By Martha Keeffe —
Thanks to Taste of Thai in Holmen, dining in the Coulee Region has just gotten tastier.
Located in the site formerly occupied by The Pizza Oven at 205 South Holmen Drive, the restaurant may appear unassuming, but its food is delightfully out of the ordinary. “Our food is traditional Thai, homemade and fresh,” says Pa Houa Vang, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Chao Thao. “We use a lot of spices that make our food smell good and give it lots of flavor.”
And Vang, who grew up in Thailand, is no stranger to exotic foods or to cooking. “I have been cooking for as long as I can remember,” says Vang when asked where she honed her culinary skills.
“When I was growing up, I cooked for my entire family, and now I cook for my family and my husband’s family. I learned a lot through experience and experimenting. Everyone wants to know what I’m cooking next.”
As fans of basic Thai cooking, my husband and I were anxious to try out what Taste of Thai had to offer. For an appetizer, we opted to forgo our standard egg rolls and instead ordered a serving of papaya salad and Singha beer, a European pale lager brewed in Bangkok. The papaya salad introduced us to flavors foreign to most Western appetites, as it was made with a combination of green beans, cherry tomatoes, chiles and shredded green papaya tossed with a mixture of fish sauce, garlic, palm sugar and lime. Paired with the refreshingly crisp taste of the Singha, we enjoyed the salad and were surprised at how our palates adjusted to the pungent undertones of the fish sauce.
On the recommendation of our waitress, I ordered the red curry with chicken and my husband ordered the massaman curry, which is one of the most popular items on the menu along with the pad thai, Thai basil fried rice, kuaytiaw reua (boat noodle soup) and pad kee mao (drunken noodle). The red curry was made with coconut milk and infused with hints of lemongrass, garlic, cumin, chiles, coriander and galangal (also known as Thai ginger), creating a velvety-textured soup that was not only subtly sweet but had an earthy base with just enough heat to keep it interesting. The massaman, prepared using roasted spices, delivered similar fragrant properties and herbal flavors so tempting that we finished both entrees.
“I make the curry pastes fresh each day and use them as people order,” explains Vang. “It takes a little longer, but I can control the taste.” In addition, Vang only uses fresh ingredients like lemongrass, long beans, carrots and green peppers that come from her mother’s garden and farmers markets.
Though completely satisfied by our meals, Vang insisted we indulge in the fried bananas for dessert. Wrapped in a wonton-style wrapper, the bananas were fried to delicate perfection and sprinkled with just enough sugar and cinnamon to enhance the mellow tang of the fruit. But even with full stomachs, the aromas from the kitchen were enticing.
“I put love and passion into my cooking,” smiles Vang. “That’s what makes people want more.”
Stop by Taste of Thai at 205 South Holmen Drive, Suite 106 in Holmen, Wisconsin, to enjoy some authentic Thai food. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/TasteofThaiHolmen or call (608) 399-1585.