You know that ice breaker question, “What would be your last meal on earth?” My answer is always a Thai curry dish (and a brownie sundae). Everywhere I’ve lived–Boston, D.C, L.A., and NYC–I’ve had a go-to Thai restaurant to get my curry fix.
When I moved to Austin, I settled on the east side and went in search of a local Thai curry. While there are great Thai food trucks a few blocks away (Dee Dee, Thai Kun, East Side King), I wasn’t finding that central Thailand curry I’d become so accustomed to.
Enter Thai-Licious, the unassuming red trailer on the corner of North Pleasant Valley Road and East Cesar Chavez Street. I’ve been a regular customer at Songkun Phayungpong’s Thai food trailer since it opened in February 2017. (Phayungpong is more commonly known as Mr. Toi.)
I sat down with Mr. Toi and his daughter, Mattana Phayungpong, to hear their story and learn what makes their food so special.
Bringing Central Thailand to Austin
Mr. Toi and his family moved to Austin 20 years ago. Before opening his food truck, he worked as a security technician at The University of Texas. He retired, but decided he didn’t want to “sit around and get old.” So he created Thai-Licious.
There was another purpose for Mr. Toi’s creation: “Most people don’t understand what Thai food is the first time they try it,” he told me. Thai-Licious dishes are identical in flavor to what you would find in Central Thailand, he continued. He learned how to cook from his mother, who sold pad thai from a kiosk in Thailand when he was growing up.
It was during that time that he developed a belief that food should be fresh and made to order. “I don’t cook anything in the big pot; I cook it individually,” he said.
Trying Non-Curry Menu Items
I already knew the red and green curries are delicious here. On my most recent visit, I wanted to try what Thai-Licious offers beyond curry. I wasn’t disappointed.
I started with the sam rod fish dish. The white fish is fried and crispy on the outside, and covered in vegetables. The flavor is strong and bold, in a good way, and hits in waves. Sam rod means “three flavors” in Thai, and I can taste all three: sour, salty, sweet. This plate started out as a special, but it was so popular that it’s now part of the regular menu. I’ll be ordering it again.
Next, I tried Toi’s heaven rib, which arrived covered in red sauce. The marinara provided a tomato and garlic flavor I’d never had with ribs. Truly unique. The ribs are marinated overnight, then slow cooked for three to four hours. No wonder each bite of lean meat fell off the bone. This is a “must order” when you visit. Don’t cheat yourself!
The pad kee mao noodle dish is a mix of flat noodles and fresh vegetables. There’s a spice and basil flavor that makes me want to order it again. My regular order is getting more complicated by the minute. Thai-Licious has proven to be more than my favorite central Thai curry place in Austin.
I’ve also tried the pad thai. On the side, next to the crushed peanuts and lime, is the homemade spicy chili powder. If you want to make your dish Thailand-hot, this stuff will get you there.With shrimp, this dish is flavorful and delicious.
I would, and I will, order everything again when I come back. Of course, everything tastes better when washed down with Thai iced tea, the perfect dessert…I mean, beverage.
Give Thai-Licious a Try
The suffix of Thai-Licious is the same as another one of my favorite east side eateries, Kebabalicious, and it earns the name. Business has gradually increased since Mr. Toi started, and repeat customers make up a big part of Thai-Licious’ customer base.
If you’re looking for authentic, fresh central Thai food, then give Thai-Licious a try. The Austin food truck is currently open every day but Wednesday.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your go-to Thai eatery in Austin?