Wanted: a Decent Panang Curry

23 01 2008

We’ve been on a four-year quest for the best Thai food in Madison. We’ve tried most of the Thai restaurants in town, and while we like a couple of them, they haven’t met our high standards yet. My own Thai cooking seems to have gone downhill as well, so I’ve begged the Thai owner of one of the Asian food stores to teach me how to make Thai food–but she said she’s too old. We’re not looking for fancy, nor perfection, just really good Thai food.

The other night, Jim was reading Madison Magazine, and found a review of a Thai restaurant we had never heard of. We’ve driven by it numerous times, but perhaps didn’t know it was also a Thai restaurant, because signs on its windows say “ICE CREAM” and “SUB SANDWICHES”.

Monday we decided to go try it out. I had my doubts, because it is run by Laotians. I have nothing against Laotians, nothing at all. But when searching for a good Thai place, I kind of hope for Thai cooks. But hey, Laos is close enough to Thailand, that some dishes are quite similar, so I thought it worth a try.

We walked in, and were certainly in a convenience store: candy bars, gum, pop, chips, pringles, expensive cleaning products.. But no signs of a restaurant. Until we saw the sign–literally. A white board with “Today’s Specials” written on it, and 3 curries listed. #1: Yellow Curry. #2: Panang Curry. #3: I don’t remember. There was a brief description of each. Hmmm, I thought, those sound good, and “Panang Curry” is always my test dish at new Thai restaurants. But we wanted to see a menu anyway, to see what else they offer.

We walked into a room on the left, and a woman immediately walked behind the deli counter, getting ready to make a sub. There were three small tables, which could each seat 2 people. Two of the tables were pushed together. We asked for a menu, and the lady looked at us a bit puzzled. Another lady walked in and began speaking to us. It seemed as though Lady #1 spoke little to no English. So we asked Lady #2 about a menu, and she pointed back to the Special Board. This is what we have today, she said. Ah…. we said. I said I would take Panang. Jim looked at the Specials again, and said he’d take the same.

Ok, they said. To go? or to eat here? Eat here, we said, and we sat down at the two tables pushed together. Lady #1 went back into a kitchen, and returned with another rice cooker pot. Lady #2 grabbed two plates, and began dishing up our rice and curries. “You can go grab something to drink, if you want.” So we walked back into the convenience store and grabbed two drinks, and then sat down to eat our Panang Curry.

And…. it was decent. In fact, better than decent–it was great. I loved it! Jim loved it! We devoured the food.

I’m so happy. I only hope that our next experience there brings decent “whatever the special is”. Because I could really get into saying, “Found: a Favorite Thai Restaurant, serving Decent Panang Curry.”