Tastes of Thailand in Central Texas


13945 Hwy. 183 N. Ste. C-80, 219-5999
Monday-Friday, 11am-3pm, 4-10pm; Saturday-Sunday, noon-10pm

Muangthai might be one of the best-kept restaurant secrets in Austin. Inconspicuously located off Highway 183 North (last free exit!) in the strip mall anchored by Strait Music and Gold's Gym, this cozy oasis serves an excellent Thai experience with friendly smiles and service. The vegetable po pear tod (fried egg rolls, two for $3.95) proves an excellent rendition of a classic. The spring-roll-like thin wrapper crunches perfectly with no greasy runoff, and the tender insides show a perfect balance of flavor enhanced by a dip in the delicate sweet-and-sour sauce. The tom yum (hot-and-sour soup with a choice of chicken, beef, or tofu; $3.95), equally dreamy and loaded with mild tofu, titillates the taste buds with limey, peppery broth and an abundance of tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and celery. The single portion shares easily, being twice the size of the standard cup.

Looking for the quintessential Thai dish, I ordered pad thai with tofu ($8.95) and found a balanced blend of light sweetness and tang, a wonderful sticky noodle texture, plenty of crispy tofu, and cool and crunchy bean sprouts. Crumbled peanuts and lime complete the experience. The huge portion will create at least two additional meals (I had it cold the next morning, and it delighted me still). I also ordered the pineapple fried rice (another huge portion for $8.95), which comes with loads of veggies, cashews, raisins, and pineapple chunks in a light and airy curry, and lettuce, tomatoes, and shredded carrots adorn the plate. As with the pad thai, the take-home will make another several meals (um, okay, it is also good as a cold breakfast).

My dining buddy, ever the food adventurer, ordered the tom yum ta-lay heang ($14.95), which has all those sea creatures in it: mussels, squid, scallops, and shrimp. Served in a limey, peppery sauce with basil tomatoes and green onions, it reflects the peppery limeness of the hot-and-sour soup broth. He declared the seafood excellent, with tender squid and tasty mussels. I tried the only safe (to me) seafood on the plate and found the shrimp tender and fresh-tasting. The sauce is excellent as well, and that boy cleaned his plate. (No Thai breakfast for him, sadly.) So take that last free exit off Highway 183 North, cut across those lanes of traffic, and step into a wonderful, welcoming Thai experience that won't break your dwindling budget.

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