidden Culinary Gem

Last week we visited the seafood wonders of San Francisco, namely a special bakery’s signature clam chowder. This week, I’ll dive into the unique taste of authentic Thai food in a place you’d never expect – Houston, Texas.

An inside view of Songkran Thai Kitchen

Songkran Thai Kitchen, from the outside, looks like just another average multicultural eatery. Enter, however, and you’ll find an upscale eatery which appeals just as much to the eyes as it does to anything else. However, my extended family and I (all nine of us!) were guided outside, where we took a seat at the equally appealing large family table on the patio.

A bowl of tasty Thai chicken red curry

My personal favorite dish, Thai chicken red curry served with jasmine rice, was delivered to me with a personal “bon appetit”. For those not familiar with Thai food, it’s very reliant on coconut milk and peanuts for richness, but it also includes fresh herbs and bamboo shoots for freshness. This dish showed the perfect contrast between the two. The red curry had just the right amount of spice to it, and the chicken was cooked absolutely perfectly. The curry itself, made with a red curry paste and coconut milk elements, was infused with rich and fresh flavors. The vegetables within the curry were just as fresh, and each provided a different kind of texture which contributed to the dish. When combined with the soft, fresh Jasmine rice, the curry lends itself to helping after helping. In terms of complexity, Thai red curry may be one of the simplest dishes, but its flavors and textures don’t lack in any sense.

A plate of fried bananas with ice cream, chocolate drizzle included

For dessert, we ordered two dishes of fried bananas with coconut ice cream, a classic dessert at most Thai eateries. Though it may sound peculiar, it’s actually one of the tastiest and most unique desserts I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating, and this specific instance was no different. The fried banana, unlike its name, is actually light and sweet. The warm, soft chopped banana is enclosed in a thin, crispy tempura shell which provides a great texture contrast while not being overpoweringly sweet. Meanwhile, the coconut ice cream was rich in flavor, with fresh chunks of coconut embedded within the ice cream itself. The cool ice cream with the warm banana create an incredible taste sensation, and the flavors mesh together incredibly well to form the tasty dessert.

Looking past just the food, my experience at Songkran Thai was elevated by the hospitality we received there. Eating a late dinner, with peak hours already past, our waiter did everything in his power to ensure that we were entertained thoroughly while waiting. He conversed with us, got to know each of us by name, and even hit us with some light jokes. After the meal, we were able to say goodbye and thank the head chef of the restaurant (a Bangkok, Thailand native) for the fantastic food that evening. As I walked out, I pondered about the varying definitions of “authentic” food. It amazed me that we were able to eat fresh Thai food prepared by a native chef in a city as unlikely as Houston. It showed me that some of the best hidden gems can be found in placed you’d least expect them to be.

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