At the risk of this becoming a theme site, I have a new review for you today. It’s Thai food again. I’m sorry if anyone is getting tired of this, because I love it, but I will make a deal to lay off of it for a little while so we can talk about something else. After visiting two other Thai restaurants so recently, which were very good in their own right, I felt a need to have my favorite. Panang Restaurant in South Oklahoma City, at SW 89th and Penn., in my opinion, is the best around and nothing’s gonna ever keep them down. Sorry about that, I had to.
The last two places I reviewed are decent, but they cannot compare to the quality, flavor, and wide-ranging menu of Panang. From their extensive list of curries, to many different stir-fry options, to Pad Thai variations, to varieties of Thom soup you won’t find anywhere else in town, they do it all the best. The prices are the best of all three as well. You can start off a meal here with flaky spring rolls or peanut chicken sates and move right into several varieties of both Thom Yum and Thom Kah soups. Where Yum is known for chili, citrus flavors, and Thai spices, Kah is a thicker broth with coconut milk, spices, and galingale root (similar to ginger, but with hints of citrus and pine). Both are very good options.
For main courses, you may be overwhelmed by all of the options. I prefer to stick to curries and stir-fry, but I have friends who come here for the fried rice alone. Everything that is listed as an entrée is big–this is a warning. Unlike Chinese food where rice or noodles might be seen as a side, I wouldn’t suggest viewing them that way at Panang unless you are planning to share between three or four people.
Their Pad Thai, with a home-made peanut sweet and sour sauce, is great, but you can get that just about everywhere. If you are coming here to try something really different, I suggest the Pad Kee-Mao: flat noodles with chili sauce, basil, and vegetables. If noodles aren’t your thing, they have a separate section in their stir-fry menu consisting of meat and veggie mixes that are more akin to Chinese food options and may be a little safer for those who fear adventure. This isn’t to debase the noodle-free stir-fry options in any way however, and I would point you toward the Pra Ram peanut chicken or the spicy ginger stir-fry.
They also five different curries that are all delicious, although I would hesitate to recommend anything other than their namesake, the Panang curry. They wouldn’t name themselves that if it wasn’t good; that’s bad business. They also offer many seafood dishes at dinner time ranging from sweet to spicy, and from common fish to exotic squid dishes. Many Oklahomans think that the only way to eat catfish is corn-battered and deep-fried, but Panang is out to prove them wrong with several catfish dishes on their menu that aren’t even close to what you have tried before, such as stir-fried catfish with lime and basil leaves in a spicy sauce. Try it and you will think you are eating a completely different animal.
All of their spicy plates have a customizable spiciness level which they will ask you for when you order. If you don’t like it hot, don’t be ashamed to try it at a one or a two; I prefer mine in the three to four range. If you are stupid or have something to prove, then by all means order a five, but remember that while they can always make it hotter for you, there is no backing down from a five and there are no refunds for bad decisions.
Also, I don’t know if they have dessert or not. There is no way that I am hungry enough to eat anything else when I get done with my meal here. That is not to say that I haven’t talked a group of friends into driving half an hour in the opposite direction of home after dining at Panang just so I could get a particular ice cream. Thirty minutes are plenty of down time to make room for gelato. Of course the drive might have been quicker if not for bad directions, but I call that a win in my book as I had a lot more room after thirty minutes than I would have in fifteen. Any excuse is good enough for a double serving of ice cream. I’m sure I’ll be posting more on this particular gelateria later.
If you are the kind of person that freezes up when faced with grave decisions, such as what to have for dinner, then come by Panang for lunch. Their lunch combos change daily, but also consist of four options that equal out to a whole lot of food. The first option is always Fried Rice, Steamed Rice, or Pad Thai. The second is spring rolls and you can choose between vegetarian or pork–simple enough. The third and fourth options change each day. Option three is between two curries. Option four is stir-fry dish, such as ginger garlic chicken, or cashew chicken. All of them are good options and you get a heaping portion of each, as you will see in the photo below, so you get to try a little of everything. And best of all, the lunch combo is only eight bucks. For me, it’s not a hard choice between a giant plate of delicious, fresh, and hot food, or some boring, nutrition free, fast food. I won’t say that anything here is expressly claiming to be health food, but it has to be better than a hamburger from any fast food place. Open every day for lunch and dinner, always reasonably priced, and only a block from the highway, you don’t have any excuse not to go.
Top Left: Evil Curry Chicken. Top Right: Pad Thai. Bottom Left: Cashew Chicken. Not pictured: Spring Roll. Definitely Pictured: Deliciousness.